Nobody would call me perfect. I’ve made plenty of mistakes in my life and I’ve been sacked for some of them. I did my best to have a career in fashion, but I got sacked from Vivienne Westwood for getting lipstick on a wedding dress, and then I got sacked from French Connection and Next, mainly because I wasn’t that good.

Those bosses might have found it hard to believe, but I really wanted to get it right, to make everything perfect. But I learnt early on that, however hard I worked and however much I loved my job, perfect just wasn’t going to happen.

Luckily at that stage I still had enough youthful enthusiasm to keep me going, and – even more luckily – I found advertising. There are plenty of perfectionists in advertising, but I already knew that was wasn’t my way; I’d learnt to let go of perfect and enjoy the trial and error, the collaboration, and the unexpected, last-minute challenges, that generally get the best results.

Because perfectionism gets in the way of progress and innovation. It stultifies your creativity and doesn’t give you the chance to get things wrong in order to find out what’s right. If you want to push boundaries, you’ve got to be prepared to take risks, and by definition these won’t work out every time. Making a mistake is learning, which opens you up to incremental improvements, and to those big creative leaps we all dream of.

We all want everything to go right, but we have to understand that conditions will never be perfect. Clients’ needs and budgets change at inconvenient times, and the only way to deal with this is go with it, to be flexible, and not to be paralysed by perfectionism. 

The bumps and fuck ups along the way just add colour and character to the work.

Perhaps most importantly in advertising, perfectionism stops you being part of a team. It makes you self-centred and judgemental, determined to realise your own goals without being open to input from others, which means people just won’t want to work with you. Funnily enough, failure can be a very bonding experience – much more so than success.

This industry loves to talk up our work, let's share our fabulous fuck ups…

None of us is perfect, and I like it that way. If we can learn to embrace our limits, we will be happy to reach out to people who excel in the areas where we don’t, to collaborate and move forward. Designer Paul Smith was my hero and I was lucky enough to have him as my mentor when I was a student. He saw straight away that I couldn’t draw, but he didn’t dismiss me as a no-hoper, he told me to write down my ideas instead. Thanks to him, I had the confidence to do that, and to appreciate the people who were a lot better at drawing than me.

I’ve always surrounded myself with people who inspire me. I want to learn from them, make friends with them, hire them, and generally build up a crew of talented people who keep life interesting. I don’t look for perfectionists, I look for people who are willing to experiment and learn, people who I can laugh with when things go wrong, and celebrate with when they go right.

The fun part of advertising is that you can look at a brief, plough in, give it a try, see how it goes, keep working at it, and enjoy the ride. Embrace imperfection – you’ll be pleased with the results, I promise. (And if not, fuck it!)

Vicki will be writing a column for the MAD//Fest Insight regularly throughout the year.