How a Fashion Director Survived Paris Fashion Week
Despite not taking a day off the past month, she wouldn't change a thing.
Lisa Aiken has one of those rare jobs in fashion that combines a business acumen with a creative inclination. As SVP, fashion and lifestyle director at Neiman Marcus, it's Aiken's responsibility to utilize her highly-trained eye to spot the key pieces each season—or in other words, the items that will produce the greatest sales. She attends all four international fashion weeks in a row—yikes—and somehow divides her time between market appointments, private dinners, Zoom meetings with her team, and, of course, the actual shows. (Somewhere in there, she may sleep, but we're not completely sure.) Regardless of this chaotic schedule, the fashion savant still regards this hectic time as a privilege and her favorite time of year.
What does your job title entail?
"Having recently joined Neiman Marcus as fashion and lifestyle director, I am responsible for the overarching fashion vision for the stores and website. I identify the trends, key pieces, and new brands for next season, work with an incredible buying team on the assortment for each brand, and collaborate with the creative teams on how to bring this all to life in six months time for our amazing customers. It is an amazing blend of business strategy, creative thinking, and, of course, fashion savvy."
How do you approach fashion week? What role does it play in your career?
"Fashion week is absolutely the highlight of my job. I love seeing designers' creativity and vision coming to life, discovering new brands in showrooms, and being surrounded by the most talented designers, stylists, editors, influencers, and buyers in the industry. I think of my role as putting together a very large jigsaw puzzle of what's coming next that will inspire the Neiman Marcus customer and fashion week plays a huge part in that process."
When do you start to prepare?
"In terms of preparing for fashion week itself, that really begins as soon as the schedules are released by each city, which is generally a few weeks before the week itself. This season was a little more last minute, as brands made decisions as late as possible regarding if, when, and how to present collections, which was absolutely the most responsible thing to do. I started fashion month in New York at the beginning of September and just wrapping up Paris now. In that time, I don't think I have taken a single day off, but I wouldn't change it for anything—it is so energizing and exciting. Being at the runway shows is only one small part of fashion week for myself and the Neiman Marcus team. In addition, we attend back-to-back showroom appointments to place buys for the stores and take business meetings to discuss everything from current sales to a new exclusive capsule collection."
Walk us through your thought process when attending a show. What is going through your head?
"When I attend a show, I am trying to take note of everything from identifying what I believe will be a key piece and therefore best-seller next season to the more creative elements, such as the styling, the set, the music, and the casting. The smallest element can spark an idea for a project or our next campaign. Post show, I do keep an eye on what gets talked about most in the press or social media because that is what the Neiman Marcus customer is looking at, too."
Is there anything like a typical day for you during fashion week? If so, what's it like?
"There is definitely not a typical day in fashion week! That is what makes it so incredible and inspiring. In a single day, I can watch a runway show on the banks of the River Seine, visit a new brand in the Marais, do a buying appointment of a show from two days ago, meet with my team on Zoom to discuss the next advertising campaign, and go to an evening dinner to celebrate a launch. My schedule has a mix of eight-to-ten appointments per day and they usually go from 9 A.M. to around 10 P.M. (sometimes a little later, if I have the energy)."
What are your essentials to get you through the chaotic period?
"It's so simple, but being surrounded by an amazing team. I don't think I could do this if I didn't enjoy sharing all of this with the people around me. You spend 12 or more hours per day with people, so your colleagues quickly become personal friends and confidants."
Photos: Courtesy of Lisa Aiken
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