If you had to sum up what you do in a few words what would you choose? I’m guessing mother would make the shortlist. But then what? Teacher? Lawyer? Consultant? Full-time mother? Wife? Entrepreneur?
I left my job as an editor at British Vogue 6 months ago. It was the dream job. I loved it. I counted my colleagues as friends, and I relished the moment of the ‘What do you do?’ question at a dinner party, not through arrogance but because inevitably it led to ‘oh my goodness is it JUST like The Devil Wears Prada?’ or such like. Conversations flowed, people were interested in ‘Ginnie from Vogue’ and then…. and then I left. After 12 years and 2 maternity leaves, a wealth of contacts and some fabulous never-forget moments, I bid farewell. Personally, life had changed so much. Professionally, life wasn’t quite meshing with what my two children and husband needed. Quite honestly, commuting to London, giving my all in the office meant that, sadly, I wasn’t giving my all at home and eventually my husband very delicately pulled the ripcord; ‘Darling you are bringing home the Gucci bags, but you aren’t bringing home the bacon’. Something had to give. 12 years a Voguette. 12 years! Longer than school, longer than I’ve known my husband – it’s a long time. It’s a third of my life. Since April, leaving behind the identity of ‘Ginnie from Vogue’, and being just Ginnie has been both a grieving process and the most incredible liberation. It’s felt like both a divorce and a rebirth. It has changed how I dress, how I spend, which brands I’m following, how I consume media, and mostly it’s given me the time and energy to be a better mother and wife (I hope). I launched my consultancy VCHStyle in a bid to use the knowledge learnt at ‘The Fashion Bible’ and apply it to a wider audience, a wider range of income brackets and to tap into life outside of the bubble of the fashion world. My great friend works in a very senior role at Jimmy Choo, and whilst I miss our train journeys to and from London, and the sharing of industry gossip, the reality of leaving part of that world has freed up time to enrich my soul and my brain in other substantial ways. I’ve been able to reassure myself that there is life after Vogue and there is life after a dream job. I now have time to read the news (I genuinely love the business section to see who is being bought by who, and particularly how the retail landscape is shifting so drastically), I have time to dip into Woman’s Hour on BBC Radio, or a great podcast whilst I check emails. I love that on some days I can access London and its addictive pace, (and get my Stories fix!), and on others, I can write an article by the river in the sunshine. Next week I’ll be styling a client and doing a Wardrobe Edit, then I’ll be back home to cook with my children and take the time to listen to how their morning at pre-school went. Mostly, I have time to slow down and guess what, I get as much if not more done. I’ve learnt the hard way that you can burn out. Being my own boss means I manage the balance sheet, I set my targets and I run the diary. I just have to work a lot harder to ensure my emails are received, opened and replied to, I have to keep a thick skin if a meeting is cancelled (no one would ever cancel me at Vogue), and I aim to make each meeting count a bit harder – oh, and you have to reduce the number of taxis you take! Look I’m not saying I make millions and I certainly cannot afford all the sparkly goodies I trawl through on Instagram. But I am learning to enjoy the notion that less is more. Roast chicken and a glass of red wine with my husband beats a fashion party at Annabel’s any day. I watched the SS19 Burberry show in my bathtub. I assessed Louis Vuitton’s SS19 show on my phone whilst my children unknowingly rubbed Play-Doh into the sofa. (It’s just that now I have time to clean up said Play-Doh whereas before I would have just vented at them, overtired and feeling the strain of a double-life.) Mostly, stepping away from a huge global brand tests the confidence levels. What it does prove is that, for the most part, people want to invest in and do business with people they like. So often working at Vogue was governed by the advertisers and the size of their investment in the magazine – the world stopped for Chanel – and rightly so. Now I get to choose who I pitch to, who I schedule a meeting with, and it has opened lines of communication I never thought possible. My Vogue era has paid dividends and I will always be grateful for that, but now I approach my work with a new energy and hunger that perhaps was waning as I battled the juggle of a career with a family. Good ideas and an energy to see those ideas come to fruition are in some ways as potent as having a global brand behind you. As more and more women leave their full-time jobs after their first or second child, due to mounting childcare costs and that feeling of not-quite-being-considered-in-the same professional-capacity-as they-were-pre children, what enables us to keep peddling on in the second phase of our careers is that feeling of some kind of sisterhood, which keeps us all afloat. I firmly believe this. The advice I’ve been given in the last 6 months has come from all manner of sources, from my former Editor, Alexandra Shulman, to Carrie Gracie (ex-China correspondent for the BBC and subject of a major gender pay gap discrepancy) to my great friend, fellow mother and jewellery designer Jessica McCormack. And of course my husband and my parents. Mostly, it’s come from women who have been in a similar position to me and have navigated their way through it. There is life after Vogue; the heels are lower, the carb count is a little higher, the pace is a little slower, the freebies are a little fewer but I’m learning that life is over and a new one is starting. Hence why I’m here, writing for The Grace Tales and I hope you enjoy what’s to come…. Virginia Chadwyck-Healey, known to many as Ginnie, worked at British Vogue for 12 years, firstly managing the British Fashion advertising portfolio and latterly, as the Executive Retail Editor. This role gave her a breadth of knowledge across the fashion, jewellery and beauty industries. Her passion for both the commercial and the creative is what led her to start VCHStyle.com, a platform for her new foray into brand consultancy, which also includes presenting and personal styling. Ginnie is married to Oliver, and they have two daughters. They live near Pangbourne in Berkshire in the UK. Image: Helene Sandberg