Caroline Issa’s resume is not for the faint heart. Work and fashion are at the center of what she does, juggling between business development, creative direction and general publishing duties. Her words are fresh and honest and she gives us a true insight into the day to day challenges that she faces. Despite all of this, Ms Issa manages to do this with a femininity and elegance that is not only visible in her style, but also in her grace and character. Ms. Issa lays it out for us.
Your story is an inspiration for young women everywhere because you have basically taken many risks to be where you are now. Can you tell us about your upbringing before it all started? Where did you grow up? What did your parents do?
I grew up with a wonderful childhood in Montreal, Canada with two entrepreneurs for parents – I think that’s where I got the bug to know that ultimately I would like to own my own business one day – in fact, I know it. I worked for their real estate business for one of my summers during university and I saw all the hard work and challenges also lay in being an entrepreneur and always appreciated what they did for us.
You are the chief executive and fashion director of Tank Magazine and Editor-in-Chief of becauselondon.com, but what do these roles mean exactly? What are your responsibilities?
I work with my partner to oversee the business development, finances, marketing and resourcing of our magazines, as well as Tank Form, our creative agency. We make a lot of content and advertising campaigns for luxury fashion brands. My responsibilities vary from day to day, no one day is ever the same! One day you can meet your bank manager and talk cash flows, the next day I could be interviewing a fashion designer. I love the variety, but as a business owner you are constantly on your toes.
What is a typical day like for you?
I don’t have a typical day, because I work across both the magazines and the creative agency so I can do business development, strategy, finance and accounting, HR, and creative development at any one time!
You’ve said that when you first met Masoud Golsorkhi and the founders of Tank, you had to completely restart and learn everything from scratch. Can you tell us about this phase? How has your role changed over the years? How has Tank changed?
I joined Tank when it was four years old, very cool and very well respected but it needed someone who could push the business development side of things. I had never worked in a fashion magazine, and we were also having to figure out how to better formalize the creative agency side of our business and structure it better with project management, and other resources so that bigger clients would take us seriously. After working with L’Oreal and Levi’s, we eventually won a big contract with Swarovski that lasted as a 10 year old relationship, and other big brands (and some smaller) followed. I worked very very hard to understand many aspects of the fashion publishing business while also trying to leverage
marketing and business strategy for our creative agency side of the business. I was lucky to have a team that supported my curiosity and green-ness but I had to work doubly hard to prove myself!
What do you think is the biggest challenge of your job?
Prioritizing! My team have hundreds of great ideas at all the times, but it’s a challenge to figure out which direction and idea to prioritize and spend time on!
Being an entrepreneur automatically means you have to be creative every moment of the day.
What do you enjoy the most about your work?
I love working with creative people to develop something that adds value – whether to a product, a magazine issue, a campaign or a business strategy – I enjoy being able to build a brand that helps satisfy a need.
Do you constantly find the need to be creative within your job at every minute regarding the business and creative side of things? And where do you find this inspiration?
Being an entrepreneur automatically means you have to be creative every moment of the day – you have to respond to challenges quickly in creative ways, and have to always push yourself and your team to deliver new ways of thinking!
Your style is one of femininity and elegance. What were the women like in your family?
Why thank you! The women in my family were all very stylish – my Mom, my Aunts, my Grandmother was the epitome of elegance! I always have her in mind.
Its mentioned that the next phase in fashion will be bespoke and tailor made pieces, tailored to fit from already made sample pieces. What are your thoughts on this? Do you ever have clothes made?
Bespoke is truly a wonderful sartorial experience. I sometimes get my suits tailored specifically for me, but I love buying off the shelf as there is an amazing selection of designers today that do beautiful collections ready to buy! But for me, Luxury is not only about bespoke, but it is all about time – how does a product save me time to focus on the things I truly enjoy? How does a product add value to my life when I’m running around, trying to keep up with how time flies?
Where do you look for style inspiration on a daily basis? Who would be your modern day style inspiration?
There are so many elegant, chic women who live meaningful lives who I look to – some are known, others aren’t. Shauneen Lambe, a children’s rights lawyer, Fatimah Bhutto, an amazing writer and novelist, Jenna Lyons the President of J Crew, etc – too many to mention!
You collaborated with Nordstrom this year for its ready- to-wear collection. From this experience, have you learnt something new about the fashion industry?
I have loved the collaborative experience with Nordstrom so far – it’s been one year of collections, and 2016 will be the last year of full four collections! I’ve learned so much about the other end of the fashion industry – from sketch and creative inspiration boards, to product and fit and manufacturing to how it ends up on the sales floor and working with an amazing sales team to sell it! I feel like I’ve gotten my PhD in the fashion industry as I know have participated in almost all sides to it!
It seems like you are always traveling for your work these days. How does this influence your style? What would be the first five essential staples when traveling?
Travelling is definitely a part of my job, and the last two years have been intense – I’ve become a very good packer! A suit, a great pair of heels, a dress, perfume and a kindle are my five essentials when travelling – and I’ve mastered the art of comfortable travel outfits with cashmere pants and light sweaters with layers!
Outside of fashion, what are your interests?
I love reading – magazines and novels – going to visit galleries and museums, eating great food and searching out new restaurants, and exploring new cities!
What book are you currently reading? Do you have a favorite writer?
Michael Lewis is one of my favorite writers – I just picked up (a bit late) his book Boomerang – incredible, about the financial world crisis of 2008 and how countries like Greece, America, Ireland and Iceland all got sucked into it and reacted in the aftermath. Fascinating.
“I consciously have built my career trying to understand every aspect of this industry; whether it is the press aspect, marketing, social media or pure CRM (customer relationship management).” So what’s next?
So much – there is always a learning opportunity while putting what I’ve learnt to good use – I’m very excited for what 2016 will bring!