BUILDING BLOCKS I completely fell into fashion. [It] was not even on my radar when I was younger. I grew up in Yorkshire, in the [English] countryside, which is beautiful but definitely not a fashion capital. What I do remember loving was imagery, magazines, fabric and colour. My love for architecture came from my father, who is a carpenter. I love his craft and watching him make things. I love construction, which I guess translates into clothes. Before joining Burberry, I worked at Donna Karan and Gucci. I left Britain to go to Donna Karan in New York because she plucked me out of college. After that, I went to Gucci, where I headed up womenswear for six years. I had the time of my life; it was very energising, but eventually I wanted another experience. I spoke very openly with Tom [Ford] about leaving - I have enormous respect for him because he took on a huge risk by hiring me at just 23. I told him I needed a new experience and he gave me his blessing. It was a sad moment but I had to do it. It happened that Burberry found me through a headhunter and the rest, as they say, is history. MOVING FORWARD I joined Burberry in 2001 [as creative director] and I was just responsible for ready-to-wear. Now I look after everything, even although my title has never changed. I hadn't designed menswear before but it was a natural progression because I was a guy and I related to it on a personal level. I don't know if it's easier, I find it different. You have to think of both collections in such different ways because men and women shop differently, they live their lives differently. The most important thing to remember is that it's not really about me. I didn't join this industry because I wanted fame and glory, I came to it from a different angle. What I love about it is that I am able to use all my senses, whether I am working on designing a store, developing a fragrance or fitting a dress. I am very lucky that I can do this and this is something I have always wanted to do. Now that I am older, I can finally articulate it. It's all encompassing in a very consummating and tiring way. When we launched Prorsum, our ready-to-wear line, it was really there to articulate the modernity of Burberry - to talk to a different audience, but also to be respectful to its past. The trenchcoat, and how to wear it, is the core of everything; it's our culture and that's what I use as the basis for everything I do. And yes, our clothes are very much my aesthetic but, I think, even more than that it's a mind-set. I sometimes describe it as a dishevelled elegance; this girl isn't perfectly primped - she's run out of the shower, thrown on a dress and a trench coat. I've been [at Burberry] for seven years now, which is a long time, especially when fashion houses are continually changing their designers. I am just its ambassador and holder of the key to this beautiful palace. I need to protect it, but it's still about Burberry. In fact, I never aspired to my own line, which many people think is weird. But I am so fulfilled, mainly because I can do so much. It's hard work, it's intense but I get off on that. CHALLENGES Balance is a huge thing for me. For work, it's making sure my team is happy. I have a big team and they've been with me since I started. The most rewarding part of my job is seeing someone I brought in move up - the downside is that we work incredible hours; it's four shows a year and every one of those has pre-collections, then we have Burberry London, other lines, marketing, ad campaigns etc. It's insane. THE OTHER SIDE OF LIFE I love music, which you can see from our campaigns. I also love being peaceful, which means reading a book or spending time in Yorkshire. I still have a home there and all my friends and family are there. They laugh at me when they see me in a newspaper. I have two sides to my life - one is city-based, about travel and hugely energising; the other is about being at home with my friends and family that I love. IN A BIG COUNTRY This is my first trip to China and Hong Kong and it's unbelievable. I was surprised to see such a big difference between Beijing and Shanghai. They are just so distinct - it was like being in two different countries. Shanghai was familiar but I found Beijing very creative and energising. It felt more unfamiliar to me, more exotic and that's why there was something stimulating about it. You feel it's changing so quickly and people want it to change. ON CELEBRITY DESIGNERS You can look at it in two ways. I am not a cynic by nature, so I think it's great that people want to try something new. It's all a part of the moment we are living in - we have this 15-minutes-of-fame culture and there are extremes to it, certainly. Are there positives? Yes. Are there negatives? Of course. But I think if something has been done with integrity and there is a true passion, like with the Olsen twins for example, who love clothes and have great personal style, why not? There is space for everyone. Saying that, I don't appreciate it when something is done to make a quick buck on a name. It's a bit cheap and sad and has no soul to it.