Welcome to the fifth highly exciting installment of Who What Wear UK’s Best Wardrobes in Britain. It’s where we do exactly what that title says on the tin: delve into the most fantastical, awe-inspiring and downright influential wardrobes in this fair country of ours. We’re zeroing in on the girls who cause the street style photographers to press their shutters as much as the women you don’t yet know—the ones who fly under the radar with secretly incredible clothing collections.
Today is all about Lisa Aiken—Net-a-Porter's fashion director and the woman responsible for our extensive wish lists and dented wallets. She is something of an oracle or fashion deity for the Who What Wear team in the UK. We trust her every recommendation (and attend her seasonal trend presentations without fail); we look to her wardrobe choices and unwaveringly cool NAP edit to make our own moves; and she's first on our list when it comes to naming talented, super-friendly fashion industry figures we'd like to have around a dinner table. We managed to pin the jet-setting East London–based Lisa down between a ski trip and a Palm Springs event to delve into the closet we've all been desperate to see.
Want to see more and know more? Then keep reading to jump inside Lisa's wardrobe and glean some excellent outfit tips along the way.
WHO WHAT WEAR UK: Was there a particular moment where you knew you wanted to get into fashion?
LISA AIKEN: I don’t think there was a particular moment, but I've wanted to be in fashion since I was a kid. When I was growing up, my mum used to make my clothes—so I used to get to go to a fabric shop and pick the Vogue paper pattern, and the fabric, and the buttons, and she’d make it for me. I’m sure she steered me clear of a few disastrous things. I distinctly remember asking my mum, “But is this trendy?”
WWW UK: With such a keen eye from an early age, how did your interest lead you down the path of buying and not designing?
LA: It’s one of those things where what you want to do isn’t necessarily what you’re good at. I was always stronger academically than I was creatively, so I think it sort of meant that I had more of a balanced approach to things.
WWW UK: If your wardrobe was burning down (god forbid!), which one piece would you try to save?
LA: Okay, well, I have a few things that will never go in my luggage in case my luggage disappears and I will never [be able to] replace them—so they always come in my carry on. That’s my Marc Jacobs leopard print dress from A/W 12—it must be from when he did the black-and-white collection—my Acne Studios shredded jeans, and some leopard-print pumps—you can see where I’m going here…
WWW UK: So this probably leads onto the next question—what do you keep buying, no matter how many of them you may have already?
LA: This isn’t my biggest vice, but what’s interesting is that I wasn't really a “bag person” until all of these new brands came along. I used to carry [the same] one designer bag every day of each season, whereas now there are aesthetically so many new brands I love, and they’re quite accessibly priced, so it doesn’t feel like that investment necessarily. You can have different bags to go with different outfits, so slowly but surely I’m definitely becoming more of a bag person. I think over the past two years what we consider to be a designer bag has changed so dramatically. My biggest vice is probably pointed pumps, but that’s because I find them flattering on me, and I enjoy wearing them.
WWW UK: You probably don't have a normal day, but can you talk me through a normal week for you?
LA: No two days are the same! The biggest distinction is when we’re what we call "in market"—so that’s when we’re out buying for NAP versus when I’m in the office. During market week, I do all of the runway shows, see all of the designer collections in the showrooms, work with the buying team to look at our selection, then review orders to look at how many we’re buying of everything. Do we have enough? Do we have too many? There's a lot that goes into the buying process—I think it’s a bit of a misconception that we're just going shopping! There are very very substantial budgets behind NAP, and that requires a lot of research and analysis to evaluate what we know we can and can’t do.
Then the madness of fashion weeks: It’s all one big melting pot during that period, and then you get to the end of it and think Oh my god, we’ve just been on the road for so long—more and more so nowadays. It used to be a set calendar: you did London, New York, Milan and Paris. But now we go out and do that again for pre-collections (which are obvious, and they're less publicised because there aren’t shows around them) and everything else, but now you add in Copenhagen and Seoul and I really want to go to Tbilisi this year. Once you start adding in those things, all of a sudden you could be on the road 52 weeks a year.
WWW UK: Does what you wear to the office differ from what you wear at fashion week?
LA: I have the same style I would say for both, but I definitely am more relaxed in the office in the sense of there’s a lot less thought that goes behind what I’m wearing. And doesn’t mean that I’m overthought for fashion week, but I plan what I wear in advance. Just for the packing situation, I couldn’t not plan. You know you talk to people, and they’re like "Oh I just threw some things in a bag," and I’m like "Did you really?" I’m quite transparent [about this topic]. I try everything on and make sure it works as an outfit because there are so many time restraints during fashion month. You know, it’s normally 18-hour days, so the last thing I want to do is try and figure out a contingency plan if actually that outfit just didn’t work with that for whatever reason—I didn’t have the right shoes, or I forgot the belt I needed or whatever it might be. So I plan by outfit and it gets packed by outfit. I write it all down and I have a checklist. It’s usually scribbled on the back of a bill or envelope, like outfit number 1, 2, 3, 4, 5. I don’t plan what I’m wearing each day I just know that if I have six days, I need six outfits.
WWW UK: Use three words to explain your personal style:
LA: Oh crikey, that is a difficult question. Hmm. Three words. Okay. I’m quite eclectic, not in the sense of throwing it all together, but I dress to my mood basically, so I quite like different trends.
Hopefully a little bit unexpected… hopefully? I don’t really subscribe to a formulaic uniform. I really respect women who have a uniform for the office or for daily life—I’m sure it saves a lot of time and they always look super-chic—but I get too distracted.
I wear so much denim because I like statement pieces, and for me, it’s all about being balanced. You need something that helps you not look like you’re wearing everything all at once.
WWW UK: Do you ever step out of the house and regret what you're wearing?
AL: Yes! That's just normal life, isn't it? I remember packing for Paris last March and it just rained every day from morning til night. And you know when you look at the weather and think it says rain but it's probably not going to be torrential… it was. That I was unprepared for. I hated everything I wore that week, and I was miserable. Sometimes, I also tend to err on the side of underdressed for events, but that's the London girl in me.
WWW UK: What’s your shopping method?
LA: Generally because I’ve seen most things—90% of collections—if I still love something in six months’ time when it drops on site, then it means I actually really did love it. I use my wish list very heavily because if I buy it, I want to wear it tomorrow, and if I can’t, then I’m probably not going to buy it. I’m very reactive, which can be challenging because things sell out. I’ll shop for other people with them, but I won’t shop for me [with anyone]. In a store, I’m very edited, so I’ll scan it and be like, "These are the three best things in here, do you want any of them?" and my friends are like "oh, are we done [already]?"
WWW UK: What was the last fashion thing you bought?
LA: This was really unexpected from me, but I bought a puff-sleeve Beaufille top. I’m really into a puff sleeve, and it’s kind of a bit, I don’t know… I mean my wedding dress had a puff sleeve, so clearly something is going on for the ’80s.
WWW UK: And, for our own benefit, what should be our number one buy for the new season?
LA: I think the biggest thing is the continuation of tailoring, we’ve come to this place where I think throwing a blazer on is like my instant go-to. No matter what is going on with the rest of the outfit, a blazer just makes it feel put together… it clearly has resonated with all of us, just based on how many blazers we sold at NAP: 6000 in autumn/winter last year, that’s crazy!
Next up, your guide to the top spring/summer 2018 fashion trends.