We're spoilt with a constant stream of style inspiration on our Instagram feeds, however, if you're not already familiar with Lisa Aiken, take a moment to hit follow right now. With that said, Net-A-Porter's fashion director and street style star, Aiken, is more than an immaculately dressed front row fixture. Aiken is responsible for scouting new brands from around the world for the e-comm giant, spotting the designers and brands about to break, working closely with the buying team to bring the best emerging brands onsite. That It Bag or those soon-to-be-sold-out boots you've had at the top of your wish list? Lisa is probably part of the reason why they're on your radar.
Somewhere in between flying over the globe for each fashion week and overseeing Net-A-Porter's buy, Lisa recently launched her own blog Two Fashion, offering another means for us to spy on her style and discover the new international brands as she does.
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Aiken invited Refinery29 to Net-A-Porter's shiny HQ to discuss her career trajectory, the multifaceted nature of her job and how she decides what to wear each day.
Photographed by Jony Cochrane & Morgane Lay.
Lisa wears a Joseph turtleneck, £295, available at Net-A-Porter and Rejina Pyo jeans, £325, available at Net-A-Porter
After university, what was your first career move before starting at Net-A-Porter? Was your current role always the end goal?
I’m not sure I believed fashion director was a realistic end goal, however it was certainly the dream job from the outset. I began studying fashion marketing at Northumbria University, part of which involved a year in industry and I undertook an internship at Matches Fashion. I was offered a permanent role there within a matter of months and ended up leaving my degree to take the job. Looking back it was the biggest decision of my career, but it paid off hugely because in this industry experience is everything. Studying was still very important to me, so I finished my degree at London College of Fashion on a part-time basis.
During the five years I spent at Matches, I worked my way up from an intern to fashion market editor, before deciding I needed international experience and moved to Munich to work for MyTheresa as editor. I joined Net-A-Porter in 2011, spending time as market director, style director and in January 2016 was appointed retail fashion director.
What does your average working day look like?
No two days are ever the same. Fashion weeks and buying seasons are getting longer and more frequent; this year alone I have been to New York, Milan, Paris, LA, Sydney and Copenhagen for fashion weeks, as well as Hong Kong, Singapore and Dubai on work trips. While on the road, I attend runway shows, collection reviews in showrooms and press appointments. In the office, as retail fashion director, my role very much sits between content and commerce so I’ll meet with multiple departments throughout the day; everyone from our creative teams through to PR, marketing, buying, styling and social.
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Photographed by Jony Cochrane & Morgane Lay.
Photographed by Jony Cochrane & Morgane Lay.
Are there any women in the fashion industry who inspire you? Who have been your mentors?
I’ve been very fortunate to have worked with inspiring women (and men) throughout my career, many of whom have become trusted friends and advisors. The people I admire most in this industry all have one thing in common: they are kind to those around them, no matter their position.
What would be your advice to those trying to break into fashion buying and e-comm?
Firstly, be prepared to work very hard, I can tell you first-hand that fashion isn’t always glamorous. It is an incredibly competitive industry so you have to really love what you do. Finally, always be kind, confident and approachable, whether you’re an assistant in the fashion cupboard or doing admin on work experience, introduce yourself and make yourself known… I always remember personalities.
How has the industry evolved since you started out and how have you adapted?
The industry is far more open than ever before. Previously all shows, appointments, shoots, etc. happened behind closed doors but with digital content and social media, everyone has access to everything in real time. It is a very exciting period, particularly for emerging talent, but it does mean that you are surrounded by the industry 24/7 and the pace continues to increase. I have learnt to broaden my horizons in terms of where we source new brands, react much more quickly to what is going on and also share my life and perspective on the industry through social media.
Photographed by Jony Cochrane & Morgane Lay.
Photographed by Jony Cochrane & Morgane Lay.
You travel constantly. How do you keep a semblance of a social life and normal routine?
I am a creature of habit, actually, so being in a different hotel every week initially proved challenging. However, I have trained myself into a morning routine that I stick to no matter where I am. I wake up between 6-6.30am, do 30 mins of cardio (either a run or a circuit programme from one of the many fitness apps on my phone) and then enjoy my English breakfast tea. After that, anything can happen but I feel set up for it.
I try and combine my social life with work. Some of my best friends are people I’ve met through working in the fashion industry; we’ll meet up when we’re in the same city and catch up over breakfast or dinner.
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Photographed by Jony Cochrane & Morgane Lay.
How do you decide what you're going to wear each day?
I decide what I’m going to wear in the morning, when I’m in the shower. It’s very much based on my mood, the weather and what I have on my schedule that day. I often come up with a single piece that I want to wear for whatever reason, and build an outfit around that. I wish I was more organised in that sense, but when I pre-plan I just don’t feel like me.
How do you pack for fashion month?
I am at the opposite end of the spectrum when it comes to packing, and am extremely organised. I start by making a list and writing everything I’m going to wear for each week in order of looks; everything from jackets, tops, jeans, shoes and accessories. I pack each piece and tick every item off as I go – it means I don’t forget anything and I don’t over-pack. I also keep accessories, toiletries and jewellery all together in one suitcase and have another for clothes.
When you travel as much as I do, it’s important to know where everything is, for example, if I arrive at a hotel late at night, I need to know where my toiletries, chargers and pyjamas are straightaway, so I need to have a very orderly system. Everything goes in the same place in my suitcase for every trip. Lastly, I take a carry-on with me containing all of my essentials, which I could never replace should my luggage go missing. This list includes, but is not limited to: my favourite pair of Acne jeans, a leopard-print Marc Jacobs dress from 2012, all of my jewellery, a satin Topshop skirt and whichever shoes I am wearing on repeat.
Photographed by Jony Cochrane & Morgane Lay.
Which brands are you obsessed with at the moment and why?
Definitely Balenciaga – with Demna Gvasalia at the helm it is setting the trends of the moment, not just on the runway but also in the showroom, with new denim shapes, easy wardrobing pieces with a signature twist, sneakers and kitten heels. There is also a host of new and contemporary brands that are filling my wardrobe, everything from the most directional pieces at AWAKE, Magda Butrym and Rejina Pyo to print dresses and statement sweaters from Rixo London and Ganni. I love wearing brands that are still under the radar and feel like an insider secret.
Follow Lisa on Instagram @lisa.aiken