Carolyn Porretta

Carolyn wears our Finsbury jacket in Navy Jacquard, £225 (above) 

On growing up... 

I come from a small village in the suburbs of Lyon, France. The third of four siblings, I was the first of my family to go to university. I moved to the UK when I graduated as the job market was more fluid in London (more hiring.. and more firing!). I got my first job at Bank of America and my desk was sandwiched between a Scotsman and a Welshman… I didn’t understand a word of what they were telling me. I would smile, nod and then glare back at my screen. I think they noticed after a while because they would email me what they had just said afterwards.

On top of the language hurdles I had to overcome, I lacked confidence because I didn't come from an educated family and not having been surrounded with other business minded people before to grasp the most basic concepts.

I also lacked style when I started working as I couldn't afford sharp clothes and it showed... but slowly you cross these barriers one by one. I don’t believe in fate, one can be whoever one wants. The world is our oyster and it’s for us to make what we want of it.


Describe your job in a few lines? 

I arrange transactions and create company structures which aim to receive all sorts of hectic payments and distribute them in an orderly manner. This becomes appealing to long term investors such as pension funds, who can invest in them and get the extra interest income those carry and only have to face one entity. Their investment money can then be lent to the people in the form of mortgages, for instance.


What are your career highs and lows so far?

My career high is being listed at 9th place on the Financial Times Top 50 Female Future Leaders 2018. My career low was when I was made redundant during the financial crisis - although it did teach me lots of valuable lessons early on!  


If you had to choose working with all women or all men, which would it be? 

Ideally that will never happen! Although I’d say men as I’ve always been closer to my older brother than my older sister.  In the City I work mostly with men, but it is getting much better now with more minorities being represented. I love seeing this change happen and teams embracing everyone’s culture.


What’s been your greatest achievement to date? 

My daughter. There is nothing I can do that will equal giving birth to the most amazing little lady.


What would you like to achieve next? 

During a coaching session I was once told to dream big and set an ambitious goal for myself. I said I wanted to be the chair of the board of Barclays Bank, so I guess that is what I would like to achieve next. 

What do you think your own weaknesses are?

I feel guilty if I don’t say things as they are but I am slowly learning the art of understatements!


What piece of career advice would you give your 20 year old self?

Nurture each and every relationship, trust that you are worth as much as anybody else and you can be anyone you want to be.


Describe your usual work style? 

Timeless and conservative yet feminine. I think I have a Jackie Kennedy flair, or maybe what some would describe as ‘French’ style. I usually wear a pair of black or nude designer pumps, a two piece navy skirt suit and a blouse. I also love to accessorise my outfits. 

I am not a dress person, probably because of my curves I struggle to find dresses that I feel flatter my body shape but are still conservative. Libby’s separates collection is perfect for my style and body shape.


Who is your style icon? 

In terms of modern City women, I like Helena Morrissey’s choices.


Carolyn wears our Finsbury jacket in Navy Jacquard, £225, and our Suzy skirt in Navy, £130 (right) 

What’s been your worst office fashion faux pas?

Some old shoes which I should have thrown away long before I did.


What’s your fantasy alternative job?

Surgeon or garden designer. 


How do you keep a good work-life balance?

I have people who remind me to slow down, plus when I don't keep a good work-life balance my weight tends to creep up and my clothes get too tight, so I can’t turn a blind eye. When this happens, I try to re-introduce more brain resting activities into my schedule, such as baking cakes, running, picking weeds in my garden after it’s rained (that’s really therapeutic!), and I buy an interior design magazine and force myself to sit down and read it with a cup of tea.


What keeps you busy when you’re not in the office? 

I sit on charity boards and committees. I enjoy giving back and spending time with others. I also want to constantly renovate my home so I do a lot of architectural and interior design work myself.


What is your favourite Libby outfit at the moment?

I love the pleated Kirby skirt in Dark Rose, the movement is great and it is smart and feminine... plus easy to style for a day to night outfit. I also got charmed by the Cadogan blouse, it is fun and light yet tailored to the extent it feels like a jacket.


Interview: Lilli Brant

Photographer: Mafalda Silva

Accessories: Carolyn’s own

Location: Cheslea, London, near Libby's pop-up shop at 53 Sloane Square 



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