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How Caroline Issa Became a Boardroom Style Icon

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ach week, we present an influential woman whose career and style has inspired the Silkarmour team to aim higher and dress better. This week’s Silkarmour woman is Caroline Issa, former consultant and current Tank magazine publisher/fashion director.

Caroline Issa is as wanted for her business acumen by industry executives as she is in demand by the army of photographers at fashion week. Merging the chic and sophisticated elements of officewear with the bold and adventurous offerings of fashion, our Woman of the Week has built a name for herself as a modern, multifaceted businesswoman; the perfect balance between style and substance. Issa is part of a new generation of fashion professionals who have shifted the gears of a business that used to literally value appearance above all else and in the process of reporting the trends, have become the trend-setters themselves. Neither “crazy full-on Lady Gaga” nor “a black-suit every-day kind of woman”, Issa advertises herself as “a businesswoman who loves fashion”; a mediation between the two that everyone can relate to.

Woman of the Week: Caroline Issa

Formally a retail consultant, Issa's foundations in business started out in San Francisco, handling retail clients including Nordstrom. After moving to Texas to assist with Dr Pepper and 7-Up’s acquisition of Snapple and then to Singapore to specialise with a financial services client, the penny dropped; “that’s when I decided I hated financial services! I didn’t want to be reading books about mortgages on the weekends!” Craving to have substantial input, Issa was working on Boots’ corporate strategy (whilst wearing “really bad suits”) when she fatefully met fashion bi-annual Tank founder, Masoud Golsorkhi and was offered a partnership in the company in 2002. Simply put, as is common in the creative industries, the magazine was “full of these wonderful people but nobody knew how to actually run the business” said Issa; “so the opportunity to work at this independent magazine and to bring my business skills into it was great”. Was the transition daunting? For Issa, her apparent naivité helped her take the plunge, simply thinking “hell, why not? I’m going to give up a really well-paying job and become an entrepreneur in fashion publishing.”

Woman of the Week: Caroline Issa

Shop the look: Quellio Wave Neckline Dress by Rose & Willard | Long Tuexdo Jacket by Stefanie Renoma | Python Clutch Range by ALLEGRA LONDON | Grey Pearl Drop Earrings by ORA | Primrose Snake Heels by Lucy Choi | Grey Pearl Drop Pendant by ORA

Knowledge is power and the dichotomic aspect of Issa’s career is what gives her an advantage in fashion, particularly regarding change. “It’s a business that for all its innovativeness and creativity, is very slow in adapting to change” she told The Telegraph, citing luxury fashion brands hesitation to embrace the internet as a prime example; “there are still so many major fashion brands and luxury houses with no e-commerce site or social media networks!” That said, she praises the organic relationship between fashion and social media for restoring a sense of immediacy in the digital shopping process when customers were still nervous at the prospect of buying luxury online. Now a seasoned fashion-show regular, Issa also credits social media with heightening her appreciation and the amount of “blood, sweat and tears that goes into it”, making her put the value of the craft before her personal tastes. With this level of understanding, a slew of collaborations has followed. Tapping into the lucrative example set by Anna Dello Russo x H&M in branding the professionals as the new muses, Issa has collaborated with LK Bennet and has come full-circle in collaborating with Nordstrom.

Woman of the Week: Caroline Issa

Shop the look: Cashmere Jacket by EmmaJane KnightCashmere Trousers by EmmaJane Knight | Antonia Blouse by Majorelle | The Deal Closer Satchel & Laptop Bag by She Lion | Pistol Black & Silver Heels by Lucy Choi

Gone are the days of bad suits worn in the boardrooms as Issa is now a household name among fashion bloggers and street-style photographers. A confessed conscious shopper, she is an advocate for investment pieces, creating a “quasi-uniform” for herself consisting of shirts, trousers, a sharp blazer and punchy accessories. The routine for her investments is something that hits close to home for the average consumer; fawning over pieces online, long after trying it on in-store and a week after the first encounter, she’ll “bite the bullet” and buy it. She believes in choosing a curated selection of clothing, as opposed to “buying for new seasons" and maintains an inclination to pepper the classics with adventurous and more modern pieces. Although she has never been paid to promote anything, “when you have 130,000 followers on Instagram, it is a very powerful tool to use for marketing, so long as it’s done with love and authenticity.”

 

Career Golden Nuggets

On breaking into a new industry: “Surround yourself with the people you want to start working with. Whether you’re just giving a helping hand, or doing extra evenings and weekends, experience it as much as you can.”

On taking risks: “I haven’t had a traditional trajectory, but I feel like every experience builds on another; taking risks pays off.”

On finding your working style: I think it’s important to wear things that you feel 100 per cent confident in, whether that’s in a colourful suit or a grey or black suit, or a great pair of slacks and a sweater. For me, the key to having great style is just feeling comfortable and confident, no matter what you wear. After that, you’re set.”

On growth: “You have to keep putting yourself in situations where you feel slight discomfort, to feel like you are a little bit alive and a lot like you are learning something. When I was sixteen, my mum gave me this book called ‘Feel Fear and Do It Anyway’ and I have kind of lived my life by it.”

 

Woman of the Week

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