exclusive

Lisa Aiken Dresses for Your Dream Job

Ask any fashion obsessive about their dream job, and it might sound like an exact description of Lisa Aiken’s role. “As retail fashion director at Net-a-Porter, I work to identify trends for the season, key pieces we will all want in our wardrobes, and the collections that we feel most excited about.” And if that doesn’t sound like enough, she adds, “I also scout new emerging brands, which is by far one of the most exciting parts of my job.”

With such an impressive list of responsibilities, it should also come as no surprise that Aiken has an equally inspiring wardrobe to match. In part because, yes, she has that It bag you’ve been eying, but also because even surrounded by a myriad of covetable designers, Aiken curates her own unique take on even the buzziest of pieces. “My personal style is pretty eclectic,” she says. “I really enjoy fashion and regularly embrace new ideas rather than sticking to a uniform.” This means that while one day she may be in head-to-toe Balenciaga, the next she’s dressed in the latest from an up-and-comer like Ganni instead.

Aiken is a woman whose career tiptoes the line between the creative and the corporate, and so she notes that in her career, there was no single trajectory to reach where she is now. “The role I had envisioned didn’t exist yet,” she explains. “I just focused on the immediate future, finding jobs that I truly enjoyed, and appreciating the ride.” And for many women similarly navigating a trajectory that may not have a single end goal, Aiken offers one of the best pieces of advice she’s received: “to not compare my chapter 2 with someone else’s chapter 10,” a dilemma that she notes “is an easy trap to fall into early in your career, and especially in the age of social media.”

Her other biggest career advice comes courtesy of her mother, who she credits with telling her, “Nothing that is worth doing is ever easy.” While there is often buzz around women in fashion like Aiken, who have emerged as a certain type of style-celebrity, it takes hard work and long hours to move up in such a notoriously competitive industry. Aiken’s job is undeniably glamorous, but it’s not easy.

Behind the scenes, there are long hours and lots of travel to take into account. Since it’s up to Aiken to have an eye on the latest trends and brands, she jumps from fashion week to fashion week around the globe, a recipe for a never-ending loop of jet lag. Yet Aiken’s passion is obvious from the moment she starts to list the trips on her calendar. It doesn’t matter that she’s just come off a red-eye from London—she’s excited. “My work travel isn’t limited to New York, London, Milan, and Paris,” she notes. “I attend the emerging fashion weeks such as Seoul, Copenhagen, Sydney, Stockholm, and Tbilisi.”

Living out of a suitcase isn’t an ideal for most women, but rather than succumb to exhaustion, Aiken has armed herself with tricks to take (at least some of) the stress out of travel. For the airport, Lisa sticks to a simple formula: “I will confess to be being a cashmere sweater, leggings, and sneaker girl.” As for making sure she has the clothing to survive a week running from showroom to showroom, with street style photographers close behind, “I pack in outfits,” she notes, a method which helps her avoid overpacking and the sudden panic of realizing that nothing in her suitcase goes together.

While checking a suitcase is inevitable with the number of outfit changes required of her, her last trick is to always have a strategic carry-on. “There is a very random selection of items that will never be checked, and not because they are expensive but because I love them so much.” The pieces range from a 10-year-old Topshop skirt to her favorite pair of Acne Studios jeans, but they’re the items she knows she can make work even if everything else gets lost in transit.

When Lisa’s back at home in Net-a-Porter’s London office, though, her schedule may look entirely different. “The focus is on setting the direction for the season ahead with the teams, shoot planning, and preparing various business presentations.” But, even in this more corporate setting, you can find her dressed in any number of cool designers featured on site. Read on to see a week in her wardrobe.