Interviews – Leslie Vik-Waddell

Leslie Vik Waddell is a 27-year-old entrepreneur who has been making the news. Vik Waddell set up her own jewellery business after gaining a first class degree from Middlesex University. She has worked alongside British designers such as Vivienne Westwood. Setting up alone has been far from easy, but well worth the effort as she told us. Vik Waddell’s work is on show at the Close exhibition at the Craft Council Gallery, in Angel, London, from 22 June to 3 September 2000

How did you get into the jewellery business?
I did jewellery design at college and at the same time was getting work experience with designer Vivienne Westwood. I worked alongside jewellery designer Lauren Rivaud as his first assistant. I was also doing work with international designer Erickson-Beamon. I worked with Donna Karan in New York as well, so by the end of my university course I had a pretty good resume. By the time I left college, I was being well paid.

How did you get to set up on your own?
Erickson-Beamon acts as agent to a number of people starting up. Vicki Sarge, the owner, suggested I make a collection and she would take a look at it. She liked my stuff and put it in the shop. Then Harrods bought the whole collection. Things took off from there. Now I work as a wholesaler and, through Erickson, have a stand at the trade fair in Paris twice a year.

How hard has it been to achieve success?
It’s been hard work and long hours. Financially, it has been horrific. While all my friends were going out, I had to plough anything I was earning straight back into the business. There were no new clothes and no going out for a long time.

It took a lot of self-belief and a lot of drive. Now I am finally starting to reap the rewards and it has definitely been worth it.

Did you make a definitive decision not to work for anyone else?
Yes. When I was doing work experience, I worked so hard for other people I thought if I was going to have to do that much work, I should be getting the rewards. I wanted to make the decisions and I wanted my work to build my own reputation – not someone else’s.

Did it take a lot of courage to go alone?
Not really. At the start, I had to do other jobs at the same time – cleaning jobs, whatever – to make some money and pay the bills. It just depends on what you are willing to sacrifice. Short-term pain, long-term gain.

How did you drum up publicity for your business?
Once I had Harrods behind me, it was easy. I phoned up a lot of magazines and told them what I had done. Vicki Sarge had told me to phone round the magazines and show them my collection, so effectively I did my own PR.

I have been in ID, Vogue, the Sunday Times and Time Out. From there, anything was possible.

What has been the high point of your career?
Being phoned by Christian Dior to do some work for them and meeting the company’s president, Sidney Toledano, in Paris.

Any low points?
Not really. Of course there have been disappointments, but they are far outweighed by the positives.

What is your ambition for the future?
Ideally I would like to be an art director. If I can do the jewellery designs every six months and let someone else start making them, it will allow me to focus on other things.

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