Poppy Lissiman looks puzzled.
We’re only five minutes into our interview and I’ve already thrown the accessories designer a curveball. Can she describe her sense of style in three words, or less?
“Colours? Comfort?” she says, screwing up her delicate features in frustration. “I don’t know. Can I keep thinking about that?”
To be fair, her wardrobe is harder to categorise than most. For a start, it’s vast. Having outgrown her actual wardrobe, it has swallowed the entire spare room of her Sydney apartment, where racks of clothes line every wall and shoeboxes teeter in precarious piles. (Later, she admits to another container-full of clothing back in her native Western Australia.)
It’s also eclectic, although that description hardly does justice to the mix of vintage Etsy finds, Korean t-shirts, designer pieces – including archival Issey Miyake Pleats Please – and (of course) sunglasses and handbags that fill her wardrobe/room.
But there’s one thing that’s absolutely not in doubt: Poppy Lissiman is a woman who loves fashion. Adores it. Delights in it. And fashion loves her back.
Poppy wears her own Richard Quinn velvet top, similar here; wide-leg pants by Emilia Wickstead at The Outnet, $338; her own Gucci socks; her own Gucci Marmont heels (similar here).
Today, Poppy is best known for her eponymous global accessories label, which is beloved by influencers and celebrities, and became stratospherically famous in 2017 when her micro ‘Le Skinny’ sunglasses were worn by everyone from Bella Hadid to Rita Ora. The 32 year old now presides over a range of brightly coloured sunglasses and cruelty-free handbags that are stocked around the world. But Poppy’s love of fashion started decades before, back in Perth.
“I can’t remember ever not being into fashion,” she explains, recalling that at 10 years old she would pore over her mother’s imported Italian fashion magazines. At 12, she carefully saved up enough to buy the one thing she could afford at Louis Vuitton: a $120 hair-tie. “Everyone thought I was stupid, buying Louis Vuitton hair bobbles. But I just thought it was the coolest thing.”
At 21, her parents offered her the enviable choice of throwing a big party for her birthday or being given a Chanel handbag, and – you can see where this is going – she picked the Chanel. She opened her own retail store in 2011.
Poppy wears top by Bassike (coming soon, but similar here); pants by Mason Margiela, $436; sunglasses by Poppy Lissiman (black restocked soon); bag by Poppy Lissiman (available soon); her own Chanel sandals (some available here), socks by Vans, $20. Kartell Mademoiselle chair from Space Furniture.
Looking back, Poppy credits her mother, who was a buyer, for her creative approach to fashion, along with Perth’s isolation from the rest of the world.
“Growing up [in Perth] we never had all the stores, and there obviously wasn’t online shopping. So, I guess I grew up with what was available, which was vintage… You just had to create your own style,” adds Poppy, who spent much of Sydney’s lockdown doing just that – running up pieces on a second-hand sewing machine and teaching herself to tie-dye clothes.
On the day of our shoot, she comes laden with garment bags filled with brightly coloured clothing, and in front of the camera these crazily clashing pieces somehow make perfect sense.
In one photo, Poppy convincingly pulls off sparkly platforms, orange floral trousers and a velvet top; in another, she shape-shifts into something straight out of a noir spy film, thanks to a black trench-coat dress and dark glasses. “I just like a weird mishmash of prints that are just … loud,” she explains of her singular style. “Like plaid, and really gaudy animal prints and, you know, ugly fashion.”
These days, vintage makes up more than half her wardrobe, and the designer admits she regularly loses hours at a time searching for pieces on Etsy, The RealReal or eBay. “I gravitate towards unusual pieces, which are often vintage. I hate anything too trendy.”
Which is ironic because in 2017 the designer’s micro sunglasses, named the ‘Le Skinny”, were the very definition of trendy. Although, as Poppy points out, she mostly avoided that particular style herself.
“I wore them once to a party, but that was it. I think my features are too angular,” she says. It was only when a stylist friend spotted a prototype that she considered putting them into production. They sold out straightaway. “I was at Burning Man [festival] so my phone had been off for eight days and then I turned on my phone and Bella Hadid had worn them and sales had got absolutely gangbusters, which was awesome.”
My phone had been off for eight days and then I turned it on and Bella Hadid had worn them and sales had got absolutely gangbusters
But while celebrities love Poppy’s designs, she’s more excited by the aesthetics of influencers as opposed to A-listers. Street-style personalities like Spanish stylist Bianca Miro Scrimieri, Man Repeller’s Leandra Medine (who is a fan of her brand) and Norwegian social media sensation Marianne Theodorsen are among her style influences.
Her main criteria when choosing an outfit is comfort. “I hate anything being too tight or restrictive.” She’s drawn to “ugly fashion” like Crocs or (Prada) sandals with socks and loves dressing up outfits with chunky gold jewellery (“rarely silver” and “nothing delicate”.) It’s an indication of her borderline obsessive love of fashion that whenever she travelled (prior to Covid-19) she would plan all her outfits ahead of time and take selfies of them, so she’d know exactly what to wear every day when she reached her destination. “I’m an expert packer,” she says.
Poppy is the first to admit that her aesthetic isn’t for everyone.
“I like wearing eye-catching outfits… I would hate to wear something that makes me blend into the background. If someone thought that I looked normal I’d be quite devastated.
“If someone says to me, ‘Oh, that’s a crazy outfit’ and they don’t mean it as a compliment, I’ll still take it as a compliment. I don’t think you need to take yourself too seriously when it comes to clothes, because they’re just clothes.”
Photographer: Simon Upton
Stylist: Jana Pokorny
Hair and make-up: Sarah Tammer
Photographer’s assistant: Lewis Stevenson
Stylist’s assistant: Emily Gittany
Hair and make-up assistant: Tracie Lai
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