Lisa tells us in-depth about her career and her once in a lifetime opportunity to work at Marie Claire UK.  She shares what her life is like, what her favorite designers and products are, and if having a degree gives you the upper hand in the fashion industry.  Lisa is well-rounded and has built a solid foundation. I  definitely would consider her a master of her trade.

Exclusively Fashion Magazine: Can you tell me a little about your background?

Lisa Oxenham: I grew up in a tiny town in  Gloucestershire and decided to do my A levels (Fashion Textiles, History of Arts and, bizarrely, Maths) in the bigger city of Cheltenham. I went on to study History of Art for my degree in Manchester, which is an amazing club and music scene. I worked in a gay and lesbian club called Paradise Factory and for clubbing fashion brand Haley Cato, all of which had a big influence on me and how my career developed.

EFM: When did you decide that you wanted to work in the fashion industry?

LO: I did fashion A level which included pattern cutting. This is when I started making my own clothes and outfits for friends to wear going out. I had creative energy at this age and also sold a lot of paintings. I also worked for a small but influential fashion brand at university - Haley Cato - modeling their clothes and working at trade events.  This is where I was exposed to the workings of the magazine world, attending lectures by inspirational editors. I decided then that I wanted to become a fashion and beauty journalist and stylist.

EFM: You are Marie Claire's UK beauty and style director; can you tell me how the opportunity came about?

LO: I've been a journalist for 10 years and worked my way up through different titles. I started at More magazine and the last title I worked on was InStyle. When the job at Marie Claire came up I jumped at the chance as it's where I've always aspired to be. We have the largest beauty section in the UK press, which means we can shoot a lot of stories. Shooting is a large part of my job and we are fortunate enough to have the space to showcase the gorgeous photographs that we put a lot of energy into creating.

EFM: What are your daily tasks as the beauty and style director?

LO: As well as overseeing the section, commissioning stories, managing a team of four and working with my editor and the art department to produce stand out features, I also interview celebrities, attend product launches, interview hair stylists and make-up artists backstage at all the shows in Milan, Paris, New York, and London. I also shoot glossy stories all over the world-recent trips being to Bora Bora, on Safari in South Africa and Thailand-with the best teams in the business. I always try to spot and nurture new talent whether they're writers, photographers, hairstylists or models.

EFM: In Marie Claire December 2010 issue, you styled Gossip Girl actress Leighton Meester (loved the shoot); what is she like?

LO: Leighton was a gorgeous girl - very pretty and petit. She was tired as she had just flown in from the states and my shoot was the start of a hectic schedule while she was in the UK.

EFM: What is it about your job that you love the most?

LO: I love the creative part - the shoots-whether that's with an A-list celebrity or an up and coming model or even a still life shoot with lipsticks and mascaras - love creating inspiring pictures. I also love interviewing designers and other creative people that inspire me. There's nothing like being at a catwalk show loving the music, the designs, the fabric, the hair and make-up and walking out of there with a firm idea of what angle my stories are going to go in for the season ahead. I also think the music industry is very connected to my world and love being inspired by rock and dance music artist or clubs. The energy inspires me to keep on top of the hottest trends.

EFM: Do you think that having a degree in fashion will get you further in the industry?

LO: I definitely think it's useful but by no means essential-as long as you can demonstrate passion and a firm understanding of fashion and beauty. Also some can argue that having a different type of a degree gives you a different perspective on things. My History of Art degree and seeing artists compositions has definitely helped me when art directing a shoot and the writing and investigating into artists lives, etc. have helped me become a through journalist. Also, sometimes it's best to get stuck in there and not bother with a degree. Often experience is the most important thing.

EFM: How important do you think it is to be an assistant?

LO: I got lucky and jumped the assistant part of my job-I was a beauty PR for 2 years and then became a beauty writer. But I would say it's incredibly important to find a mentor and someone that inspires you-or you could end up going down the wrong path.

EFM: What is a style director?

LO:  I do a lot of shoots in the magazine and all of them have a strong fashion element. Beauty and fashion are so intimately linked at the magazine that I need to go to all of the show to stay on top of the latest trends in hair, make-up and clothes.

EFM: What are your favorite beauty products?

LO: As part of my job I have to try out a lot of beauty products. The products I can't live without are Carita Lagoon Cream, Cream De La Mer Radiance Serum, La Prarie Eye Cream, Aromatherapy Associates Bath and Body Oils help me to chill out. I have to use Crème De La Mer to protect my skin when I jog outside and I use Dermalogica Multi-Vitamin Mask when I get back. It's so nourishing. Terry Lip Balm is amazing nourishing and leaves a lovely pale sheen on my lips - I can't go anywhere without it. For my blonde hair the Kerastase Bain De Force treatments is my saviour. I also drink liters of green tea and swear by taking 4 fish oils a day!

EFM: Who are your favorite designers?

LO: Balenciaga, Garani Strok, Alexander Wang.

EFM: Where do you like to shop in London?

LO: I live on the Golborne Road W10 so I'm a regular at vintage shops Retro, Relik, and Portobello market.

EFM: How would you describe your personal style?

LO: My job demands that I dress a bit smarter than I would normally during the day, usually in quite a minimal style-black skinny jeans from Sass and Bide with a Balenciaga black top and a Vivienne Westwood jacket. I've recently started wearing more silver and gem rings and silver necklaces and bracelets for a 70s spin. I also wear basics from Cos and American Apparel and love Helmut Lang. Alexander Wang and Jil Sander for basics, too. My recent Elizabeth and James wedge boots are my winter staple - I wear then with everything, from maxi skirts to jeans and t-shirts. One the weekends and nights out my look is more 70s hippy chick or 90s grunge. I like to feel dressed and relaxed with holes in my jeans and jumpers.

EFM: What advice can you give to aspiring who would like to work in the fashion industry?

LO: Try to get as much experience as possible and live and breathe fashion. Make sure you can demonstrate that you have passion and intricate knowledge of how the fashion industry works. Try to get references and inspiration from everything around you - films, magazines, the web, music, art or dance.

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Interview by Rochell “E” James


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