My Woman of Substance for July is Lisa Lennkh, blogger (The Sequinist and BlogHer), writer, stylist, mother and lover of all things stylish - and sometimes sparkly. Lisa studied Philosophy at University, went straight to Wall Street, had a 20 year career in Finance, which financed her wanderlust, and ended up in London. She worked for a few fashion magazines and took a year off to travel around Europe and Asia solo. She married fashionably late at 40, had a baby boy at 43, and decided to trade the world of Finance for Fashion. We met in Notting Hill for a coffee at Goode & Wright on Portobello Road.
Kim Winser: Lisa, what an interesting life you have enjoyed so far! I love the combination of studying philosophy, going into finance, travelling and joining the world of fashion. Do tell me how all these experiences have inspired the work you now do.
The common thread is that I’ve always done what I’ve been advised NOT to do! What on earth would I do with a philosophy degree? Why go into risky Finance instead of sensible medicine or academia, like my family? Why travel all by myself?
When on Wall Street what did you feel about ‘dressing for success’ and how do you feel office style has changed since that time?
When I was on Wall Street, trouser suits and heels were what most women in the early 90s wore ‘for success’, partly because it was the style, and partly because appearing overly feminine in that environment was a liability. Trading floors were a place where you needed to be taken seriously, and dresses or skirts didn’t mean business. Two things changed that: Sex and the City and Michelle Obama. After Sex and the City, you started to see women wearing impractical statement shoes to the office, adding a touch of individuality to their tailored suits. After that, the immaculately dressed Michelle Obama, a Harvard educated lawyer and of course First Lady, frequently wore colourful J. Crew midi skirts and bright cardigans accessorised with skinny belts. All of a sudden, it was more acceptable to wear softer suiting, more colour, and more ladylike clothes to the office.
What do you love about London – and any secret haunts you can share with us?
I love the greenness of London; that’s what I missed most when I was in New York. The parks, squares, gardens and cheery window boxes are good for the soul. I also adore the architecture; every bus or taxi ride is a feast for my eyes. As for secret haunts, I enjoy the little secret garden at the very bottom end of Gordon Place in W8, just near High Street Kensington. It isn’t quite as secret as I’d like, but I love to watch the world go by and drink brilliant coffee at Kaffeine on Great Titchfield Street. Another favourite haunt is the little bookshop Lutyens & Rubenstein in Notting Hill; it is brilliantly curated. The gelato at Gelupo on Archer Street in Soho is a favourite treat; the ricotta with sour cherry gelato (made with cherries from the owner’s tree) is gorgeous.
How did you start your blog, The Sequinist, and what fuels the content of your blog articles?
I started the blog after ghost-blogging for a fashion retailer. Having to write what someone else wanted me to write rather than what I wanted to write was really frustrating. I started The Sequinist so I could write about whatever makes my heart race, be it a beauty product, a designer, a pair of shoes, or a fashion trend that I find particularly age-friendly.
Is blogging lonely work – is it competitive? - or is there camaraderie amongst fellow bloggers?
I have found blogging to be extremely friendly and supportive, and I’ve made many great friends online who I now see in ‘real life’. I got on so well with six other bloggers that we all set up a partnership together called The Over 40 Collective to promote the issues of 40+ women to brands. We’re on WhatsApp all day, every day, discussing blogging issues, football scores, camera equipment, clothes, hangover cures, legal contracts, men, bereavement… there’s nothing off limits. WhatsApp has become our water cooler! We’ve all got a different style and have done different things with our lives, and have matured out of being competitive. There is plenty of work to go around, and we enjoy rooting for each other.
Clothes give so much confidence to women – do tell us about your styling service and the type of styling work you love the most. Where do you draw inspiration from and how do you bring out the real personality of a client in the way you style her?
The right clothes really do infuse you with confidence; if you look great on the outside you feel great (or at least better!) on the inside. First, I get to know a client’s lifestyle and environment, her areas of concern, her areas of confidence, and then I need to know some of her interests outside of fashion… what things she loved as a child. Once I have a good idea of who she is and what makes her tick, I try to push her just a little outside of her comfort zone, style-wise. I want her to try things she’d never try on her own… otherwise, why hire a stylist? It is always helpful to have someone with a fresh pair of eyes look at you and see the beauty that you can sometimes miss. It is also helpful to have someone honestly and lovingly highlight things that may not be doing you any favours (a dated hairstyle or makeup trend, for example). I particularly enjoy styling women who go to an office every day, because they are the ones most likely to fall into the uniform trap, and there is no joy in that.
Joy is a necessary component of any outfit, and I like to add that back into their closet. Styling is like cooking; the basic ingredients have to be excellent quality, but the skill lies in the seasoning and the mix, which has to be done with joy.
I love to hear how other busy women juggle their lives - how do you manage the roles of wife, mother, blogger, stylist and writer? Do you have a hobby that helps you ‘escape’ and relax from the challenges of everyday life?
I’m always tired! I stay up late every night working and I get up when my son gets up, which is usually before 6:00. The only thing that saves me is going to the gym. I really enjoy a difficult weights or cardio class where, for one whole hour, I only focus on pushing myself and making myself stronger. This gives me the energy to do everything else. I’m training for a 10k obstacle course next month, and as ridiculous as it sounds, I’m so excited!
You know the Winser collection well and have long been a keen supporter of ours (thank you!). Which pieces are your favourites from our Summer 2016 collection and which iconic pieces that we always sell do you find have become your wardrobe favourites?
I love Winser London because the clothes are like a beautiful canvas, ready for you to put your own style onto them. For Summer, I’m a sucker for a stripe, so I like the cotton striped textured dress and jacket, the Parisian striped wrap skirt, and the flattering striped wrap dress. With elegant pearls or a jolt of colourful accessories, striped monochrome pieces always look chic. I’m also crazy about the cotton Milano dress in cool aqua or white, and I’ve lived in my cotton Milano hooded coat during our mild summer.
There are so many great iconic pieces in your more permanent collection that it is hard to choose, but my absolute favourites are your jeans and the woven leggings (both of which have to be worn to be believed), the versatile Lauren silk blouse and bow tie set, the timelessly elegant English tweed jacket and dress (so Jackie O!), and the comfortable crepe jersey shift dress which lends itself so well to accessories and can be styled so many ways.