Virginia Chadwyck-Healey on her VCH Style business
PUBLISHED: 15:35 23 May 2019
Former Vogue Editor and Pangbourne resident Virginia Chadwyck-Healey has set up a business as a consultant, presenter, stylist and writer
Virginia Chadwyck-Healey lives near Pangbourne with her husband, Ollie, and her two girls, Nancy and Maggie. She says: "We moved out of London in 2016 after the birth of our youngest. Moving with two small children was a challenge, but the good people of Pangbourne Costa got me through!
"I have always loved the area; I went to school in Cold Ash. It's only an hour from my parents and my in-laws, but we are far enough away to stand on our own two (or rather eight) feet. Pangbourne is close enough to London and not so remote that I can't do my job. We have wonderful schools, a lovely pace of life and mainly, lots of fresh air. Pangbourne really does have everything you need: doctor, dentist, butcher, nail bar, hairdresser, cheese shop, gift shop, two, yes two, florists, a great library for my children and, of course, that caffeine hit from Costa."
Ginnie left her job at Vogue last April. "I have finally come out of the bizarre 'floating' sensation of leaving a job I had been in for 12 years," she says. "It was the only job I'd ever known since leaving St Andrews University. It's been strange leaving the identity of a global brand, the office buzz, the fraught intensity (sometimes)."
Was it as glamorous as it sounds? "No! It was incredible, though. I really do adore and admire the people I met there and many were like family to me by the end. I never thought of it as work. I looked forward to Mondays; that's the dream kind of job," she says. "It was very important to keep my feet on the ground. I think sometimes there was an arrogance, which was not quite so pleasant, but I rarely saw that. If I did the rest of us probably rolled our eyes and went and got another coffee. The brands were wonderful to work with, the shows exciting to experience, the sample sales (especially the Chanel ones at Claridge's) a sheer rush of adrenaline. But ultimately, it was a business at the end of the day and I always made sure I realised that. We were selling a dream."
And now Ginnie has realised her own dream by setting up her own business, VCHStyle.com. "With two children the commute was untenable from Pangbourne and my husband finally pulled the rip cord. 'Darling, you are bringing home the bags but you aren't quite bringing home the bacon,' was his way of putting it (beautifully, I might add)," she says.
"I knew I still wanted to work in that world. And I knew my real life in Berkshire meant I was learning about what real life people with real life money wanted to wear or how they consumed media brands, how brands struck a chord. So VCHStyle works with brands to deliver trunk shows to people outside of London who still want that London 'hit' but who don't feel they should have to travel to the capital to get it. I've continued my writing and I also do personal styling and wardrobe edits for people in a style rut. I do some presenting too."
When I ask Ginnie to describe her average day, she says: "No day is the same. Every day is a juggle − but isn't it for everyone? I'm usually up with my girls, listening to Radio 4 to 'feed my brain'. Apple cider vinegar and thyroid medication kick-start my day (I know, funky!). I do have help three days a week, so on a VCHStyle day I'm suavely racing for a train to London. I meet with brands (contacts I've kept through making the effort), pitch some ideas, hear about latest launches, see if I can help them talk to the people outside of London that often get forgotten. I might get my Leon fix for lunch, then go and see a brand's collection. If it feels trunk show material I see if there's a way to bring it out of London, perhaps at a Berkshire-based hotel, for instance Coworth Park. I'm also working on an event at which I'm moderating a panel so I will do a venue visit for that too. Then it's back to Paddington, rushing for the train, and straight into bath and bedtime for my girls. I have to exercise to keep the endorphins flowing so that might be my evening sorted. Otherwise it's The Crown and bed."
Ginnie has also become an Ambassador for SmartWorks Thames Valley. Based in Reading, they offer an interview outfit and interview expertise for women who are trying to get a new role after falling on hard times. "It installs confidence in women and it uses clothes that would otherwise go to waste," Ginnie says. "It now has the Royal patronage of the Duchess of Sussex, which will do wonders. But it's the people running the offices that get the job done on a daily basis who are the real game-changers."
So who is it that inspires Ginnie? "Theresa May is a ballbreaker, isn't she? She doesn't inspire but I admire her tenacity. She has the most thankless job and it seems everyone is against her every move but she battles on. She is a great role model for anyone wanting to make it in a man's world," Ginnie says. "Style-wise I love the timeless elegance of Audrey Hepburn, I love Carolyn Bessette-Kennedy and I love seeing what Claudia Winkleman pulls out of the wardrobe during Strictly season. I am inspired by Stacey Dooley. I'd love to work with her."
And what are Ginnie's ambitions for the future? "More research-focus TV. Not just how to wear this with that (although I would love to do 'When Ginnie met Trinny')" she says. "Sustainability is becoming the next focus. It will take years but I would love to have the time to research it and create something that makes someone stop and think twice about their spending patterns. I am all about 'buy fewer, buy better'. We don't need loads more stuff in our lives. Of course, I love shopping for new things but just be wary of the story behind whatever you buy next. I would love another baby, but if my husband sees this..."
Ginnie's best bits of Berkshire
"Well, it could be the burgers at the West Berkshire Brewery, or the Hoi Sin pizza at the Royal Oak, Yattendon, or the Go Fish & Chips on a Thursday night in Upper Basildon, or the Leaf or Sizzle pop-up at The Pot Kiln on a summer's evening... for us food is a big part of our weekends, our socialising, our outings with our girls. My husband also loves The Wine Man in Yattendon. We had a great evening after Meghan and Harry's wedding at The Woodspeen. Those martinis..."
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