We caught up with creative director, producer, writer and entrepreneur and IT-girl Kinvara Balfour at her favourite spot in London - Portobello Road. With the style worthy of a serious girl-crush and an ultimate girl-next door charm, she shared her fashion, inspiration and grand plans for the future with us over a cup of artisan West London coffee.
Kinvara has held editor positions at Condé Nast, Telegraph Magazine, DailyCandy.com, Keynoir.com and Time Out. She is Founding Partner of new tech start-up, Style-Card.co.uk. Kinvara acts as a public speaker, advisor and director for brands all over the world. She presents ‘Fashion In Conversation’, a series of live interviews at Apple in UK/USA with global fashion superstars (Anna Wintour, Tom Ford, Philip Treacy, Manolo Blahnik, Natalie Massenet, Marchesa, Proenza Schouler, Zac Posen, Anya Hindmarch, to name a few) which air globally to over 500million on iTunes.
DONNA IDA: How did you get started in the fashion world? Tell us how you came to work for Vivienne Westwood?
I have always loved fashion. My mother, Tessa, was always into it and has impeccable style; her sister/my aunt Carina (Frost, wife of the late Sir David Frost) modelled for the likes of Ossie Clarke and Biba; my other aunt, Marsha Fitzalan, was an actress and I spent much of my childhood watching her in period dramas on TV and on the stage. Between these three, I grew up observing fashion in a big way. I also have three sisters all of whom are total style icons to me. That love of fashion was exercised at the age of 16 when I entered the Lloyd’s Fashion Challenge, a national competition in fashion design. After several heats, there was a catwalk show in an old bank on St. James in Piccadilly in which our designs were professionally made up and worn by models (I was so excited!). At the end of the show, I was announced as the overall national winner of the competition, as selected by the judge, Vivienne Westwood. I went on to work for her for some time after that. I assisted in the design studio and learnt so much from Vivienne and everyone around her; she is a true visionary and seeing her at work was one of life’s true privileges.
DONNA IDA: What inspired your move into journalism?
I admired the designers I had met and observed so much, that I really wanted to write about them and share their stories and achievements, which I did and am forever grateful hat I had the chance to do so.
DONNA IDA: Your Fashion in Conversation series with Apple has been an incredible success. What were your favourite moments when interviewing the likes of Anna Wintour, Tom Ford and Natalie Massenet?
Each and every interviewee has been so special it is hard to pick any one particular highlight. Each have had incredible stories to tell. All were trusting of me and game to be a part of something that is quite radical, in that it goes out to over 500 million people globally via iTunes, so it’s different (and much scarier!) from a regular press interview or a TV show. So I will always be thankful for that trust and faith in their agreeing to be interviewed by me in the first place; that’s the biggest highlight for me.
DONNA IDA: Tell us about Fashion Week; what are your show highlights, what are you looking forward to and what are your survival tips?
I always look forward to Fashion Week, not only to see beautiful clothes but also to see all the beautiful venues in which the shows take place; locations one wouldn’t necessarily normally see, often in corners of London I never knew existed. My survival aids include protein bars, multiple iPhone chargers, Uber, facials at Kamini Vaghela Beauty and regular trips to Josh Wood Atelier.
DONNA IDA: What are your wardrobe essentials and how do you wear your jeans?
I am a big jeans wearer and team mine with everything from Vivienne Westwood pirate boots or Jimmy Choo Tokyo sneakers to Isabel Marant ankle boots and heels. With that goes a leather jacket, usually by Burberry, Balenciaga or IRO. In addition, I love to wear beautifully cut dresses by the likes of Mary Katrantzou, Burberry, Vivienne Westwood and Peter Pilotto.
DONNA IDA: Who is your fashion icon?
I have so many. From icons of the past, like Diana Vreeland and Jackie Onassis to those of today, like the late Isabella Blow or my friend Lena Perminova whose style is just plain awesome. Someone else who really inspires me is Tom Ford, fashion designer and film director, whom I recently interviewed at Apple in London. He is a true visionary, utterly professional, an unapologetic perfectionist and a true brand builder. He also directed ‘A Single Man’, one of the best and most visually beautiful films ever made, in my opinion. And he’s also incredibly nice, which is the most stylish thing of all.
DONNA IDA: Where in the world are girls best dressed? What kind of style do you admire?
I always love travelling and seeing the different ‘tribes’ in each city. Whether it’s on Portobello Road in London, in cities like LA, New York or Paris, or in countries like India or Kenya, once sees men and women, all with their own unique kind of style, hanging out in packs. I am not into one specific style, per se - I can fall in love with any kind of look, whether it’s a vintage thrift kind of vibe or a full catwalk look; but the kind of style I like most is about confidence and a carefree attitude. It’s not what you wear, but how you wear it. And that applies to the Samburu community in Africa as much as it does the Russian street style icons who parade their couture outside the shows.
DONNA IDA: As a producer and creative director, which brand would you most like to work with?
There are many on the list, from fashion brands to tech brands and everything in between!
DONNA IDA: Describe your style highs and lows?
Lows: stonewashed jeans in my teens, clogs and oversized bomber jackets (not together, I might add!) Highs: my Burberry biker jacket - so beautifully constructed and a firm friend for life.
DONNA IDA: What’s your favourite restaurant?
I hate overly dressy, cold, expensive restaurants; I like a place with heart. I love Lucky Seven in Notting Hill, The Cow Pub, E&O and The Electric. They are informal but have a vibe and a happy energy all the same.
DONNA IDA: Where’s your ultimate holiday destination?
Ibiza. I have been going for over 10 years and love it in a different way every year I go. From the landscape and the people, to the incredible creativity that is there, in fashion, food, music, it has everything I love. And beautiful blue sea.
DONNA IDA: What is your favourite fashion magazine?
I read anything and everything, from Ponystep, Dazed & Confused and The Gentlewoman to Porter, LOVE, Vogue, ELLE and Vanity Fair.
DONNA IDA: What do you do to keep fit?
I work out at the wonderful KX Gym in London; pilates is my thing and the teachers there are some of the best in the world.
DONNA IDA: What advice would you give to a younger you?
Work hard and if you really believe in what you want to create, someone else will too. So do it. And align yourself with the people who understand you and support you, because there are many people out there who will, so never be afraid to ask for help and guidance along the way.
DONNA IDA: Tell us about Style Card? How does that work?
At StyleCard, we write about cool things (brands, stores, cafes, restaurants, spas) and then we offer permanent deals on the best of those cool things. We have amassed such an incredible line-up of brands offering those deals, it will be one unique and exclusive portal through which people want to shop.
DONNA IDA: What’s next?
I am developing and directing a docu-series for TV about fashion week; the vision is initially for UK and USA, and then that format can be continued around the world in any country that has a fashion week - which is everywhere from Australia and New Zealand to Russia and Brazil. I also plan to host more Fashion In Conversation, a series of live and exclusive interviews with global fashion superstars for Apple, which are filmed and screened globally on iTunes. And I am about to head off to NYC to host a live interview series for AOL/The Huffington Post.
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Shop Designers. Follow Kinvara Balfour @Kinvara_Balfour on Twitter and @kinvarabalfour on Instagram.