Caroline Issa was born in Montreal to a Chinese mother and a half-Lebanese, half-Iranian father. After a brief modelling career and armed with a business degree from Wharton, she took a job at a leading management consultancy firm in San Francisco. She has lived and worked everywhere, from Seattle to Texas to Singapore. In London she was introduced to the team at Tank, newly established boutique magazine, by a mutual friend. As the magazine's publisher and managing director, Issa developed a creative agency as part of the small publishing company long before this became the industry norm, spearheading the company's expansion into multi-format content production.
Issa has become a fixture on the fashion circuit and a street style favourite, often photographed by leading bloggers and photographers; she is often named on the international "best dressed" lists of publications like Vanity Fair & American Vogue. In 2015 she launched a line of a ready-to-wear essentials with the American retailer Nordstrom. Issa describes herself as "a businesswoman who loves fashion", and she is collaborating with and consulted for brands including J.Crew, LK Bennett, Monique Pean, Tod's, Jason Wu & Alice Temperley amongst many others.
Has art always been a part of your life?
I have been lucky that art has always been present in most of my life. My aunt Rose Issa was one of the first curators of contemporary Iranian & Middle Eastern art decades ago, and so I've always been surrounded by her impeccable taste, fascinating collection and collective of filmmakers, sculptors, painters, writers and photographers from that region. As I moved away from the finance industry into a role in fashion publishing in my twenties, the creative world my aunt opened up to me played into my decision to take a leap of faith and learn to manage a creative business, gaining a deep understanding of how the role of art and fashion can make us feel on top of the world.
How art inspired you?
I've been lucky enough to work with a platform like Tank Magazine that has had art as one of its key subjects consistently throughout its almost 20 year history. Art, just as much as fashion, often inspires an entire issue of the magazine, a photoshoot we conceive, and can be a springboard for a brand campaign or a look. It can also confuse, madden and induce euphoria. But most of all. it makes me think, question and reach further.
Tell us more about your interests; do you collect? Who are your favourite artists? How have your tastes changed over time?
I have to confess I mostly collect fashion but through my work in the magazine and with my aunt, I have been collecting paintings and photography on a modest scale. I really love supporting emerging artists and photographers whose work I find touches an emotional chord in me, or just beautiful, plain and simple.
What do you think drives a great art collector?
A genuine interest verging on passion. Speculative collecting is never so interesting. Connections, research, and affiliation to the artists are always key. Consistency and commitment to particular artists can really help build quality. Relationships made with curators , writers and gallerists as well as artists often inform really strong collections. Collections by great art thinkers, that aren't necessarily collections of art also fascinate me. Seth Siegelaub's textile collection is astonishing.
In what ways do you feel art and fashion are connected?
Fashion exist in art and art in fashion. They are both highly creative. However, there is a clear distinction between how the fashion industry and the art world exist and operate. Art is there to question everything, fashion does not really have a critical quality in its everyday in the same way. Both have commercial dimensions, but perhaps fashion is a business whereas art is many things and business is simply one necessary aspect of it.
What attracted you to the collaboration with Sotheby's and Contemporary Curated?
It's a pretty amazing exercise in fantasy collecting! It's nice to dream isn't it? It's been both a delight and an education.
How do you go about choosing works for a curated auction?
It's a mixture of education and rediscovery, finding things that catch one's eye, seeking out unusual or rare finds, and looking up the artists or historical pieces that were new to me. Some of the works spoke to me because they used materials - say textiles - very well (like Nina Beir), some because the artist themselves inspires me.
Thanks to Sotheby's for incredible breakfast and materials.