How Tank Magazine’s Caroline Issa is making her mark as one of Canada’s greatest exports.
Ask anyone to name our country’s most famous fashion look, and a certain double-denim ensemble is likely the tongue-in-cheek answer. But it’s one that fits our collective sartorial spirit: “We’re easy and practical, with a dash of attitude,” declares Caroline Issa, publisher and fashion director at Tank magazine, a quarterly indie glossy based in London, England. “I mean, who else could define a Canadian tuxedo and have icons swear by it?” Issa should know: she is a globe-hopping force of fashion (checkout Caroline Issa’s Instagram account for proof), but her roots were established growing up in Montreal.
If Issa looks familiar, you’ve no doubt spotted her gracing countless street-style blogs and magazine pages. (Picture the chicest boss in the boardroom, someone with the poise of a former model and the adventurousness of a fashion-week fixture.) Now, she’s striking a pose as one of the faces in the latest campaign from Birks, the iconic house of fine jewellery that also hails from her hometown.
“I grew up coveting those blue boxes,” says Issa of the beloved brand. “Birks always meant the best of the best: amazing craftsmanship, beautiful design, the definition of luxury. And it’s a brand that represents all that Canada is to the world—inclusive, innovative and empowering women.” As CEO of the creative content agency Tank Form, Tank magazine’s sister company, Issa also helped bring Birks’ latest campaign to life.
Despite her innate knack for the creative, Issa’s earliest career goals were all business. A Wharton grad and a self-described nerd, she spent years working as a management consultant for retailers such as Boots and Nordstrom. Even in that buttoned-up environment, she understood the power of an impeccable outfit. “When I started making my first salary, I saved up for a beautifully tailored brown Jil Sander suit—nothing too flashy but something I knew, with its incredible fit, fabric and colour, could last a lifetime,” recalls Issa.
Consulting didn’t turn out to be her dream gig, so when a mutual friend introduced her to Tank magazine’s founder, Masoud Golsorkhi, she was ready for a total career pivot. With no hesitation, Issa joined the fledgling magazine and eventually took her seat at the publisher’s desk. Here she shines as that extraordinarily rare mix of right brain meets left, a creative visionary with serious business chops.
Despite being a fashion believer, Issa knows real confidence is an inside job. “Clothes can make you feel powerful or change your mood, but they can’t give you long-lasting self-confidence as you take them off every night,” she says. “I think style develops as we age and grow more confident in what we love, what makes us feel great and what we know fits us well.”
As Issa’s Instagram followers can attest, her inspirations are wildly eclectic. She notes that they range from her dad who instilled in her an early love of classic suiting to couturier Christian Lacroix who became her “godfather in fashion” after they met in the industry. She also includes Amelia Earhart, Katharine Hepburn and Julie de Libran, the artistic director of Parisian-cool label Sonia Rykiel, on her list. Issa’s wardrobe philosophy: invest in the classics you’ll keep for life, but don’t be shy about experimenting with the extras, especially your accessories or beauty look (like a bold red lip for the day).
Of course, taking fashion risks means sometimes you’ll make a faux pas; no one’s perfect. “It’s human to make missteps,” says Issa sagely. “The point is to enjoy fashion and dressing up or down, and to feel confident in whatever you are wearing.”