Two of fashion’s most multi-tasking superwomen, Caroline Issa and Yasmin Sewell, discuss how to monetise editorial with integrity.
Caroline Issa is the thinking woman’s style crush, and we’re not ashamed to admit it. Canadian by birth, with exotic looks courtesy of her Chinese mother and a half-Lebanese, half-Iranian father, she puts the glossy into magazines in her role as executive fashion director of Tank, editor-in-chief of digital portal Because magazine, and CEO of the Tank Form consulting agency.
She’s here at The Industry to discuss trends in publishing, and how she’s turned a creative venture into a viable business model, impeccably dressed as ever in a sharp monochrome print Ohne Titel dress and perfectly matched Louis Vuitton shoes.
Interviewing her is Antipodean creative consultant Yasmin Sewell (dressed in a white Rochas dress and Givenchy sandals), who as well as holding the position of fashion director luxury e-commerce site Moda Operandi (where we could spend hours browsing fantasy purchases), was previously chief creative consultant at Liberty, responsible for redesigning the hallowed store’s interior, and freshening up their offer with the introduction of over 70 new brands. Rather appropriately, throughout the talk, Liberty‘s famous mock-Tudor façade loomed through the window of the SWAROVSKI CRYSTALLIZED™ lounge, located across the street.
Issa‘s path into fashion came after a summer spent modeling in Milan that convinced her that “If I ever went back into the fashion industry it would be from the side that made decisions”. Cue a degree in business from Wharton, and after graduation her work as a management consultant in the retail and consumer sector. Next, a globetrotting stint living in Seattle, Texas and Singapore before landing here in London; employed to work on the Boots account.
Ten years ago a chance meeting with Tank‘s founder Masoud Golsorkhi resulted in her being made partner, with the intention of turning a brilliantly creative publication into a viable business. As she puts it, “I gave up well-paid, stable job to be a fashion entrepreneur!” Refreshingly, Issa admits that it took five years for her to really feel like she had the measure of the business, which certainly struck a chord with the some of The Industry‘s members.
A huge part of the success of monetising Tank has been down to its agency branch, recognising the value of the creative manpower at the publication and forging consulting partnerships with brands as diverse as Chloé, Dulux, Jean-Paul Gaultier, DeBeers, Levi’s, and the Harvard Graduate School of Design.
Saying that, traditional revenue streams for magazines, such as sales and advertising, are still holding their own. For all those who derogate the format of print, Issa can report from the front line of publishing that quarterly magazines are actually having resurgence. The ways that we consume magazines have changed – we now look to websites for our news, so what we want from print is something extra, a “collectibility factor, a sense of touch”. We want magazines that broach “big ideas”.
As for Issa herself, she’s a bone fide magazine aficionado, revealing that she’s just had new bookcases built at her home, which were quickly filled with archived magazines – US Vogues, old Harper’s Bazaars, and National Geographics with their trusty canary yellow spines.
That’s not to say that publications shouldn’t invest in technology. For Tank‘s Observer supplement ‘O‘ they are in the process of developing a new app that aims to integrate online and offline in a new way by allowing the user to access another eight layers on content per page of print. Issa‘s advice is to “look at how other industries use technology” indeed the new app was inspired by looking at how art galleries had started to embrace image recognition technology. The ultimate intention is to “futureproof” the Tank brand.
Issa is universally touted as a “stylemaker”, for proof you only have to see the melee of photographers papping her as her as she runs the streetstyle gauntlet at the fashion weeks. “The craziness outside the shows is totally bananas”, she laughs, before swiftly brushing it off, “fashion week does require a little more preparation these days, but it’s good publicity for the magazine.” She’s also the face of J Crew for Spring/Summer 2012 in a campaign shot by the inimitable duo of Garance Doré and Scott Schuman.
So whom does this one-woman task force admire? “Entrepreneurs,” she tells us confidently, “those in fashion who balance the creative and the commercial”. Issa, it has to be said, ticks this box.
All photos by photographer, Sam Atkinson