THE PODCAST,
my life in seven charms
THE PODCAST,
my life in seven charms
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Caroline Issa

Fashion Director and CEO TANK Magazine

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Annoushka Ducas:
I'm Annoushka Ducas and I've been designing jewelry for 30 years and collecting charms for as long as I can remember. In this new podcast I'll be asking a series of extraordinary women to tell me their life story in Seven Charms. Today I'm meeting Caroline Issa, style icon and editor of TANK Magazine.

Caroline Issa:
Distilling your life, so far, into symbols is such a bizarre and wonderful way to think about it. What would you actually say? How would you think about it, and therefore, would I, should I?

Annoushka Ducas:
For me there are so few things that can stand the test of time and evoke a memory like a tiny detail charm. A very special 18-karat gold biography. Welcome to my new podcast, My Life in Seven Charms. I'm here today in Central London to meet one of the most photographed women in fashion, someone who has nailed the art of the effortless wardrobe, and a woman described as the absolute epitome of chic. Caroline is the editor of cult title TANK Magazine, and a woman in love with both the written and the spoken word. She's also a designer, an industry innovator, and it has been said of her that no other individual currently working in fashion has seen the industry from as many angles as she has.

Annoushka Ducas:
Caroline, welcome to My Life in Seven Charms.

Caroline Issa:
Thank you so much for having me, Annoushka.

Annoushka Ducas:
Before we got into your charms, I thought it would be so interesting to just talk about, because we both have a bit of fascination with the miniature, with making things miniature.

Caroline Issa:
Yes.

Annoushka Ducas:
And I'm looking at those gorgeous little miniature books.

Caroline Issa:
I've got little mini magazines. We've got mini magazines, we've got mini books, we have books in the format of cigarette boxes.

Annoushka Ducas:
Wow.

Caroline Issa:
Also, for the first issue of TANK Magazine in 1998, which was actually the size of your hand, we also did a little commemorative mini-mini baby magazine that was put on the seats of a fashion show of a London designer. I can't remember who now. It was before my time. And we've been doing them for every anniversary since.

Annoushka Ducas:
So why? Because that's quite unusual, to make a magazine really miniature, so why did you do that?

Caroline Issa:
I think we have always loved playing with format, the unexpected, but also I think importantly, collectibility, I think, is always at the back of our minds when we create content. And sometimes as gimmicky as a format can be that also helps a little bit with the idea of collectible. And we know so many people who still, from 22 years ago, have that little magazine.

Annoushka Ducas:
But that collectible, because people say to me, why have I always had this fascination with charms? And I kind of like go about thinking, "I really don't know why other than, when I was a child, I collected." My aunt, I think, used to give me... She was an antique student, she used to give me miniature little plates and cups and saucers.

Caroline Issa:
Oh, that must be the source.

Annoushka Ducas:
But isn't that weird? Or, is it to do with the fact that when you're a small child that you relate to small things? And why do you keep relating to-

Caroline Issa:
Internalize that. I don't know, and I think, well, there is something embodied in child-like fascination with both the outsize and the minimized. And I think maybe that's why we still love puppies so much, and babies are the cutest things on the planet. And then when it comes to format we just love things that are small. But we're very lucky to have your fascination in the miniatures so that we actually get to collect also your beautiful, tiny, little things.

Annoushka Ducas:
But that's a real mutual thing, isn't it?

Caroline Issa:
Yeah. It is. Absolutely.

Annoushka Ducas:
Because I know that looking at those little books and thinking, they are absolutely perfect. When I'm designing charms I want them to be as perfect and as lifelike as they possibly can be.

Caroline Issa:
Yeah. And I think there is-

Annoushka Ducas:
[crosstalk 00:04:10] you've got your beetle on.

Caroline Issa:
Yeah. Absolutely. I love my beetle, my baby beetle. And that's the thing, I think, yeah, the way that you're able to make something so lifelike in such a tiny little space, I think also talks about craftsmanship. But I'm sure we'll get to that.

Annoushka Ducas:
I'm sure we'll get to that. So, Caroline, when I got your seven charms, the easiest way for me to visualize it is really to sketch them and just do some little illustrations.

Caroline Issa:
I love it. I love your sketches.

Annoushka Ducas:
So, you haven't seen these yet.

Caroline Issa:
No.

Annoushka Ducas:
But I thought I'd just show you. Please, bear in mind, they really are sketches.

Caroline Issa:
Ta-da.

Annoushka Ducas:
Kind of annotated.

Caroline Issa:
Revealed.

Annoushka Ducas:
Yeah.

Caroline Issa:
Oh.

Annoushka Ducas:
But what's really interesting to me is I visualize them one way-

Caroline Issa:
Wow.

Annoushka Ducas:
... but as a creative, you might visualize them completely differently.

Caroline Issa:
No. I love how you've completely internalized a bunch of ramblings. So, something Annoushka asked me first, seven charms that I thought could encapsulate I guess my life. And I mean, how hard is that? And I'm looking at the most beautiful illustrations in color of how she has articulated this in 3D, yet on a 2D paper. And I love it.

Annoushka Ducas:
Well, we'll have to work to the 3D but it starts like that. The process starts-

Caroline Issa:
How lovely. That's why you're so good at what you do. Because I think to take something from words and then make them into visual, and then make them into a 3D object, of which there are so many little moving moving parts. Look at this. Incredible. And I guess we're going to come to these, seven charms, but that is just the most amazing thing.

Annoushka Ducas:
But I thought, charm one, why don't we start with that gorgeous red saga seed.

Caroline Issa:
Yeah.

Annoushka Ducas:
I had to look it up, actually. I didn't actually know what a-

Caroline Issa:
Oh, how wonderful.

Annoushka Ducas:
... saga charm was. But I quite understand why you've chosen it. But I see that charm as being carved, totally carved, out of a hardstone. I think red agate, because that really is as close to the color-

Caroline Issa:
Wow.

Annoushka Ducas:
... as we could get it. I see it as really tactile, something you want to hold in your hand, almost like a worry bead. And if it wasn't a charm, and it wasn't hanging from your neck or bracelet, it would be in your pocket-

Caroline Issa:
That's perfect. Yes.

Annoushka Ducas:
... and you'd be rubbing it and feeling it. But, tell me why you chose this saga seed.

Caroline Issa:
So, yeah, my first charm I chose is the saga seed and that is because it completely is a symbol of my childhood as well as my mom. So, my mother was a Singaporean and every summer as a kid I would travel to Singapore. I would come via London where my aunt lived, and then we'd travel onto Singapore where my grandparents and all of my mom's family was. And in the neighborhood where my grandparents lived, it was quite jungly and we would pick up these saga seeds that were littered all over the roads. And my mom would probably say, "Can you just entertain yourselves and make up games with 50 of these seeds." And my brother and I would remain quiet for quite some time. But what I love about these seeds is not only do they represent newness and new life, but they're also slightly in the shape of a heart.

Annoushka Ducas:
Yes, they are.

Caroline Issa:
And they're the deepest, most beautiful red. And so, for me, I thought, "Gosh, how do we think about my childhood traveling around the word?" My dad's Lebanese/Iranian, my mom being Singaporean/Chinese, I was so lucky to travel as a kid and experience all these amazing places. And for me the saga seed is representative of that time of my childhood and the natural and beautiful representation of those summers in Singapore.

Annoushka Ducas:
Did you ever make, because it absolutely speaks to me, I'd be making necklaces and bracelets-

Caroline Issa:
Seeds and-

Annoushka Ducas:
... and threading them, because they come in a gorgeous pod, don't they? They come as-

Caroline Issa:
Yes. Exactly.

Annoushka Ducas:
... seeds just comes out of the pod. So, you had a brother, and he-

Caroline Issa:
I have a younger brother, and it was just the two of us, but this, the traveling, was... My parents were very adventurous travelers and they brought us to... I think we were one of the first Canadian flights into Cuba, and they thought, "Let's go to Cuba," when it opened up to Canada, first. This is when I was like-

Annoushka Ducas:
What year was that?

Caroline Issa:
God, I was like 13.

Annoushka Ducas:
Wow.

Caroline Issa:
So this is 30 years ago now. And then we went to Beirut right after the Civil War, a year after the Civil War ended, because my grandparents were there and had lived throughout the Civil War in Beirut, and my father said, "Right, Civil War's done. Let's go." And my brother and I, two Canadian kids, landed there, kind of shell-shocked at having seen a completely [crosstalk 00:09:19] destroyed city.

Annoushka Ducas:
So just talking about it, because you traveled immensely but you were brought up in Canada.

Caroline Issa:
I was brought up... I was-

Annoushka Ducas:
... you were born in Canada.

Caroline Issa:
... born and bred in Montreal.

Annoushka Ducas:
Yeah. And this might sound like a really weird question, but obviously, Singaporean, Chinese, Lebanese, Iranian in Canada, did you feel different? Did you feel different?

Caroline Issa:
I'm so grateful for having grown up mixed in Canada, especially Montreal. It's such a cosmopolitan melting pot, but growing up, the number one question anybody would ever ask me is, "Where are you from?" And my parents, as immigrants, first-generation immigrants from their respective countries, are such proud Canadians and they got so fed up with that question. They would say, "Caroline, just say you're Canadian." And I was like, "But, no, I'm so lucky to have this weird and wonderful mix." I didn't think I was different, and so many of the kids who I grew up with looked like me in the sense of like so many mixed families, and were so lovely. I'm very grateful because I think Canada is one of those countries where, I think, the division is much less apparent than, for example, what we're seeing in America.

Annoushka Ducas:
Gosh, yeah.

Caroline Issa:
But I'm so grateful. But it was funny how that question, "Where are you from?" is literally the most asked question I've ever gotten in my life.

Annoushka Ducas:
Still.

Caroline Issa:
Still. Yes.

Annoushka Ducas:
But, I mean, that kind of real mixed cultural heritage, do you think it has affected the way you've lived your life?

Caroline Issa:
Absolutely 100%. I think it has made me question perspective.

Annoushka Ducas:
Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Caroline Issa:
I know that there isn't just one story that... The Chinese perspective is so different to the Persian perspective to which the Canadian perspective. And I think I absolutely am grateful that I've internalized that so much, and I think I definitely bring that to what I do and the people that we work with, and just making sure that...

Annoushka Ducas:
Was a real richness to everything. Depth and [crosstalk 00:11:30]

Caroline Issa:
Yeah, absolutely. And that you just question. You always have to think about, "Well, what does it look like from another perspective?"

Annoushka Ducas:
Yeah. I think that's such a skill.

Caroline Issa:
Yeah.

Annoushka Ducas:
I think it is a real skill. You either have it or you don't have it.

Caroline Issa:
Yeah, and I think, it's hard to learn, or you really have to take the time to think, "Let me put myself in another person's perspective and shoes." And that's hard. I hope it becomes more learned.

Annoushka Ducas:
Given what you do.

Caroline Issa:
Yeah.

Annoushka Ducas:
It's so important.

Caroline Issa:
It's helpful.

Annoushka Ducas:
It's so important. But that probably coincides quite nicely with your second charm. So I was really interested in this. So your second charm was a bowl of noodles and chopsticks, and you were quite specific about the chopsticks, which I totally get. I mean, I thought about this, but for me, as you know, part of my obsession with miniature and jewelry, jewelry is not just about the way things look, it's the way they sound, it's the way they feel. So for me it was really important, immediately, that the chopsticks and the beautiful little bowl come off one bale. So I see the chopsticks in ebony-

Caroline Issa:
Oh, my gosh, I love that.

Annoushka Ducas:
... with a gold cap, separate, and the bowl being this perfect yellow gold, beautifully polished inside, bowl, but I really want the two to clink together because of the sound when you eat.

Caroline Issa:
Yeah. Oh, that's so good, they have to give it all. It's so beautiful.

Annoushka Ducas:
Yeah. So it's really important to me that that sound-

Caroline Issa:
That's very genius.

Annoushka Ducas:
... and I didn't think that the chopsticks should be in metal because actually chopsticks don't sound metal-

Caroline Issa:
No. Yeah.

Annoushka Ducas:
... when they... So, that was really important. And then I wanted to... I mean, you'll tell me why wonton soup, but I wanted to get the wontons and the little hint, you'll see this little green saphirite, which is a hint of the vegetable.

Caroline Issa:
That's so fabulous.

Annoushka Ducas:
And then there's a little yellow sapphire with a hint of the egg.

Caroline Issa:
Oh, my gosh.

Annoushka Ducas:
And the noodles themselves were all in white gold strands.

Caroline Issa:
How amazing.

Annoushka Ducas:
So there's a huge amount of detail, but I think it'll be a gorgeous charm.

Caroline Issa:
That would make an amazing charm, and I feel like so many people would relate to the wonton noodle soup bowl. You could have a sellout here, just on its own.

Annoushka Ducas:
We could. But, I think I understand a little bit about why you've chosen that, because with your heritage, Chinese, Lebanese, Iranian, as we said, but my goodness, those cultures are so about hospitality and warmth. But anyway, don't let me take-

Caroline Issa:
That's a great way of putting it. I mean, you go from the generosity of spirit angle, whereas I go for just the taste.

Annoushka Ducas:
I'm keen on the taste, too.

Caroline Issa:
My stomach [crosstalk 00:14:27] exactly. You've shared many a meal, Annoushka.

Annoushka Ducas:
So what is it about the wonton noodles?

Caroline Issa:
I don't know, I think wonton noodles are deceptively so simple, but they take so much skill to make, and I think I really appreciate that, where, the folds, and to have not too much of the skin. I just think it is the most simplest of meals, but it is also one of the hardest I think to get right, and I really appreciate the skill that it takes to have a beautiful... And it's just so heartwarming.

Annoushka Ducas:
You're so right, because, actually, the simplest things, normally, are the most difficult.

Caroline Issa:
Are the hardest. Absolutely.

Annoushka Ducas:
I mean, I remember a collection I did... Do you remember hoopla?

Caroline Issa:
Yes.

Annoushka Ducas:
I mean, it was just a really simple... It looked like it was a circle, but it was so difficult to work out how to keep it simple. I see you put those earrings [crosstalk 00:15:20]

Caroline Issa:
Yes.

Annoushka Ducas:
But, isn't that interesting? The simplest things are the hardest thing to get right.

Caroline Issa:
Are the hardest things, yeah, absolutely. And I think people just don't, sometimes, necessarily realize that. But, yeah, you managed it on hoopla, for sure.

Annoushka Ducas:
So with an obsession for food, can you cook?

Caroline Issa:
I am the worst cook.

Annoushka Ducas:
Oh, you and me, alike. [crosstalk 00:15:43]

Caroline Issa:
Thank goodness. I think we're too busy being great at other things, Annoushka. So, yeah, let's not talk about the cooking side of things. But I appreciate good cooking.

Annoushka Ducas:
Okay.

Caroline Issa:
I think, for me, I love food, and again, both of us being travelers and adventurers, I discover new places through food, and so, when I go on holiday, I'm not really looking at museums first. I'm looking at restaurants, first, or like the best local pizzeria, or... In Tokyo, it was like the best... Actually, in Kyoto, the best matcha tea house that I could find. I actually, I think I travel through food. And then when we're stuck here in London, again, we travel through food. I think taste... You and I get to work in an incredibly visual industry, as we say. I think what you do so well is translating that to sound and feel, but I think actually taste buds are the thing that, sometimes more than fragrance even, bring me back to places.

Annoushka Ducas:
Okay, so your next charm, number three, is completely different, and it's obviously, it's a magazine.

Caroline Issa:
Oh, yes.

Annoushka Ducas:
It's got to be the magazine. So, well, I'd be interested to know how you would interpret a magazine? My interpretation would be absolutely has to open.

Caroline Issa:
I love that. I wouldn't have even thought of that.

Annoushka Ducas:
In my head, it's going to be beautiful yellow gold with TANK engraved on the front, in its font. But it absolutely needs to open, and the sides of the book need to look like this book, so there's absolute... Or the pages of the magazine. And I'm fanatical, as you know, I am fanatical about the details, so for me, the inside would be as beautifully polished as the outside, and I think if you were to make that, you would probably want to write a little note to yourself that could live inside.

Caroline Issa:
That's so lovely.

Annoushka Ducas:
But how would you have done it?

Caroline Issa:
Wow. I mean, I think that's genius, because obviously you want to open it up and put in wonderful things. So that makes sense as a locket. The idea of it as a repository of precious things is a very apt way of thinking about a magazine. And for me the reason why I chose something as obvious as a magazine is because I've had two jobs, one as a management consultant, but very quickly joined TANK knowing very little about publishing, and for 18 years now it's been my life.

Caroline Issa:
I've been a magazine addict since I was a teenager, to today trying to understand, what is it that actually we want to read and see these days when there's so much content that's being thrown at us? So, to think about a magazine in a precious way is certainly how we think about trying to create these paper magazines that get sent all over the world.

Annoushka Ducas:
Full of stories. They're full-

Caroline Issa:
Full of stories, and what are the stories that you want to last forever and ever and be collectible, and still have relevance at a later date? And I think that's why as a miniature little gold-enameled locket, I think that's a beautiful way to show that.

Annoushka Ducas:
Coming out of this, hopefully coming out of this shopping situation, COVID, and where everybody's gone digital in every respect, what do you think is going to happen to magazines? I mean, that must be absolutely prime.

Caroline Issa:
Absolutely. I mean, I think that the magazines who will survive this, and I hope we're included in that, are absolutely the magazines that have content above and beyond what an Instagram swipe can do. I think they are going to be opinion-led. I think that they're going to have... Go back, we're going to go back to experts. I think we're going to want to hear from people with a real point of view.

Caroline Issa:
I think we're going to want collectible, beautiful images that resonate today, not some old-fashioned idea of glamor. I actually feel real optimism for magazines. We're going to spend time commissioning multi-faceted perspective. Again, I think after every crisis there's such incredible opportunity.

Annoushka Ducas:
Totally. Yeah.

Caroline Issa:
And I get really excited, actually, not by the circumstances that we find ourselves in, but obviously what it means as a business for us to create content that really means something, that resonates, that will make a difference in somebody's life whether that's opening their eyes up to perspectives that they never considered before. And I feel we've gone through so many economic recessions in the 18 years that I've been at TANK, that I feel like if we just head down, continue making really beautiful, collectible, meaningful content, that will always resonate. In the same way that I think great quality product, beautiful jewels that you want to collect and keep and have as future vintage, for ever, that will always be desired.

Annoushka Ducas:
People love stories-

Caroline Issa:
Absolutely.

Annoushka Ducas:
Just love the narrative, they love the story.

Caroline Issa:
Absolutely.

Annoushka Ducas:
That's so encouraging. So encouraging.

Caroline Issa:
Yeah, well, we have to stay optimistic.

Annoushka Ducas:
Anyway, going on from that, for your fourth charm, which is completely... I mean, I just love this charm, I loved... I didn't have to really imagine what it looked like, because you've created this shoe, and it's a gorgeous stiletto shoe, which you... I think it was your first collaboration with Linda Bennett.

Caroline Issa:
It was.

Annoushka Ducas:
L.K. Bennett.

Caroline Issa:
Yes, actually. Linda wasn't back in the business. She had sold it. It was actually Robert Bensoussan, and he trusted me, so we created these pom-pom stilettos, and it was before the pom-pom craze, a good couple of years, actually. And they did so well, they were sold out. And it was just really the start, the spark of a little bit of confidence in my own creative abilities, whereas I've always been behind the scenes commissioning, working with creative people, and yet somebody had given me permission to explore my own creativity and create this lovely thing that I love, because I loved shoes.

Annoushka Ducas:
Was it always going to be a stiletto?

Caroline Issa:
Yeah. I always knew that I had to have a stiletto.

Annoushka Ducas:
High?

Caroline Issa:
High.

Annoushka Ducas:
How high?

Caroline Issa:
We also did a kitten heel... It was pretty high, not so prohibitively high. We did a kitten heel, who, everyone from 16-year-olds to Theresa May, was obsessed with her Caroline Issa/L.K. Bennett embroidered kitten heel. Very strange, because I'd see her in all these important heads of state meetings wearing my shoes. It was very surreal to see them on a global stage.

Annoushka Ducas:
It was so exciting.

Caroline Issa:
But, bizarre, bizarre. But, in any case, I always knew that we had to have high and we did a great loafer with these pom-poms, and it was just so much fun.

Annoushka Ducas:
So, it's interesting they're the first collaboration with a shoe. I mean, I don't know whether that's because it was a coincident, but, fashion, because fashion is such a huge part of your life. Is the shoe the kind of absolute... If you had to pick one thing that says fashion, it is a shoe?

Caroline Issa:
It was at the time, but the shoe, for me, was something more than the handbag, more than a piece of jewelry. It was really what I... again, the miniature, in a way. It wasn't so big or oversized, and sizing wasn't such an issue. So, the shoe for me symbolized everything in fashion that I love, which is, you dress from your feet up, in a way, or I do.

Caroline Issa:
Seeing that lockdown where I don't think I wore high heels once in four months, I was actually.... The first time I went to a restaurant, I got dressed up to the hilt, Annoushka. My guests were like, "Whoa! Where do you think you're going, because you're not going there." I think I wore like a long muumuu dress and huge crystal earrings and big old high heels, and I just think that's what fashion is. It's something fun and you kind of revel in it, and it's wonderful.

Annoushka Ducas:
So, actually I was going to talk about this later, but this is a perfect moment to talk about that. So, because you are this incredible icon, I mean, I've walked along the street with you and people stop you, but I'm really interested about, when you get up in the morning, what is it that informs? Why do you put on whatever it is you put on?

Caroline Issa:
I am so lucky in the sense that I get exposed to so many different design perspectives, and I really see fashion as, not as armor, but as a tool to express something that you can't use with words, something that everybody obviously says that you get judged visually first rather than in any other way. For me fashion is, I wake up in the morning, I do spend time thinking about what I want to wear. I tend not to wear black. I'm wearing a little bit of black today, but I like spending the time thinking about what I'm going to wear. I know there's so many people in a rush where they're like, "Ugh, I just want..." That's why they wear black, because they don't want to think about it.

Caroline Issa:
But the majority of people I know take the time to figure out, "What am I going to represent today? What do I want to feel today?" And so, I have lots of tailoring, I have gorgeous dresses, I do color and print, and I use fashion as a celebratory way of just enjoying beauty in my life. I like to wear designers that I either respect or think that they create in a wonderfully authentic crafted sustainable way.

Annoushka Ducas:
So when you get up in the morning, will it be a mess? Where your wardrobe is, will it be like, "Oh, no, that doesn't work, I'm going to try another jacket..." Does it go like that, or are you pretty clear-

Caroline Issa:
Yeah, it does.

Annoushka Ducas:
... that this will work?

Caroline Issa:
No, I'm weird, sometimes. The majority of my time I will plan my outfit for the next day the night before, and I'll have it hanging. But the minute you put it on, do you feel comfortable and confident? And if you don't, you change, and I think... Everybody asks me, "What's your one advice for fashion?" And it's actually just that you have to wear whatever you feel the most confident in, because we don't have time to be hindered by our clothes or feeling like, "Oh, my shoulder pad is too big," or, "I'm showing too much of this or not enough of that." And actually, whatever it is that you want to wear, but that you feel great in that's going to help you do amazing things, that's what you should be wearing.

Annoushka Ducas:
So, I think, the stiletto should be absolutely in polished yellow gold. When I looked it up, actually, there's a lot of beautiful colored stitching all the way around it, which I think is probably too difficult to do that in color, so I was going to engrave the pattern. I was going to put, in the sole, we should write L.K. Bennett.

Caroline Issa:
Oh, my goodness.
Annoushka Ducas:
We should put your size on the bottom, and then those pom-poms. I mean, that's got to be the most important. [crosstalk 00:27:57] So those are going to be briolette sapphires, I think, blue, pink, and what was the third? Because there was a third color.

Caroline Issa:
Yellow.

Annoushka Ducas:
Yellow. So, there we go. So that's how I think that little charm should be.

Caroline Issa:
Wow. And they will all sort of dangle-

Annoushka Ducas:
And they'll dangle, and they'll move.

Caroline Issa:
Oh, my goodness.

Annoushka Ducas:
They'll be quite delicate, so you'll have to be careful. Anyway, so that's how I see it.

Annoushka Ducas:
Okay, so next charm, so, your fifth charm, is a pomegranate.

Caroline Issa:
Mm.

Annoushka Ducas:
I was so excited about the pomegranate, because, funnily enough, one of the very, very first pieces of jewelry I did at Annoushka, I collaborated with a girlfriend of mine, very old friend, called Manuela Zervudachi, who is a sculptor, and I asked her to do some seeds for me. So she made a wax for me, a wax pomegranate, and I kind of interpreted that.

Caroline Issa:
Wow.

Annoushka Ducas:
So when you chose the pomegranate-

Caroline Issa:
No way.

Annoushka Ducas:
... I was like, "Oh, yes, I know exactly what that should look like."

Caroline Issa:
Oh, that's lovely.

Annoushka Ducas:
So I see it as a yellow gold, beautifully polished, with some kind of burnishings on it, and three-dimensional, but split open like the fruit, split-open at the front, because the most delicious part about a pomegranate are the seeds.

Caroline Issa:
Absolutely.

Annoushka Ducas:
And, obviously, those seeds should be cabochon rubies.

Caroline Issa:
Oh, obviously.

Annoushka Ducas:
Each one should be a cabochon ruby. And with just a little leaf, so that we know it comes from the tree. And again, hugely tactile, and something you just want to play with in your hand.

Caroline Issa:
That's so beautiful, Annoushka.

Annoushka Ducas:
So that's how I see it. And I guess, I wasn't entirely surprised because, being partly Iranian, I mean, the pomegranate is 4,000 years old, it's absolutely representative of Iran. Having been there last year, I know. I saw pomegranates everywhere.

Caroline Issa:
Everywhere.

Annoushka Ducas:
Everywhere. In cooking, in absolutely everything. But, tell me why you chose the pomegranate?

Caroline Issa:
I think, I only really learned about my Iranian side quite late in life, actually. I think my father grew up in Tehran, was born in Tehran, but actually grew up mostly in Beirut. He speaks Persian and Arabic. But for some reason, he didn't share that side of his family, or his history, or culture, so much, until I got a little bit older, and we had to grill him about why that is. But I started maybe only a decade ago really being so grateful for the history that Iran represents, and curious, and, again, I think that idea of questioning perspective.

Caroline Issa:
Iran can be so demonized in our Western media, especially, so I went to visit four years ago with my aunt, who has been an expert in contemporary Iranian art for decades. And going with her really opened my eyes not only to all the misconceptions that as a Canadian kid I had been hammered with-

Annoushka Ducas:
Yeah, I bet, yeah.

Caroline Issa:
... with the evil of Iran, and the generosity of people, the incredible culture, how so much was invented by the Persians. For me the pomegranate is a real symbol of bitter and sweet, and kind of the duality of life and, again, that multiple perspective that I really I'm so grateful for. For me, it's really just a beautiful reminder, I think, the pomegranate, of history and culture and beauty.

Annoushka Ducas:
But, in going back there four years ago, did you feel Iranian? Did you feel your roots at all, in a way you-

Caroline Issa:
Well, it was my first time there, ever.

Annoushka Ducas:
Yeah. So that's why I'm interested.

Caroline Issa:
It was. And I think it was there that I felt, "Ah, okay, there's a little bit of me that has clicked into place." I'm going to say this. This is going to sound so pretentious, but, one of the times I interviewed Carl Lagerfeld, he told me, "You look like one of those miniatures of those Persian princesses," because I've such a funny nose.

Caroline Issa:
So I was sort of, "Hm, okay. That's wonderful. Thank you so much, Mr. Lagerfeld," but also, how wonderful that he saw the Persian-ness in me, when most of my life I've been focused on either the Chinese bit or the Lebanese bit. So, I think, going back there opened my eyes. Again, like I said, I had so many misconceptions, and for someone who is like of the DNA, I was so glad to see something for my own eyes, where I see an incredible people.

Annoushka Ducas:
And in fact, your sixth charm, actually, there... A lot of that represented in Iran, the sun and the moon.

Caroline Issa:
Absolutely.

Annoushka Ducas:
There's a huge amount of that represented in so much.

Caroline Issa:
Yeah, absolutely. That's a great point, actually.

Annoushka Ducas:
I haven't really thought about that, but I'm [crosstalk 00:33:28]

Caroline Issa:
Me, neither. That's a good segue, Annoushka.

Annoushka Ducas:
It definitely is. But the sun and the moon, where you can see all my sketches there.

Caroline Issa:
I love this sketch. It's so beautiful with the little moon...

Annoushka Ducas:
You know I have a spinning series where the globe spins and there's an eternal feeling about it. But, I kind of saw it as a spinning series, so I love the crescent-shaped moon and I think, I kind of something about masculine/feminine, so I'd seen the crescent-shaped moon as carved in moonstone, with graduated diamonds-

Caroline Issa:
Oh, that's good.

Annoushka Ducas:
... down the spine, and then you can see I've separated the sun into the space that this crescent moon creates, and the sun is on an axis, and it spins completely independently.

Caroline Issa:
Wow.

Annoushka Ducas:
And so I see the sun as kind of pavé yellow diamonds spinning super fast, and a tiny little diamond or pearl just hanging from the bottom.

Caroline Issa:
A little briolette. I love that.

Annoushka Ducas:
So that's how I'd seen it. But, you might have seen it completely different to that.

Caroline Issa:
No. Well, I love how you have built the sun into the crescent, so that it sits on the tips of the crescent moon, and I think that is exactly right. The seamless being one and yet they're so completely different. And I think, for me, the duality of sun and moon, and it just represents also, for me, like a love and I think that is a wonderful...

Annoushka Ducas:
And balance?

Caroline Issa:
Balance, absolutely, of which I'm learning more and more.

Annoushka Ducas:
We're all learning about that. But, in your life, how do you manage the balance? Because you're always so calm, you always seem like everything's easy. You always seem like that. And yet, you've probably been to 14 countries in the last three weeks, to me, not a normal... in a normal world.

Caroline Issa:
In my old life, yes. Absolutely.

Annoushka Ducas:
So how do you maintain some kind of balance?

Caroline Issa:
That's a good question. I think what I have learned is that you have to make time to... It's almost like you have to schedule that balance in. And it was only just several... A few years back, in fact, when I stopped working on weekends. I still don't work out as much as I should because I don't make the time, but I know I need to make the time. So I think we have to be proactive for balance, weirdly. People like us who love doing lots and lots and lots of things.

Annoushka Ducas:
Well, because, it always... For me, I was like, "Oh, no, okay, how do I balance being mommy to four, and work, which I love?" You never seem to be in the right... Should I be at work? Or, I feel guilty when I'm at work. I should be at home. Should I be at home, I feel guilty... work. But that's all the things of being a woman, I think.

Caroline Issa:
Yes. Yes. The guilt, I know.

Annoushka Ducas:
But I mean I think, for you, I'm like, "Gosh, how do you get to get your personal life in some kind of...

Caroline Issa:
Shape?

Annoushka Ducas:
... shape." Yeah.

Caroline Issa:
But, I do... I think we're better people when we feel fulfilled and happy with what we're doing, but I do think that the amount... What I learned these last six months, and it's actually been the first time I think in a very long time that I've been grounded anywhere for six months.

Annoushka Ducas:
What... Did you... reckon you had 100 days in your bed?

Caroline Issa:
No, I mean, incredible. And it's been a big week of calm, and I would like to travel less. I took my first real holiday in a couple of years in January before this whole happened, and I went to Japan and then I went to Singapore and Malaysia.

Annoushka Ducas:
So, Japan, that was... Sorry to interrupt. Was that all...

Caroline Issa:
Pleasure.

Annoushka Ducas:
It was all pleasure.

Caroline Issa:
But I'm not very good at it just yet. But I'll get better. I think balance is a very learned thing, as well.

Annoushka Ducas:
Talking about balance, are there things you would have done differently? To your younger self? What would you have said to your younger self, "Why would I do this?" Or...

Caroline Issa:
In terms of balance, I probably would have said, "Don't work so hard." But, I also just don't know if I would have listened to my own advice. I loved what I was doing and I was all consumed, and I am all consumed. No, I don't think I would do anything differently, to be fair. I'm 43 now, and I think it's only now that I'm learning, you can't work all the time. I feed myself, I read, I love going to galleries, I love going to see film, I think I feed my quiet soul with beautiful things that other people make.

Annoushka Ducas:
So, charm seven. So your last charm is red lipstick.

Caroline Issa:
Yes.

Annoushka Ducas:
So, for me, it was like, "Okay, this is really... I'm really excited about this one," because I absolutely want to create this little miniature, but I want it to work and I don't think I've actually drawn it there, but I do want the lid to come off-

Caroline Issa:
To go off.

Annoushka Ducas:
... I want the lid to come off.

Caroline Issa:
Oh, my goodness.

Annoushka Ducas:
And then I want you to be able to turn the lipstick and... do the lid, the whole thing, because you did it with this particular collaboration, you did with Kirsten Weis, I think, and it's a white case. It's a kind of white metal case, so I see it in white gold and I want you literally to be able to twist it as you would a lipstick to reveal this beautiful red ruby pavé lipstick.

Caroline Issa:
I mean, that's so good.

Annoushka Ducas:
In the perfect new shape, because actually lipstick is so exciting when it's brand new.

Caroline Issa:
Brand new, in that perfect shape. So true.

Annoushka Ducas:
Yeah, in that perfect shape. So that's kind of how I see it.

Caroline Issa:
Oh. You know, one of the things why I love your collection so much is because the way that you think about movement, and I love the idea here of being able to twist that little miniature lipstick, and that popping up in a ruby pavé perfectly cut lipstick shape. That's why I love that. I think you've done a brilliant-

Annoushka Ducas:
And I think it's going to have to have the name. You're going to tell us-

Caroline Issa:
Oh, goodness.

Annoushka Ducas:
... what the name is on the bottom of the lipstick. Because lipsticks are with and where do the names come from?

Caroline Issa:
Where do the names come from? But, you know, the lipstick for me, not only was I lucky enough to collaborate. So Kirsten Kjaer Weis, her brand is called Kjaer Weis, and she's really a pioneer in luxury organic beauty, and she asked me to create two shades of red. And I got really excited by the project, and so excited that I thought, actually, I would like to donate 25... Well, my entire fee of which it was 25% of all proceeds, to a charity that I love called Women for Women International. And it was the first time she'd ever done a charity product, and we launched this, gosh, I want to say almost two years ago now, a year-and-a-half ago. And it has done so incredibly well. We've raised over £20,000 from lipstick.

Annoushka Ducas:
Wow. I mean that is-

Caroline Issa:
Amazing [crosstalk 00:41:21] that we're going to continue the collaboration so that the products can stay and it will still go to Women for Women. But for me, what was so exciting is that the power of lipstick, that idea of transformation, the idea that... I mean, I'm terrible with makeup, so I think the most I can do well is apply some red lip on. And so that's my go-to from when I go to the office to when I have to go to an event at night. I literally splash on some red lipstick, and I feel like I've made a really huge effort, and I feel fantastic.

Annoushka Ducas:
And you always look absolutely-

Caroline Issa:
You're very kind.

Annoushka Ducas:
... so, no, but also, I'm totally finished.

Caroline Issa:
And, finished.

Annoushka Ducas:
Yes.

Caroline Issa:
And for a woman who doesn't feel finished, necessarily, my hair is frizzy, and for me that lipstick in that shade of red is a wonderful way to transform. And that, for me, also symbolizes what fashion can do. So, the fact that I got to, again, create two of my perfect reds, one of them, coming back around, was actually inspired by the saga seed.

Annoushka Ducas:
Oh, of course. I love that.
Caroline Issa:
Yes. So the red of that became one of my lipstick colors.

Annoushka Ducas:
Does it have a name?

Caroline Issa:
One is called Amour Rouge, Red Love, which was actually the saga based one, because of the heart-shape of the seed.

Annoushka Ducas:
I love that.

Caroline Issa:
The other color was inspired by my Canadian maple leaf, of my falls.

Annoushka Ducas:
Of course, [crosstalk 00:42:51]

Caroline Issa:
So it was more like a burnt orangy red, and... Ah, Sucré.

Annoushka Ducas:
Oh, I love-

Caroline Issa:
Sucré because of all the sugaring off that we would do as kids with the maple syrup.

Annoushka Ducas:
The syrup. Of course. I love that.

Caroline Issa:
So, they were very personal, again. Again, I like creating things that are personal to me.

Annoushka Ducas:
But, I mean, lipstick represents, in my world, it absolutely all about femininity, isn't it? It's all about that. So I wanted to go back a little bit to talk about your days as a management consultant in what I imagine, what 17, more, 17 years ago, was that 20 years ago? Yeah. 20 years ago, was an... Well, still is, I think, a pretty male-dominated world.

Caroline Issa:
Yeah, absolutely.

Annoushka Ducas:
I don't want this to sound wrong, but how did you use your femininity in this very male-dominated world?

Caroline Issa:
Yeah.

Annoushka Ducas:
And my next part of that is, we know the world is changing, not changing fast enough, but it's changing.

Caroline Issa:
Yeah. I mean that's a great question, and I think it is really shocking to me when I think about it, how few women we saw as partners at the top. So there was really not a lot of representation around what the future would hold for you as a woman, as a top partner level. I was always lucky that I had wonderful experiences with my clients, with my partners, with my colleagues, but it definitely gave me a sense of having to make sure that I always had something to say, and that I was heard. And I think actually one of the best pieces of advice that one of my male partners gave me when I was a young analyst, was, "You have as much right to be in this room as anybody else, but make sure that you use your voice. Don't just sit there and..."

Annoushka Ducas:
Amen.

Caroline Issa:
Yeah. I guess, lean in-

Annoushka Ducas:
Yeah, lean in.

Caroline Issa:
... in that sense.

Annoushka Ducas:
Yeah.

Caroline Issa:
And that really helped me when I then joined the fashion industry, where... I mean, fashion, we're so lucky, is one of those industries where actually there's a lot of women and it's very open and it's got good-ish representation. Ha ha, ish. But again, I think from my management consulting experience where I was taught, you've got a voice, use it, I wasn't so afraid to use my voice. And so, thinking of being a woman entrepreneur, business owner, magazine person, I've always just made sure and I tell this with my staff, "If you have something to say, or have an opinion, say it, otherwise I'll never hear you. You have to make yourself heard."

Caroline Issa:
But I think management consulting and the world of gray where it was still considered okay to say that you have to wear a skirt suit, not a pant suit, or a trouser suit-

Annoushka Ducas:
Oh, my God, can you imagine saying that [crosstalk 00:45:55]

Caroline Issa:
... I mean, I can't even imagine that today. But I know that there are so few women banking and management consulting who might be able to wear like a McQueen suit. It's still considered risque to have a printed suit. You have to be in that world of navy, brown and black, and I just think that that has got to change. If only women ruled the world now, I mean, goodness, what a difference that could make at some point.

Annoushka Ducas:
They will. We will. We will. Okay, so that brings us to the end of your seven charms.

Caroline Issa:
How is that even possible?

Annoushka Ducas:
I've so enjoyed talking to you about it. It's been absolutely fascinating. So, Caroline, I'm going to ask everybody this question, but I'd really like to know, what, when we've made this bracelet and the seven charms, what do you want your legacy to be? What do you want people to remember you for, and, I guess, more importantly, what will this bracelet say about you?

Caroline Issa:
That's a great question, Annoushka, and I think legacy is something that I have been thinking about a lot, especially in the last year, because I've learned that we leave this earth with absolutely nothing. And so, the thing that we leave behind is soul, spirit and reputation. And I don't have a pithy answer for legacy right now.

Annoushka Ducas:
I think that's quite a good answer.

Caroline Issa:
[crosstalk 00:47:25] I don't know about that.

Annoushka Ducas:
That'd be a good answer.

Caroline Issa:
But I do know that I would love to leave this planet having been kind and generous and having impacted others and my planet in a kind way. But, other than that, I don't yet know, and that is something that I'm working on.

Annoushka Ducas:
I think we're all working on it. I think that's a pretty pithy answer, actually.

Caroline Issa:
Well, I don't know about that.

Annoushka Ducas:
But, as you know, I've always said I'd love to make you one of your charms, which I am going to do.

Caroline Issa:
Eek.

Annoushka Ducas:
So, of those seven, I would love to know which one of these you'd like me to make?

Caroline Issa:
I don't even know what to answer right now.

Annoushka Ducas:
You've got to answer something.

Caroline Issa:
I know. Choosing one out of these seven is literally like choosing a child. Gosh, but I feel like this is a once a lifetime opportunity to get like the Annoushka touch on something. So, yeah, I would do TANK, and I guess the question would just be, what would be on the cover? But it could be a motto of ours, or even just maybe even the year that I started.

Annoushka Ducas:
Absolutely.

Caroline Issa:
2002. Because I think everything you do is keepsake, and I love the idea-

Annoushka Ducas:
It could be on the inside like that.

Caroline Issa:
It could be on the inside of the box, or inside the cover of the box locket. Oh, okay, I think we're going to go with it.

Annoushka Ducas:
Well, well-

Caroline Issa:
We're going with the TANK Magazine locket, because I think it's such a special idea that you have around and inside. I love the idea of a locket and then to be able to enamel something on the front is quite special.

Annoushka Ducas:
Okay, we'll work on the idea.

Caroline Issa:
That's exciting. And it's so me.

Annoushka Ducas:
It's so you. I mean [crosstalk 00:49:14]

Caroline Issa:
And I think the point of your bespoke seven charms is that you create these incredible one-offs.

Annoushka Ducas:
And you, just in terms of what the story, what the legacy will be, publishes a magazine, she was into fashion, and she was interested in art, and-

Caroline Issa:
Those are good [crosstalk 00:49:30]

Annoushka Ducas:
... the magazine incorporates all of those things.

Caroline Issa:
Yeah. Absolutely. So, no.

Annoushka Ducas:
Maybe we could do some kind of... anyway. I'll work it out.

Caroline Issa:
Oh, see, that's the thing. We're going to work it out.


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