Pandora Sykes’ passion for clothes is infectious, and her styling prowess and witty fashion-related musings are the perfect antidote to the more predictable and clichéd approaches to dressing often encountered in the media today. The Londoner’s brilliant writing and impeccable style led to her securing the position of Fashion Features Editor at the ST Style Magazine, from where she keeps us informed weekly as their resident Wardrobe Mistress. Her natural flair for outfit assemblage recently landed her a self-styled story in the pages of Spanish Vogue, inspiring wardrobe envy amongst even the most closet-rich of us. As a self-confessed eclectic dresser she’s an icon for women who like to mix their wardrobes up and are uncompromising in their sense of style. She’s a strong believer in eschewing trends that don’t suit you and instead dressing for yourself, socks-with-stilettos, double-layered shirts and all. We talked to Pandora about holiday essentials, fashion industry challenges and the enduring workability of the humble belt.
On what her clothes say about her . . .
It is more than they are an extension of me. You are what you eat, they say. You are what you wear, too.
On getting dressed in the morning . . .
It depends how much time I have to get ready. Often I just whack on my favourite boots (currently, the Céline Rodeo boots) and trousers (again, currently, some high-waisted stretchy black trousers by Isabel Marant) and rotate in and out an endless stream of polonecks, frilly vintage blouses and Bella Freud knits.
On what she has to consider when styling somebody else . . .
What we are trying to achieve. Are they commercial, and need an editorial twist? Or are they obscure and very high fashion and need to be made more relatable? Plus, you have to make sure the model looks great in what they are wearing. Different things suit different people and that is particularly true on camera.
Pandora’s top styling tips . . .
A neck scarf instantly offers interest to a look. I love a slightly brash belt – Moschino, Gucci – which does the same thing and elevates simple Levi’s and shirts, instantly. I also love taking out the belts from my belted jackets and adding in my own belt. There’s a lot of belting involved. Other things I like doing are adding waistcoats over shirts, they make you look more nipped in, and adding polo necks under strapless dresses, or trousers under strapless dresses, so you feel less pasty and exposed. Also, skirts and dresses over trousers, and coats over jackets… Layer! Get inventive!
Pandora’s summer essentials . . .
A good office-appropriate sandal, the perfect white dress and anything backless.
Pandora’s favourite designers . . .
Hillier Bartley, Celine, Gucci, Valentino, Magda Butrym, Alessandra Rich, Vilshenko… I don’t necessarily buy them all though.
On packing for her summer holidays . . .
I always pack too much, because I get the fear of leaving something behind. Shoe-wise I always take lace-up espadrilles, lace-up tan leather sandals, black simple sandals and a pair of trainers. And essentials are definitely lots of books, a sturdy beach bag, a small cross-body bag for sight-seeing, to leave my hands free, and plenty of cotton dresses.
On following trends . . .
I think of trends in terms of whether they will suit me or not. For example, following: all things Gucci-inspired (frilly shirts, corsages, loafers) but ignoring sportswear as I do not suit a tracksuit.
On her journey to becoming Fashion Features Editor and Wardrobe Mistress for the ST Style magazine . . .
The planets aligned. I was working at The Debrief.co.uk and running my blog and I got a call asking me to come in. That was 18 months ago. Leading up to that phone call, I had just worked really hard and had very varied experience. I had been freelance, contributing for titles as diverse as Cosmo to The Spectator, I had run my blog, I had interned and done work experience since I was 16, I did as many features as I did fashion… I was trying to have a wide appeal. I also read a lot. Sometimes it felt like I was getting nowhere. During one slightly arduous internship which I ended up getting fired from (“always the making of you” I was told. And they were right.) I debated going into PR as I couldn’t find the job I dreamt of. I am now glad I stuck at it. It can be a long slog, but I was so sure of what I wanted to do and what I could offer.
On what she loves about her job . . .
That little buzz you get when someone tells you they love a piece of your work; when someone you admire says that they mutually dig what you are doing; when an intro to a particularly thorny interview falls into place; when I make my editor happy.
On her biggest work-related challenges . . .
Lack of time, definitely. It can also be quite a bitchy industry and at times I feel quite lost. You just have to press on and remember to trust the few, rather than the masses. Be cautious, be careful, and remember that time working at your desk is infinitely more valuable than quaffing champagne and gossiping at a store launch (though on occasions, those can be fun.) And support your colleagues. I am not tolerant of selfishness.
On lessons learned whilst working in the industry . . .
Edit yourself. I’m quite a waffly, verbose person. Learning the art of brevity has been a long process. I have also learned that you have to just sit down and write; you can’t wait for the perfect time. And, also, that things can be very last minute. You just have to roll with it.
On sources of inspiration . . .
I read a lot of magazines and look at a lot of sites. Everything from ManRepeller, Into The Gloss and C’est Clairette, to The Cut, Vogue Paris and Love magazine.
Pandora’s style icons . . .
Yasmin Sewell, Gilda Ambrosio, Giorgia Tordini, Leandra Medine, Pernille Teisbaek, Irina Lackevic, Taylor Tomasi-Hill, Alexa Chung.
On virtual runways and the digitization of fashion . . .
I think they have merit. I’ve actually written about this before, for CNN, when Misha Nonoo did it. I think it works for some smaller brands, although I think the mega brands will still always do something performative and live.
Pandora’s rising stars on the London fashion circuit . . .
Shrimps, Isa Arfen, Charlotte Simone, Alice Archer.
On memorable wardrobe malfunctions . . .
I wore a sequin mini dress to the British Fashion Awards last year. When I sat down, the hemline reached above my gusset.
Photography: Eva K. Salvi