REAL WORK: THE SECRET OF MY SUCCESS: ELSPETH GIBSON

ELSPETH GIBSON is a fashion designer and winner of the New Generation Designer of the Year at the 1998 British fashion awards.

I've always loved fashion. My mum says that from the age of three or four I used to change outfits at least four times a day.

For my eighth birthday my grandmother gave me an old hand-powered sewing machine. I had hoped for a pony, but I think my granny knew me better than I did. At that stage I was already drawing silhouettes and designing dresses.

At 16 I did a foundation course in art and design, followed by two years of fashion design. My first placement was at Zandra Rhodes and then I designed for Monix. That was excellent experience as it taught me the commercial side to the business.

To be successful as a designer you have to keep your feet on the ground and ask yourself the right questions: whose going to wear it, is the fabric right? I like to design things that are innovative but wearable. I get my ideas from everyday living and I am passionate about designing. Even when I'm on holiday I can't switch off.

Designing is about having taste, but you have to balance that with the business side. Being creative is easy. It's harder to start up a business which doesn't fold. My own label started up in my home in north London. We were there for three years; looking back I could never do that again. It's great now that we have got our own premises - it feels like a proper company.

My husband runs the financial side of the business and loves it as much as I do. He's definitely one of the keys to my success. He gives me support and encouragement, but he's also quite tough on me - he always makes me go the extra mile.

INGRID KENNEDY

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