Produced by: Anna Canlas
On a Sunday evening, in a private room at a Japanese restaurant in Makati, heads swiveled toward the guest of honor breezing in on black pumps, twinkling with rhinestones pink, green and blue. Caroline Issa, street style star and brand consultant for Mulberry, Chloé, Prada et al, had flown in on account of her work with local brand Harlan + Holden. After being contacted by her friend and managing director of Harlan + Holden Isabel San Agustin over a year ago (the two met in London), Caroline helped them articulate their philosophy and visual identity and was invited to speak at a round-table discussion about just that, the day after this intimate dinner
“It piqued my interest,” she would later say at the round-table discussion held at a pop-up tent in Greenbelt 5. “The brand had wonderful values that are so timely for today, and the future.”
Taking her seat between Preview editors, she wore black trousers and a mint blouse from H + H, teamed with tsavorite dangling earrings. The votives on the table bounced light off them, as across her, past bottles of champagne and low-potted roses, was Masoud Golsorkhi, the group creative director and editor-in-chief of London-based Tank magazine, and its creative agency, Tank Form.
At the head of the table, retailer Eman Pineda motioned to the plates of beef carpaccio that had just arrived. “Let’s eat,” said Harlan + Holden’s sharply dressed founder. He had conceived of it as the total opposite of his workwear label, Tyler, which he’s since let go of. Where the latter was about stiff pleats and contrasting blacks and whites, Harlan is all soft shapes and soothing shades, and are designed to be slipped on rather than buttoned up, to save women time in the morning. Caroline, who has a sixth sense for these things, given her fashion director background at Tank, thought this was a thoroughly modern proposition that would future-proof the brand, and make it feel authentic 10 or 20 years from now.
To communicate this, she helped them spec out their brand bible. “It’s a guideline for anyone who might join the company, even the salespeople on the floor.”
At the very basic level, it contains the elements of a label’s visual language: from colors, to font, to logo—in order to create consistency across product and website, ads, store windows, etc. And what is branding if not an exercise in consistency?
First up: Caroline refined the label’s logo—from a serif typeface—anything with slight strokes at the tips of the letters, à la Times New Roman—to sans serif, à la Helvetica or Verdana. “What we wanted was ‘things without flourish,’” she said. “To take it back and simplify it.”
When it came to the color palette, Caroline, Masoud, Eman and Isabel agreed on various tints with grey. “It’s soothing, calming and constant,” offered Isabel.
And what of their new icon—a fig leaf, painted on the very round table at which Caroline presided the next day? “We looked at the first item of clothing people wore when they were cast out of paradise,” Masoud said, the whiskers of his beard turning up in a sly smile. “It was the first basic piece of clothing!
”From being one of the first fashion editors to be heralded a street style star to the role of digital platforms in building a brand today, there’s a wealth of insight to be gleaned from Caroline. Here, we give you minutes from our conversation at that round table.
A lot of people know you as a street style star, more than an editor or brand consultant. How did that happen?
It was the time of Scott Schuman, who started taking pictures of the It fashion insiders outside the shows, putting them up on his blog. It was really the first time, I think, when fashion editors got pushed into the limelight and I happened to be one of them, for better or for worse, and youknow, it’s not something I [planned] but it’s an interesting phenomenon. Even magazines like American Vogue started running street style pictures. And now, there are so many more incredible platforms like Instagram where you can create your own story, your own content, and not only rely on the amazing photographs of [professional photographers]. So it’s really changed and developed and I think I was just really lucky many opportunities came my way.
Looking at those photographs, it seems like you were a lot less posed than these insagram stars we now see.
Yes. And I think that’s because we were doing our jobs. We’re literally running into the shows and trying to do our job—it’s not a real-life photo shoot. The stuff that you see, that’s how we dress. Anna Dello Russo, who is an incredible fashion lover and addict, she’s amazing. She had the idea to take this platform and create an incredible persona. You know she used to only wear black and white? She had a uniform. Then she found this amazing platform that allowed her to express her love of fashion. She would get Dolce & Gabbana, hot-off-the-runway looks. Social media has been incredibly powerful in terms of bringing everybody into the forefront, and also being able to celebrate our love of fashion.
Read the rest of the story on the September 2015 issue of Preview Magazine.