In this month's issue, we gave you the very first look at Caroline Issa's collaboration with LK Bennett. Ten lucky readers also bagged the chance to shop the range before anyone else. Shoes and bags enlivened with vibrant neon embroidery make this a cool yet quirky collection perfect for adding an edginess to any ensemble. Eager to discover more about the limited edition line, we spoke to Caroline before the launch. Here she talks inspirations and shares her best styling tips.
Tell us about the shoes, if they were a group of girls how would you describe them?
That’s a good question. I think these girls would be a little sassy; they’d be high energy and fun but still be very chic. When I was trying to come up with an idea for a really tight capsule collection, the first thing I though was ‘what are things I’d like to wear? What’s missing in my wardrobe?’ So, of course neon embroidered pom-poms immediate sprang to mind! What I really wanted to was create silhouettes and embellishments that were so totally different to LK Bennett’s professional, maybe a little bit more conservative, woman. The woman who’s going to wear these shoes is someone who likes to enjoy herself and travels around the world.
Do you have a favourite from the collection?
They’re all my babies, it’s so hard to choose just one but if I had it would be the pointed court shoe with the pom-poms. They have all the elements I look for in a shoe; I love a classic with lots of colour.
The collection was inspired by your travels in Thailand. Could you tell us more about that?
I was invited to a film festival called Film on the Rocks at the Six Senses Resort in Takua Pa last March. It was the day after Paris Fashion Week had ended and I was literally just ready to keel over I was so tired.
It was curated by Tilda Swinton and it was four blissful days of watching films literally on the beach. One night we watched a film in the middle of the ocean, projected onto these huge mountains. It was such an inspiring trip. One afternoon we rented scooters and went exploring around the island. We came across this great little market and I bought a little embroidered bag for about five pounds. It has this amazing embroidery and pom pom details so when I started doing the collection, I did some research into Thai embroidery. The collection is based on how inspired I felt on that trip and the colourways I loved at the market and in the little bag.
Did you consult any of your cordwainer or handbag designer friends?
I didn’t actually, I kept it very quiet because while I have so many amazing designer friends I had such a strong vision on what I wanted to do that I just wanted to go with my gut instinct on that. I think for any woman if she was asked to describe her ideal shoe she’d have a zillion ideas, so I felt like my ideas were strong enough to just go with. I did work with Kim Saint who’s the head of production design for bags and shoes at LK Bennett. She’s been amazing and sketched out a bunch of shoes based on my descriptions. Then we worked together on shapes and different material options. There are so many details that go into shoes and it’s such a time-sensitive process, even though you want it to be perfect you’ve got to be really decisive. My respect for shoe designers has increased ten-fold, it's such an intricate way of designing and it was really interesting.
So, how do we style them? What will you be wearing them with?
They really run the gamut, they could be styled with a white shirt and jeans, or you can incorporate them into a print-clashing outfit. If you’re the type of girl who doesn't like to go too bold with a full outfit of print clashes, you can wear these with printed trousers and a plain top and you’ve still nailed the look in a subtler way. They also look killer with a plain tailored suit. They remove the need for loading up on accessories because they’re so embellished and colourful they’re all you need to make a statement. I’m a pretty courageous dresser so I’m excited to wear them with lots of prints and colours but for a more chilled out day I’ll wear them with jeans and plain white t-shirt.
Will you expand on the line for autumn/winter 2013?
I’d love to keep working with LK Bennett on future projects. I think this line is a nice, tight edit of ‘get em while you can’ collectible items so if we did do anything again it will be completely different.
Tell us some of your style secrets, how do you do it?
My approach is to buy some key investment pieces each season and to work these around the fail-safe items I’ve been recycling for years. I’ve got some great Equipment shirts that will never go out of style and lots of Paul Smith tailoring that never fails to make me look polished. I wear lots of suits, they’re so easy. I’m a huge shoe girl, a lot of the time I actually start with my shoes and dress from toe-to-head instead of the other way round. It can be tricky but you get a more complete ‘look’ rather than dressing and then throwing on the same shoes you wear every other day. I’m quite a busy person so I’ve got to dress quickly in the morning. I’m not a planner because your mood can change by the morning so it’s important to have key pieces that you can team up with great basics but still look like you’ve made a real effort.
Could you hazard a guess at how many shoes you have?
No and I wouldn't want to in case I start to fee guilty! My shoe cupboard has started to overflow through so I’m thinking about building a bespoke shoe cupboard into my guest room. At the moment they’re all in boxes so I’d like to be able to display them all so I can see them everyday.
What trends are you excited about for spring/summer 2013?
I love all the lace that’s come out of this season. There’s so many variations, there’s everything from coated guipure lace, to delicate antique lace. Then on the flip-side of all this femininity is the relaxed sportswear. I loved the colours and the ‘New Look’ silhouette that Raf did at Dior. I’m so excited to do the little neck tie he did. I always love Haider Ackermann, he’s super luxurious. His robes are amazing and I love all the Japanese influences from him as well as elsewhere this season.
What are your go-to labels?
Lanvin, Paul Smith and J Crew. J Crew did an amazing spring collection of printed leathers. I also love all the young New York designers like Jason Wu. Here, I like Alice Temperley; she’s so good at combining British Heritage with other global influences. She’s really streamlined her embellishment and she does amazing embroidery. I love Erdem for his lace and Mary Katrantzou for her prints; there’s just so many great young designers in London. I’ve got an eclectic taste so I can go from very structured to sexy lace from Jason Wu, to Alice Temperley’s more feminine look. I think I’m getting even more courageous in my old age, it’s great to be able take on different personalities and to be a little bit playful with your wardrobe.
You’ve lived in so many different countries, is there one in particular that you’d say influences your look most?
Yes, I’ve lived everywhere from Monreal to Singapore and San Francisco, but I would say London is my biggest influence. I think its so exciting here, everybody has a great sense of style: there’s chic and then there’s bonkers, there’s East End and West End, everyone is just so individual. It’s great to live in a city where there’s so much diversity. Growing up in Montreal was great too though, everyone there is so beautiful and so chic. There’s a really rich fashion culture and lots of great denim companies in particular.
Where are your favourite places to shop in London?
Matches is one of my favourite boutiques and I love The Shop at Bluebird but my absolute favourite shop in the whole world is the Anya Hindmarch bespoke shop on Pont Street. It has the most beautiful concept around personalisation, some of my most cherished pieces are from there.
What are some of your other favourite places or things to do in Lodnon?
I love Duck Soup in Soho, I eat there all the time. They change the menu everyday so it's always hand written and everything is so bespoke. You'll go and never have the same meal twice but always have the same great experience. I live really near the Lisson Grove Gallery so I visit there a lot. I try to make it to some west end shows or go to the cinema. It’s good to get a perspective on other peoples creativity whether its art, food or film.
With all your travelling you must be a great packer, what’s your formula?
It’s been a learning curve. I style things up in complete outfits: accessories, shoes, bag everything. Then, by Paris Fashion Week I’m generally so exhausted that it becomes a mish-mash of all my outfits.
What is it about fashion that makes you happy?
Fashion allows us to dream a bit, experiment and have fun - putting on a dress that 'isn't normally my style' is such a fun way to play for a bit and a feel a different side to your normally consistent personality open up. I love that shoes and accessories can easily make you feel more put together, more confident, and project a feeling, a mood or a character. Fashion allows you to dream and to have fun - and all of that makes me happy!