Alice Levine is not someone who rests on her laurels. Proving that a jack-of-all-trades really can be a master of them all, Alice has carved out a career for herself that takes in everything from presenting radio shows to hosting supper clubs. Somehow, she also found time to adapt her original Levine blouse she designed for Finery’s Forever Pieces collection. To coincide with the launch, we caught up with her to find out more about the design process, juggling jobs and why you can’t crystal ball gaze.
It’s a busy Wednesday afternoon and Alice Levine is telling us over lunch why she decided to reinvent her eponymous blouse. ‘Cause you’re all so nice!’ she laughs. ‘We had such a lot of fun doing the first one, and it was basically an excuse to be an intern in a fashion house.’ Now available in a delicate shade of pink, the new Levine is a tonal update of Alice’s first navy style. ‘We talked about pink when we did the navy, and navy felt right at the time,’ she explains. ‘When the gals at Finery said: “Do you want to do it again?” we said: “Pink!” So yeah, that was always on the cards and the idea had been percolating.’
Unlike the navy style, the new blouse took a lot less work second time around. ‘It was just fine tuning really because the first time that we did it, that was starting with a blank page and everything had to be decided.’ Did this help to give her more confidence in a design role? ‘I’m confident because I feel like I say something then it gets translated into something great. It goes through this process of me saying: “What about pink” then there’s this massive team of experts going: “Did you actually mean some kind of dusty pink?” and I’m like: “Yeah, that’s what I mean!”’
Predominantly a TV and radio presenter (she has a permanent weekend programme on Radio 1), Alice is also the co-founder of food and lifestyle brand Jackson & Levine which she set up with friend and fellow foodie Laura Jackson in 2013 and one third of the hugely entertaining My Dad Wrote A Porno podcast (not to mention all the side projects – including designing for Finery – she has going on). It does make you wonder how she manages to do it all and still stay sane. ‘I’m lucky because I do the radio show at the weekend so I have the rest of the week to fill,’ she says. ‘That sometimes means you don’t end up demarcating your time very well but all the jobs I do are things that I love, which makes life a lot easier.’
It also helps that the majority of Alice’s jobs are ones she has had a hand in setting up, ensuring they fit around her other commitments. It is, she concedes, busy but that seems to be something she relishes. ‘There was a time when I really wasn’t [busy]. Being freelance, you always feel like every job is your last, so you always have that slight fear that this might be the last time the phone rings.’ This fear not only drives her forward, but also prevents Alice from not planning too far ahead. ‘You can’t crystal ball gaze, you don’t know what’s going to happen down the line. If you want to do something, you have to do it now and worry about the scheduling of it later. However, I am hard to pin down!’ she laughs.
One job that is taking up a lot of Alice’s time at the moment is My Dad Wrote A Porno. Currently being toured around the UK (with global dates also in the pipeline), by Alice and her co-presenters James Cooper and Jamie Morton (who’s dad did indeed write a porno), it is a hilarious reading of the ‘erotic fiction’ series Belinda Blinked. With three series under their belts, Alice, James and Jamie have won legions of fans thanks to Mr Morton’s – aka Rocky Flintstone – side-splitting prose. ‘I knew it was a really good idea,’ says Alice when we asked if she predicted how popular it would become. ‘I know that because I’ve had probably two ideas in my whole life that I thought were decent, and that one was a co-idea.’ The format, she says, came to her straight away. ‘I could hear how it should sound. So I know it could be something we could be proud of, even if only a few people listened to it. You can’t really control the rest, can you? Part of that is luck, really.’ Full credit, she says, has to go to Rocky. ‘It’s just the book, the book is so great.’
While all of this may sound like Alice has the dream job (or jobs), she is keen to point out that this didn’t happen overnight. ‘It takes a really long time to get to where people are approaching you about work. I’ve been a presenter for about 10 years and it’s only now that people come to me and say, “do you want this job?”’ Her advice to other women trying to spin multiple plates is: ‘don’t worry, there’s no linear path.’ Instead, she recommends focusing on the things you enjoy. ‘There’s always jobs throughout your career where you think “oh god, that was hammy,” but if there’s something about it that you can like, or you liked working with the team, then it makes it worthwhile. If you feel like you’re drowning because there’s lots of balls in the air, make sure that each of the balls is fulfilling something.’
For Alice, working with Finery allowed her to dip her toe into designing while still focusing on her other work. The Levine blouse is, in many ways, a product not only of Alice’s busy lifestyle, but of all of our hectic schedules. ‘That’s why we “invented” it in the first place because we wanted something you could wear with jeans, or you could wear to a formal event. We all go from one thing to another, so we just want to feel nice all day.’ It is this lack of distinction between different wardrobes that Alice and the Finery team have spearheaded. As she is keen to point out, the Levine looks just as good with a pair of jeans as it does with a pencil skirt and heels. ‘It has to be one of those things that’s working hard.’ It is also a real reflection of Alice’s style. ‘Half of the stuff in my wardrobe is quite feminine, and I team that with something that roughs it up a bit.’ Always one to avoid being too overtly girly, Alice is a fan of mixing up old and new things but is keen to point out the importance of a good cut. ‘If you feel good in the cut of something then you carry yourself differently. Over the years I’ve got better at working out what is good for me and I like a high waist, I like things that sort of tuck-in, feel put-together but loose.’
So how does Alice relax, if she ever gets the chance? ‘Being on the sofa, static, is a great one!’