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15 years online

Arianne Phillips on working for Madonna

Arianne Phillips, 46, is an American costume designer, a freelance fashion editor (for, among others, Harper’s Bazaar, American Vogue and Numéro magazine), and has been Madonna’s stylist for 13 years. She has been nominated for a Bafta for her work on Tom Ford’s film A Single Man. She lives in LA with her boyfriend and two dogs.

How do you juggle all your different projects?

I’ve crafted this career on my short attention span — this is how I keep my work fresh. I would have wilted in a nine-to-five.

What’s your schedule like?

I travel a lot for Madonna — for one tour, there’s 12 weeks of prep and I’ll go to the first five shows. For my fashion work, I shoot in LA and New York and go to all the shows. I work 12 hours a day. I get up early to deal with Europe and stay up late to email, but I’m not a workaholic and I enjoy not working.

It sounds chaotic – how do you manage it?

I’m always having conversations with my boyfriend: should I do this or that? Working with Madonna, I have missed opportunities, but essentially it’s about planning. I suffer anxiety from the juggling, but I’m used to the fluency now.

What have you learnt from working with Madonna?

She taught me to keep my eye on the prize and not be seduced by others’ opinions. I’m not fluent in it like she is, but it really helped my confidence and sense of self.

How do you manage the egos?

It takes mutual respect and compromise. There have been many times when Madonna and I haven’t agreed — I didn’t win with the cowboy hat — but it’s not the end of the world. I won’t work with people with whom I don’t have a meeting of minds and aesthetics; I don’t give artists a new image because their old one doesn’t work.

Do you have a strategy to get your way?

Presents and flattery. If I want to sell a concept, I make a big effort to do my homework, to turn a vague opinion into something with purpose.

Complete interview at TimesOnline