Enjoying Wedgwood tea and sweets with Rebecca Vallance in her Mosman store.
Rebecca Vallance began her career as a model, turned top fashion publicist and is now the designer behind her own label, Rebecca Vallance. She has shown her collections at fashion weeks in New York and Paris and this week joins the line-up at Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Australia for the first time. Her brand has been worn by celebrities including Halle Berry, Rachel McAdams and Chrissy Teigen. Vallance, 36, tells Kate Waterhouse about her first show at fashion week in Sydney, the opening of her first Sydney store and the secrets to growing a successful designer brand.
Why did you choose to show internationally over MBFWA in previous years?
I started the brand five years ago in London. The brand has got a really strong international DNA to it. By showing at New York Fashion Week, we could keep that DNA. I felt that the business had grown to a point in Australia where we needed to join the schedule here. It was the right time.
What does it mean to you to show at MBFWA?
Everything. The business has grown 300 per cent in the last financial year in Australia. I wanted to showcase our collections here to a broader audience than we usually do.
What’s the biggest difference between showing in New York and Australia?
It is so different. In New York, it’s quite intense; I find it much easier in Australia. In New York, you are competing against the likes of, let’s say, Michael Kors, who have budgets of like $US60,000 ($44,200) for people to sit in the front row. They pay people to sit there. But the main difference for me is that I enjoy it much more here. I’m a local girl. I’ve lived in Sydney for a very long time. It’s hard work – we’re all working 16-hour days at the moment – but it’s fun here. New York is different – you’re an Aussie in a huge international market and you’ve got to have everything on the point to be noticed. The other thing with international market is you’ve got to be there all the time. You can’t just show once at New York Fashion Week and then hope for the best.
What did showing at New York Fashion Week teach you?
It has taught me to be strong, to believe in what you’re doing. You’ve got to be super-organised. American culture is very different to ours. I’ve learnt it takes time to find the right people there. I find in Australia, everyone is good at doing lots of things; we’re not afraid to get our hands dirty.
Who will be front row at tomorrow’s show?
Sylvia Jeffreys, Emma Freedman, Pia Miller.
Did you always know you wanted to be a fashion designer?
I did. The only thing I was good at school at was maths and fashion design. I didn’t have the opportunity until I moved to Europe to be a fashion designer.
How did you first get into fashion?
I started modelling when I was 13 years old. I was living in the country and modelling in Melbourne. And then, when I was 21, I started working at fashion PR. Then I moved to Europe when I was 28 and decided to start my own label. In the first season we picked up two Harvey Nichols stores and Paris Fashion Week. It has just grown from there. We’ve launched our first store in Mosman [this month]. We thought Mosman was perfect for us. We wanted a store that represented the brand in a fabulous and authentic way.
How would you describe your style aesthetic and the Rebecca Vallance woman?
A Rebecca Vallance woman is confident and interested in fashion, but she doesn’t get too hung up on the latest flash trends. She likes to be directional in her fashion choices. But at the same time, she likes to be quite classic.
Your business has grown rapidly. What’s the secret to your success?
I don’t follow other people’s trends. I think we know our customer well. I think the celebrity support as well has really helped. But I think too, we work really closely with our retailers as well. So listen to the feedback that they’ve got.
Who are some of your celebrity clientele?
Rachel McAdams, Chanel Iman, Chrissy Teigen, Halle Berry, Joan Smalls … It was such a surprise, I had no idea [Rachel McAdams was wearing my design] until the Google alert popped up and I was like, “Oh my God, I just dressed Rachel McAdams, the night before the Oscars for a huge award”. And Halle Berry was a huge one too.
How does dressing a celebrity come about?
Their stylist comes into the showroom and picks a whole lot of pieces but you never know. It depends on the celebrity’s mood, just like you or I, what they’re going to pick that day to wear. So until the photograph comes out, you never know.
Who is someone you would love to dress?
Kate Hudson. I just think she embodies who the Rebecca Vallance girl is. She is a fun spirit. She is a gorgeous girl. She is confident and I think she is very on-brand for us.
You’re a mother to 18-month-old Matthias. How do you juggle work and family life?
I think it’s all about being really present in the moment. When I’m at work, I’m 110 per cent at work, but when I’m at home, I’m 110 per cent at home … [My son] grew up in the office. The first four months of his life, he was brought up in his little bassinet next to my desk… The bassinet [was] on top of the cutting table and all of us cutting around him and he was fast asleep. And the next one, one day when it comes, will be just the same.
What’s next in the pipeline?
I would love for another couple of stores in Australia … and we’re very focused as well on overseas retail. The business has grown a lot overseas – the US, Middle East, Europe.
WE WENT TO Rebecca Vallance store, Mosman.
WE ATE: a selection of cakes and sweets.
WE DRANK: Wedgwood tea.
REBECCA WORE Rebecca Vallance dress
KATE WORE: Bec & Bridge jacket and Camilla and Marc top.
SHOP THE POST: My Favourite Rebecca Vallance pieces this season