Design Director & Creative Visionary – Stephen Lisseman
Design Director, Creative visionary designing, building & directing luxury brands
Time with the company:
3 years,7 months
Please introduce yourself & your company
My name is Stephen Lisseman, an obsessive for pushing boundaries within luxury womenswear fashion. Now a creative problem solver, leader and mentor I influence and innovate brands for success within the luxury womenswear Fashion & Lifestyle market by pushing those design boundaries always with strategic focus on financial growth, and putting any success down to being a voice and not an echo.
What is your morning routine?
I start my morning in bed. For me, it is my calm space where I can run through in my head all that I have to achieve that day and where I can let my mind be creative without disruption. I am not a list maker, my mind works in images so it also allows me time to get any thoughts down on paper, albeit in rough sketches.
No breakfast for me, however coffee is a must! This is also an important time for reflection, that and catching-up on the world events of the day. Staying relevant and aware is a must and it ultimately does reflect in my work.
Also so important for me, if possible I avoid unnecessary meetings or calls before 11am, I will always be a firm believer in setting your own routine. No one else can say what best works when it comes to you producing brilliance. I have this quote by stoic philosopher Marcus Aurelius clearly in sight always so not to forget to focus on what is important – “Ask yourself at every moment, ‘Is this necessary?”
How did you become involved with the luxury fashion industry?
It was study. I have always had a need within myself to do better, and remain constantly being curious to gain more knowledge, this drive led me to Central Saint Martins knowing it to be the best school for fashion in the world, I of course had to go there. This is where I completed my Masters in Womenswear fashion design.
From there it became clear to me that luxury fashion is the top, and I wanted to understand everything about it. Intrigued by the way it incorporates the best of everything.. lifestyle, freedom, perfection, confidence, and mystery.
It was this mystery that led me to Tom Ford and Gucci’s door in Florence, and the start of my journey into luxury. After seeing an image in a newspaper of a sultry smoky eyed Kate Moss on the runway for Gucci, how could one not be intrigued.
I still have the passion for developing stories, and product that give a sense of wanting to be a part of something just out of reach, other worldly, and not just beautiful.
If the question was ‘Why’? and not how. I am still trying to work that out.
What was your journey that led to your current role?
In a word Paris. Throughout my journey to-date, I have over the years worked in Paris but never had my work shown on a runway in Paris at Paris Fashion Week. This opportunity, although based and funded in Dubai, was a part of the PFW calendar and I was going to ensure I had my shows!
What is your main responsibility?
I would say Leadership. The responsibilities I have or set for myself are the easier parts of what I do, delivering on brand product, pushing boundaries of what is luxury, ensuring you essentially please your client base and along the way make the brand profitably viable. The responsibility of your actions and direction with those around you, not only ensures the success of the brand but also their self-development and happiness.
What is your typical day/week like?
Despite maybe some pre-conceptions regarding the fashion industry, it is very much driven by meticulous planning and critical paths, being able to switch between your creative space and deadlines is vital.
Though no two days are the same, all my timing is tightly controlled and no day starts for me without reaching for a block of post-it notes and a black sharpie pen. I get through a lot! of both. I write (…and sketch) out all of my collections on post-it notes from which I then start to build ideas and a direction. This process is with me throughout the day as I spend time with my teams in the atelier or an afternoon collection fitting.
Heading towards evening is when I usually take time to review brand strategies, set new goals for myself and with my teams, taking meetings on merchandising and collection style orders.
Finally, evening finds me walking around the atelier and studio one last time when everyone has left. For me, it’s time to reflect on what has been achieved, I see it as important as the planning and it sets me up for tomorrows decisions.
What’s the best part of your role?
Seeing the passion of others for their craft, and having the privilege of working with them. I have been blessed in having worked with some of the best talents in the industry, from the closest of colleagues such as Christopher Bailey to expert fabric technicians and tailors. All inspiring in their own unique way.
On the other side of what I do, there is still the thrill of having your work worn on the cover of major editorials such as Harpers Bazaar, Vogue or worn at major global events. It’s good to get affirmation that you are facing the right direction every now and again.
Also, how could you be a fashion director and not love the whole process of conceiving, designing and eventually presenting collections to the world. In that moment, the moment, that a runway show starts and all of those questions you asked yourself everyday, those decisions all have to work together to tell your story for the next six months and beyond. It makes you want more, this is the best part!
What’s the worst part of your role?
Without a doubt, the lack of integrity that sometimes unfortunately the fashion industry has shown. Yes it’s a creative industry and by it’s nature should have freedom to explore ideas and push boundaries, however this should not be an excuse for not being accountable.
Also, I by no means see myself as a typical representative for being a designer, in an ideal world the portrayed image of a fashion designer would be less stereotyped, but in my own small way I’m happy to lead on that one!
What is / are your most memorable work moment?
To date… I can say with a smile on face there are many, but here are a few of my favourite highlights.
The times spend working alongside Christopher Bailey at Gucci. There is no doubt that these years were incredibly intense, as well as exciting for us all. We managed to achieve great things, that have left a mark in fashion history. How can that not be memorable.
Gucci Charity event in Santa Monica, Los Angeles. The event was huge! And I was lucky to be a part of this monumental occasion where by we worked from The Beverly Hills Hotel for ten days dressing the biggest stars from Hollywood. Having a burger and fries whilst chatting with Jack Nicholson, absolutely priceless.
Then of course I was fortunate to meet, and work under the same roof as the genius that was Karl Lagerfeld. I will always push a little further my obsession and drive because of this one of a kind talent.
What advice would you give to anyone interested in the same profession?
Do it, and be so good that you cannot be ignored. This life path is, and has to be about your journey and pushing your boundaries to constantly be better. But remember this… No matter how educated, talented, rich, or cool you believe you are, how you treat people ultimately tells all. Integrity is everything.