Former fashion publicist Rebecca Vallance launched her eponymous label in 2011 and quickly received global attention for her smart, structured tailoring and sleek evening dresses. She has since shown her collections at fashion weeks in New York, Paris and Sydney and has legions of celebrity fans including Rachel McAdams, Chrissy Teigen and Kate Beckinsale. While building a global fashion brand ( including a flagship store) the Australian designer has also grown her own brood. With Maltese entrepreneur husband, David Gasan, the couple have two young sons, Matthias and Rafael.
In this deeply honest interview, Rebecca shares the secrets to building a successful fashion label as well as the personal struggles behind the glossy exterior.
Rebecca, one thing that’s always impressed me about you is your work ethic…Work Ethic is so important to me. It’s all about rolling your sleeves up and getting the job done whatever it is. Also I never ask my team to do anything I’m not willing to do or haven’t done myself previously. I like to surround myself with people that have the same work ethic as me, it’s so much more inspiring and enjoyable that way.
You had to return to work just a few weeks after having your second child. From the outside you look like super woman- was it as easy as you make it look? This was a difficult time. I am a very hands-on mother so it was really important to be with my newborn baby, however my business was at a peak in terms of growth so needed to be there also. I compromised by taking my little man to work with me. I am surrounded by kind people that didn’t mind me breast-feeding during design meetings, or board meetings etc. It always surprises me what positive energy a baby brings in the office. Everyone wanted a little cuddle with Rafael, which was great. We created a quiet little environment for Rafael so he could sleep and stick to his routine but also so I could be with him 24 – 7.
Mother’s often feel “shamed” if they admit to receiving help during those exhausting first few months which is so absurd since it’s not natural to do it alone. What help did you have? I employed a wonderful night nurse that would take care of Rafael during the night. I would get up to feed him however the night nurse would settle him so that I could get some sleep before having to be up and back at work again. At the four-month mark I hired a sleep specialist to get Rafael to sleep through the night. This was a game changer. When a baby sleeps through the night, life is so much more manageable. I could feel the sun shining down on me again. Laughs.
How did you get through that difficult time? I think one of my best friends had a quiet chat to me and that was definitely the break through moment. It took someone else to point out that I wasn’t coping with it all as well as I thought I was. Since then I have made some important changes to my life. I schedule exercise 3 times a week as if its a meeting in my diary. Exercise is so important for a positive state of mind. Also working so hard on the business and as a Mumma I had lost my sense of self. I was existing, not living as such.
What have you learnt from this experience? There is so much more to life. Life is there to be truly enjoyed, rather than ‘processed’. I put every aspect of my life under the microscope and looked at what really needed me and the other things that didn’t need me as much. It’s really important that I am 100% present on what I’m doing and the people I am with, so it was about cutting out the noise. Being strategic, working smarter, not harder and in general doing things that made both myself and my family as happy as possible.I am fortunate that I truly love being a mother and at the same time love what I do, so for me it’s all about navigating through it all in the most positive way I can.
Rebecca Vallance has grown so much in such a short time, what steps have been the most important in taking it to the next level? I think really refining the product offering. If you have a great, unique, quality product offering the rest will take care of itself, to some extent. But it all starts and finishes with product.
You started as a fashion publicist, was that great preparation for the competitive world as a fashion designer? Yes, definitely it allowed me to understand how important the ‘business’ part of the brand is. From the very first day it has allowed me to look at things from different perspectives.
Have you always wanted to be a fashion designer? Yes always, there wasn’t anything else I ever truly wanted to do.
How would you describe the Rebecca Vallance woman? She has a polished aesthetic but in an undone way. Always looks elegant but not too considered. A fashion girl.
You’ve had some huge celebrities wear your pieces. What has been some of the highlights? I loved working with Karlie Kloss, she was such a beautiful girl inside and out. Dressing Rachel McAdams the night before she won an Oscar was pretty fabulous too.
Any “pinch me” moments? We have dressed some amazing celebrities, but what resonates with me more is when I see a customer carrying one of our shopping bags down the street. Celebrities mostly loan pieces, so when someone has taken their hard earned money and spent them at Rebecca Vallance, I always feel very honored.
You’ve had a huge focus on international market showing at NY Fashion week and now in Australia- how would you describe the difference between the US and Australian markets? I think being in both markets have their advantages. My experience in the international market is that it can open up so many opportunities; however you are also against a lot more competition, which is exciting. On the other hand, Australia has such a unique fashion identity, it’s great to be considered one of the names doing well in our industry.
If you could dress anyone, who would it be? Cate Blanchett and Nicole Kidman. Both incredible and iconic leading ladies. True RV women.
What is the most challenging part of running a successful fashion label that people might not think about? Transitioning from a small business to a much larger business was probably the most challenging thing for me. When you have a larger business everything has to be a very well-oiled machine, you have to work from a much more strategic view point.
You’re a Mom to two adorable boys-I know that for me motherhood was a huge source of inspiration- but the struggle to juggle it all is very real- what has helped you find as much of balance as possible? What’s important to me is that my two children grow up feeling loved and adored and that they are always the first priority to both my husband and I. Everything else comes second. I’ve taken both babies to work from day one. This was my way of ‘balancing’ being a working mamma and having a new born all at the same time.
What about falling pregnant? I struggled to have my two sons so I am so extremely appreciative of having them. I very much look forward to getting home each day, whether its to pick Matthias up from daycare or to feed them dinner, bath them and tuck them into bed each night. Having a successful business is great, but having a happy home is even better J Waking up to those 2 happy faces each morning is the absolute highlight of my day.
You grew up in the country Australia- do you think that impacted you? Being from the country is very present in the way I think about things. I treat people the way I like to be treated, I’m a warm person, I’m not really into ‘hot air’ and I think this is all representative of being a country girl. I also say things as they are, which sometimes probably works against me a little. Hahah. J
IN A WINK:
Time you wake up? 5.30am.
Typical breakfast? 2 boiled eggs and avocado.
Quality you most admire in a person? Generosity of spirit and kindness are such important traits in a person.
Where do you hope the business will be in 5 years time? I hope we will continue to grow our international presence, to have opened successful international retail stores, and to be a favorite designer for women of the world!