Think Tank
PhilStar Online / July 2015

MANILA, Philippines - Fresh from a VIP appearance at the Paris Miu Miu Club and a front-row fixing at Raf Simons’ F/W Dior Couture show, Tank magazine founding editor Carolina Issa sets out to do it all.

Reluctant yet celebrated street style icon, luxury consultant, and of most recent note, a ready-to-wear designer, Caroline finds her way to the Philippines to culminate a long-standing collaboration with local label-to-love Harlan + Holden.

YStyle sits down for an exclusive with one of the fashion industry’s most recognizable faces (straight off the pages of Vogue) whose work and ubiquity champion all things cutting-edge. On dream clients, on doing what you truly love and on establishing a personal brand that is not ever meant to go on clearance, Caroline Issa breaks it down.

YSTYLE: Between designing a line for Nordstrom Signature, being one of the founding editors for Tank magazine, becoming a street style icon, not to mention consulting for Harlan + Holden and taking a trip to the Philippines, how does Caroline Issa begin to do it all?

CAROLINE ISSA: You know what I think it is? I truly love what I do. I try to work really, really hard, I travel a lot, and I love it. I think it’s when you love what you do, that’s where passion seeps in. None of it feels like work.

I feel really lucky that I get to do stuff I love, and get to work with clients I love, a team that I love. Dream clients (knocks on wood): that’s the key.


Speaking of dream clients, can you share with us briefly the process behind working with a label like Harlan + Holden?

It’s been fantastic, they really are the kind of dream clients we like to take on at Tank Form.

What was amazing with Harlan + Holden was when it came to the question “What does your label really mean? What do you want it to mean?” Eman (Pineda, Harlan + Holden president) and Mia (Tiaoqui-San Agustin, managing director) were very clear as to what they wanted to see. What they want the brand to actually stand for. It was quite simple to boil down a brand essence that everyone was happy with.


How long was the process?

Working with Harlan + Holden, we had a lot of fast yeses and quick nos but we took the time to invest a little longer. The articulation of brand essence is what we were really after, and it was important for most everybody to agree; it took something along the line of eight months.

But luckily, there was already a clear-cut identity with Harlan + Holden. It was a pleasure for us to take on the job of narrowing their focus.


Tank Form is known for having produced publications for Prada and G-Star, campaigns for Christian Lacroix and most recently, the fall 2015 campaign for Mulberry starring Georgia May Jagger. Was it a change of pace working for a label that was relatively younger?

Working with a young brand has very different challenges than working with a brand that has a long history or a strong sense of heritage. The amazing thing with working with a newer label is that they’re open. The working relationship comes close to getting to create something together, something from scratch — and that’s lovely!

Working with a brand like Mulberry, there’s a lot of heritage, and also, baggage. (Laughs) It’s made up of having a lot of different viewpoints that combine to make a brand’s history.

At the end of the day, we just want to create really great work. The goal for us is always to create something that we’re going to be proud of, something the client will ultimately fall in love with.


What were the different directions you explored in boiling down the essence of Harlan + Holden?

Color was something very interesting. It’s always an interesting discussion to have with anyone, but more so with Harlan + Holden because their palette is very specific. When you talk about introducing color, it becomes this debate, it becomes controversial, but ultimately, it pushes everybody to innovate.

One other interesting thing was conceptualizing a new logo. Initially, we at Tank Form were hesitant because we thought the old logo just needed a little tweaking, a little hint of modernity with the type. It took us a bit of time to think about it, but our first proposition to Eman, he actually really, really loved. It was the fig leaf — and the thinking behind it was, the fig was one of the first pieces of clothing ever worn by man.

And you go straight back to basics. Think about that — beautiful basics!


And that’s where it ties up with B.C.

Yes! B.C. (Laughs) It’s organic, it’s natural, it’s femininity. There are so many connections, it’s universally understood. And also in the art world, the word “fig,” figurative, is really something very symbolic. You have this art, craftsmanship angle that basically finds itself home in Harlan + Holden. When I sent it over to Eman I thought to myself “Oh, no, I don’t know if they’re going to get it, but...”


I just got it — it makes a lot of sense.

Right? Yeah! (Laughs) It makes sense, so much sense. And you come off saying, “How did we not think of this before?” It feels so natural. That’s the fun part of this kind of project, when you think of something that totally clicks, who knows? Harlan + Holden’s new logo might eventually go on to become the new Lacoste crocodile.


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