Style icon Caroline Issa on her new jewelry collaboration with Monica Vinader, her inspirational trip to India and how she gets dressed.
By Britt Burritt
It's a rare street-style slideshow that doesn't contain London-based fashion editor and consultant Caroline Issa. The founder of Tank magazine and perennial best-dresser has lent her guidance to many brands and businesses over the years. But for the first time ever, she's co-designed a jewelry collection with her friend Monica Vinader. These special gemstone pieces reflect the exuberance of these women and their passion for wearable, pretty works.
We spoke with Issa about the collection and how she's been wearing it in her signature, sophisticated way.
How do you know Monica?
I've known Monica for almost eight years, which is so crazy. She celebrated her 10-year brand anniversary last year, which was wonderful. I met her almost eight years ago. I can't even remember how, but I've actually been working with her for the last seven years as a collaborator. It's been a really long collaboration, a long friendship, and I guess that's why it was natural for us to kind of take it to the next step, which was to start working on product together.
This type of collaboration was a first for both of you.
This is the first jewelry collection I've ever designed, and I'm grateful that Monica let me do it with her because I just really adore what Monica stands for, which, for me, is about joy and friendship and kind of girl power and femininity while being independent and strong. When she asked me, she said, "Listen, I've never done a collaboration either." But it felt very natural for both of us to try it and see what we came up with. We're both so excited about the collection. It's really delicious and very much both of us.
How did you begin the design process?
Monica has had a huge heritage of working with gemstones and cut gemstones, these amazingly hand-cut, small interventions, but super-precise, kind of prismed gemstones. The colors that she's chosen in the past have always been so mesmerizing. When I was in her studio—she has this idyllic headquarters up in Norfolk, which is almost three hours outside of London—with her and her team, they put all these raw gemstones in front of me, and we just started playing with them. I fell in love with the rawness of their nature. She doesn't normally use raw gemstones.
What particular stones did you choose for the collection?
The more we played with these rainbow-like, sort of magical gemstones, we realized that we could use them. We used things like lemon quartz, which is this lemony yellow, or ametrine, which is this insane gemstone that actually has two colors occurring naturally in it—a more lilac and then green-blue—it's just the most fantastical stone. Then we used things like orange carnelian, which is very, very intense orange. And then kyanite, which is this incredible blue. They're like gummy bears. They're like candy essentially. You start playing around with them, and they're just yummy and delicious.
What kind of jewelry is your favorite?
I love cocktail earrings, and I love big, chunky standout pieces. I've always used earrings more than anything else to dress up a T-shirt and a pair of jeans or any dress. Put on a fabulous pair of chandelier earrings, and you are ready to go out. To be able to create my dream set of finishing-touch earrings to any outfit was a dream come true.
You went to India to visit the sites where Monica Vinader jewelry is made.
Her factories have always been in India, and all her jewelry is 100-percent handmade in India. I wanted to see where the jewelry was being made, who was making them, how were they getting made. It was just such an incredible experience to see these Indian craftspeople. Every single piece of jewelry that Monica creates and puts in Nordstrom is literally touched by dozens of hands. It was really impressive to see the gemstone factories, the manufacturing facilities and how our jewelry was getting made.
What did you do on your trip?
We got to spend a few days in Jaipur going around the city, taking lots of amazing photos and being really inspired by the colors. We went to the flower market at 5am, which I would highly recommend to anyone. This is where they sell all the marigolds, all the flowers that they then string up into their garlands. I love street food, and we went to this famous place called Lassiwala. It's a tiny box in the wall, and they just serve fresh lassi, which is this yogurt drink. It is so good! I went back twice because it was so delicious. Then we obviously went to City Palace, which is this Jaipur palace that actually I think the royal family still lives in, or in parts, and that was beautiful. Any time I could, I wanted to stay at my hotel. We stayed at the SUJÁN Rajmahal Palace. Jaipur is an incredibly bustling city, but this was an oasis. I am definitely going back to Jaipur because there is so much shopping I didn't get to do and so much sightseeing I didn't get to do. It was very magical when I was there.
Your style is often admired. How do you go about choosing your outfits?
For me, choosing an outfit is all about feeling like yourself, feeling confident—feeling like your clothes are an extension of your personality and not wearing things that you're not necessarily comfortable in or just because they're trendy. It's really about enhancing your own nature and confidence. Personally, I love a great dress because it's simple, it's easy, but it still looks like you've made a huge effort.
What are key pieces for you?
A great tailored suit and usually in color. You can always get a good black suit or a good navy suit. It's trying to kind of find those fantastic pink suits or red suits—you know, suits with real punch. And then, for me, a great shirtdress is really a key wardrobe staple because they're versatile. You wear them with stilettoes. You wear them with your Manolos. You wear them with sneakers and they just work across the weekend, workday and evening. Add a pair of my chandelier earrings, and you're totally set to go.