Fashionable self-expressionPublished on April 27, 2014

  • Marc by Marc Jacobs pastel tote

  • Blazer, Helmut Lang, cashmere/silk top, Holt Renfrew, private label, jeans J Brand, shoes, Jimmy Choo, bag, Kate Spade, sunglasses, Ray Ban. Available at Holt Renfrew, Ottawa. 

  • Lisa Tant in her signature Etro jacket

Changing schools in Vancouver halfway through the eighth grade was fairly traumatic for Lisa Tant, who is Holt Renfrew's Vice President, Fashion Editor. But it was the spark of self-discovery that likely dictated her career path!

As a newcomer, Lisa had few friends and threw herself into school where she was surprised to discover a passion for sewing and the beauty of creating. As the youngest of three girls, life was all about hand-me-downs, so making her own clothes gave her the chance to have something her sisters didn't. And it became a platform for creative expression. 

Lisa's conservative British parents taught her the values of working hard, being true to yourself and following your dreams. By the age of 14, being both artistic and entrepreneurial, she started sewing baby clothes and gift items for a local fabric boutique. Later, as a young freelancer with a penchant for writing and an eye for fashion, she became a fashion writer at the Vancouver Sun. This launched her career in the beauty and fashion industry with highlights that include being the Vancouver correspondent for STYLE magazine, contributing fashion editor and then editor-in-chief Flare magazine and, most recently publisher of Hello! Canada.

Now, as the VP fashion editor for Holt Renfrew, Lisa supervises online content for the website, the Holts Muse blog and the editorial direction of the company's printed material. Fascinated with the digital world and e-commerce, her next role at Holts will be to create an online magazine that people can shop from. As a recognized style icon, she has also appeared as a guest on eTalk, E! News, Global TV's morning show and City TV Breakfast Television.

Never a girly girl, misunderstood by her stiff, upper-lip parents and believing she was the black sheep of the family, Lisa is proud of her achievements and the life that she could only have imagined in her sewing class as a teen. Ottawa At Home caught up with the dynamo during a recent visit to Holt Renfrew Ottawa for a fundraiser benefiting the Ottawa Regional Cancer Foundation to find out what's in Lisa's closet and what should be in yours this spring.

What is your fashion style? Classic with a twist. I'm not an outlandish dresser. I don't dress for other people's attention. Everything I wear has to have a little bit of a surprise element to it.

What staples should be in every woman's closet? I plan everything from the feet up. You need a foundation of great basics. Mine are black and they are really expertly cut essential pieces - a shift dress, a pencil skirt, a tailored suit. And then I build out from there with pattern and accessories. 

What are your own "must- haves" for spring? This spring is all about bold patterns, but also pastels. My whole wardrobe revolves around dresses, so for me it will be a boldly patterned shift dress. Also, a heavily embellished or patterned pencil skirt. Look for big brush strokes and florals. Pair and mix and clash them together. As well, I want a fingertip-length man's blazer in pale pink and a pastel tote. 

How important are the right accessories to make a look pop? They are the most important thing. If you have the right accessories and you buy them carefully, they can update what you have and change your mood and your expression. I have a foundation of great basics and accessories are what express my personality.

Is there a new hot colour? A really true sea blue and pink in all shades from blush to fuchsia.

Can a woman look fabulous on a budget? Absolutely. I believe in creatively mixing high and low and am not a label snob. You need it to make everything just click. I have no problem in mixing in pieces from Club Monaco or the Gap with my Holt Renfrew wardrobe. I used to say before I came to Holts that my style was Gap to Gucci. 

How stylish are Ottawa women? There are very little regional differences now. Ottawa is a political town and tends to be more conservative, but there are women here who just crash through that stereotype. Fashion is global because of social media. Your phone shows you what people are wearing in London, Paris and New York and it's not all that different from what you see here.

Why is fashion so important? It is a means of self-expression. And if it didn't matter, we would all wear exactly the same thing and would all be the same person and that could not be further from the truth. Whether you do it as a career like I do, or you just grab the first thing you wear in the morning, you are expressing yourself. 

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