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Shirley Leigh-Wood Oakes Inspires

Pictured at home in Notting Hill, Shirley wears Sophie Lis jewellery throughout the shoot. 

With over a decade of experience building the brands of today, Shirley Leigh-Wood Oakes is one of the brightest brand creators and strategists out there.

Her knowledge across the upper-end mass, prestige and luxury market is extensive and widespread, combining brand strategy, public relations, marketing, social media and influencer engagement. 

She has developed, positioned and launched some of today’s strongest brands in a variety of sectors.

Five years ago, she co-foundee WickerWood, the leading brand influence agency It is a full service strategic agency that creates, builds and repositions brands by executing 360 effective PR, marketing and digital strategies and campaigns for local and global audiences.

Shirley's talent is not limited to her clients. There is no greater cheerleader to have on your team. The kindest most generous soul, Shirley always thinks of her friends first, checking in on them, lifting them up and supporting them. A true ambassador of "girl power", she is an inspirational and aspirational woman.

We take huge pride introducing you to our latest Sophie Lis Girl and hope to give you a small window into her world.

CLIENTS: Casamigos Tequila, The Ivy Collection, W London Hotel, Johnnie Walker, JKS Restaurants, Seedlip, Six Senses Residences, Chotto Matte, Malone Souliers, Adam Grooming, Vol.1 Roast lab, De Beers, Dolce and Gabbana, Tallisker

Shirley wears Sophie Lis Fallen Moon necklace together with our Compass Pendant on a long chain, Fallen Star bracelet and Shooting Star gold hoops. Black top and trousers by J Crew.

 

1.) Tell us about your company WickerWood

WickerWood was started five years ago by myself and my business partner, Gabby Wickham. It has grown in a way that neither of us imagined, becoming the leading brand influence agency with an incredible core team, an international client list that continues to work with us locally and globally and a strong prominent presence in the industry.

We started the company initially as a consultancy, choosing work with a selection of clients focusing on a new area that we were interested in; brand influence. It was a term that we had started to hear, and we knew that this was where PR and marketing were going to be heading in due course.

We have been very lucky to have worked with some of today’s most influential brands either from creation and launch or further down the line with repositioning and development. Over the years, we have also been fortunate to have built a highly efficient team of talented individuals. Running a company is no easy task, and I often tell people when they ask me for advice on wanting to start their own thing; ‘Only do it if you understand that a majority of your focus will be on building and running a business.’ If you love what you do and are good at it, go and work for someone where your only focus will be your job. 

Shirley wears Sophie Lis Sirius Star diamond hoops with the Luna Necklace, Love Pendant with diamond surround on a short chain and Compass pendant on a long chain. Her bracelet and ring are Sophie Lis Fallen Star collection. Red trousers by Stella McCartney and shirt by Ralph Lauren

2.) Was there a defining moment where you knew luxury and lifestyle would be a big part of your life?

From an early age, I was always interested in the luxury and lifestyle sector, but my teenage years were spent pursuing a professional career as a classical and contemporary dancer. I trained extensively at Elmhurst, Birmingham Royal Ballet, with a strong focus towards the end of my training in choreography. Due to various reasons, I think I went on to advance my training in theatre and film at Lee Strasberg in New York, considering a career in film, potentially directing and producing, an extension, I assume, from my work as a choreographer.

It was on returning from New York that I started to experience more of the luxury and lifestyle industry and naturally, my path started to lead me to build a career in this sector. There was no monumental moment, just a seamless transition into this field with a built-in understanding and ability for positioning brands correctly for their target audience. I learned as I worked, discovering ways to build brands that would resonate, always remembering to think about the customer and what their desires and needs were from a brand. I would love to say I went to some impression school for marketing and learnt it all there, but I didn’t, I learnt as I went, probably one of the most important ways to learn in this ever-changing industry. 

3.) In the current climate, PR seems to be shifting away from print media towards celebs and influencers. How has your company evolved with these changes and what do you see in the future?

From concept, we always positioned WickerWood as a Brand Influence agency. It took some time for people to understand our terminology fully, but it was clear for Gabby and I  from the start that the PR landscape was drastically changing, and we want to help brands understand this and realise their goals through our new approach. Over time, through our hugely successful work with some of the most recognisable brands of today, our approach became more and more relevant for brands and they naturally started to take to our processes and seek our expertise and guidance further. Our philosophy is to have a 360 approach to our work, understanding the brand's target audience and how to engage for maximum brand influence through PR, marketing, social and digital, experiences, events and VIP, influencer and affluence engagement. The ethos of the agency is to identify, engage, immerse, and influence. Traditional PR is still an element of our campaigns, but it is one of the 7-8 points of engagement. Print and digital press is still significant for several reasons. The growth of social influencers has been dominating the industry for some time, growing at an alarming rate but consistently reaching new peaks, but that is changing. The power of influence is diversifying and shifting as the consumer evolves. Success is now found not in the reach of an influencer but in the creation of their content, their concentration of brand, and the focus of their audience. We foresee a more significant shift with brands into a focus on the power of their loyal consumer's influence and the strength of word of mouth and ‘raving fan’ endorsements.

In this series Shirley wears Sophie Lis Fallen Star hoop earrings, Luna necklace with Love Pendant on a short chain. Ring and bracelet are Sophie Lis Fallen Star collection. Dress by Temperly.

4.) Describe your personal work style. What are your absolute favourite, couldn't live without fashion staples?

Silk cigarette pants, structured high heels, and a silk blouse is my go-to look. It’s versatile, chic, elegant and can easily do from day to night, which is important as my day can start pretty early with a breakfast meeting and then go late into the evening. My key wardrobe brands include Malone Souliers, Diane von Furstenberg, Maje, Caroline Herrera, Amanda Wakeley, Alice and Olivia, Kalita, Temperley. Dream brands that I would die to have a wardrobe full of Emilia Wickstead and Oscar De Le Renta.

5.) Your business involves creating a lot of events for clients. What are your secrets  moving from a day to night look without spending too much time re-styling?

Lipstick and great blow dry. Of course, heels and statement jewellery can also transform an outfit and is my trick for day to night, and is the reason you will also find hidden in my work bag a pair of heels and a bag of jewellery.

Shirley wears Sophie Lis Fallen Star Necklace with Fallen Star ring, Lightning Bolt  hoop earrings and bracelet. Her trousers are Stella McCartney and shirt by Zara.

6.) Are accessories or jewellery important to you?

I have a vast range of different jewellery from fun statement pieces to sentimental pieces that I wear every day. Having jewellery that symbolises something for me is essential, especially the pieces I wear every day. I wear five pieces daily, that all have a story. My citrinin and diamond ring was a gift to myself when I completed my first big project by myself before starting the agency. It is a reminder to myself that I can achieve what I put my mind too. I also wear a 1940’s gold multi-strand bracelet that was my grandmothers,  a Tiffany Clasp bracelet given to me for my 21st, a star and moon necklace given from my business partner (apparently I am impossible to buy for so she wanted to give me the stars and the moon, so cute) and my Sophie Lis Fallen Moon necklace that never comes off. 

7.) What is your favourite piece of Sophie Lis jewellery and why?

My next purchase from Sophie Lis is the Compass Pendant; it symbolises so much to me. Finding one’s way in life, guiding one through the many twists and turns. A beautiful piece with so much meaning.  

8.) What is your favourite thing about being a Girl Boss and running WickerWood?

There are things I enjoy and things that I find tough in my job, but I am always trying to make sure that I am learning, evolving and processing, which is an important process. There is no manual on how to be 'your' Girl Boss (although there are so great books out there that can help guide you that I highly recommend), you need to discover your Girl Boss yourself and that comes from being open to learning as you go. You can not know everything. It is vital that you identify your strengths and weaknesses as well as your team’s strengths and weaknesses, so you can complement each other and grow. Growth is essential in being a Girl Boss.

There is so much to take from the work that I do from working with my clients to working with my team to working with my business partner. It is a real pleasure building incredible brands and working with amazing people, but it is not always easy. There are still those moments when you need to readdress things, review ways of working, understanding intentions or possible outcomes.

We are lucky that we have been fortunate with building some of the most influential brands of the future but it is the people we have the pleasure working with along the way that makes the journey unique and that is not only our clients but our team too.

But it is not always smooth sailing, there are always hard moments where things don’t work out as planned and the stress levels rise, crisis mode kicks in and you need to think fast and problem solve. But honestly, without these moments, the highs would never feel as good. You need the lows; they show you so much about yourself. 

Shirley wears Sophie Lis Gypsy Heart hoops with Fallen Moon necklace and Compass Pendant on a Long chain. Yellow dress by Beulah.

9.) With so much responsibility, do you find it hard to switch off? What do you do to disconnect?

Running any company comes with a tremendous amount of responsibility, however big or small the company. Switching off is never easy due to the environment, but it is essential to find ways to disconnect for periods and focus on yourself and mental wellbeing.

Shirley wears Sophie Lis diamond Spike Hoops with both gold and diamond surround Love pendants. Navy dress Diane Von Furstenberg

10.) When you're not in the office, where can we find you?

In Eleuthera, The Bahamas, my ‘happy’ place,  with my Italian.

In this final image, Shirley wears our Fallen Star necklace with Compass pendant on a long chain

 

To shop all Sophie Lis jewellery pictured click here