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‘I left Vogue... now what will I wear?’
WOW, YOU WORK AT VOGUE ?Isitjust like The Devil Wears Prada …?’ishowalot of conversations in the past 12 years have started. But not any more. Earlier this year, more than a decade after I first walked through the hallowed doors of Vogue House, I left the world’s most famous fashion magazine. ‘You know, Ginnie, you’re just too real for all this now,’ a client – and friend – had told me over coffee in September 2017. She insisted what she was saying was a good thing. I commuted home that evening to my young family and new house in the countryside and found myself at the first major crossroads of my career.
As well as The Devil Wears Prada question, other favourites have been: Were there diva moments? Yes. Was it bitchy? No, but when you have a 90 per cent female workforce the ‘sisterhood’ is not going to be without its few bouts of turbulence. Were the corridors a daily catwalk of impressive styling? Yes, and rightly so! This is the fashion bible, after all. Madonna has sung about it, films have been directed about it – indeed, its very name is taken from the French for being in style.
But that’s not to say we could all afford the dream we were living (and selling, because let’s not forget it’s a business). My working wardrobe was mostly compiled of pieces bought at sample sales, with a press discount or at pre-order appointments
where designers offer wholesale prices for VIPs. There were a lot of borrowed items thrown into the mix, or whipped off the rails that lined the corridors. ‘I promise I’ll bring it back on Monday!’ was the usual Fridayevening chorus. Meanwhile, my bathroom shelves were filled with expensive products snapped up for a bargain at beauty sales (all proceeds went to charity). It’s no wonder my husband noted I wasn’t ‘bringing home the bacon, just bringing home the bags’!
It was, of course, very hard to leave – for both my wardrobe and my sense of self. I’d dreamt of working at Vogue since I was 14
‘ My tottering days are over. I don’t buy high heels any more’
and hounded the editor Alexandra Shulman with letters begging for work experience. But tottering in as a 23-year-old art history graduate was very different to bidding goodbye in April as a 35-year-old executive retail editor, wife and mother of two, who was off to see more of her daughters and set up her own consulting and styling brand.
So as the world of fashion freebies and access to designer clothes becomes more distant, and the lorryloads of beauty products dry up, what do I actually choose to buy now? After years of trial and error, I invest only in those brands and pieces I know won’t let me down. Firstly, I rarely buy on impulse. If I’m buying a designer item, I’ll go for a name that will have longevity, possibly even resale value. Having had access to Zara every lunch break for the past decade, I now only allow myself a visit once every three months simply because I can get the retail hit from watching Trinny Woodall on Instagram (my guilty pleasure), but really, I know I can easily walk out having spent far more than I need to.
I probably check the Matches Fashion app more than I check social media because its edit is exquisite. Of course I don’t always make a purchase, but for me it’s a great way to keep on top of the direction of trends and I value that in my new line of work. After all, Matches brought Vetements and Michael Halpern into our virtual shopping baskets.
Colour-wise, I lean on navy as a foundation and then add a hit of leaf-green or blush-pink. Burgundy and mustard are going to be my mainstays for winter. I prefer boyish cuts – they are just more flattering for me – and so Cos continues to get my vote, particularly for cropped trousers and shirts. Recently my head has been turned by the casual yet colourful work of Rejina Pyo. All my skirts or dresses fall mid-calf – no one needs to see my knees.
I know I can’t do the heeled ankle-boot look, they chop my legs off, so I veer towards knee-high boots with a dress or skirt fabric that gives good ‘swish’. I can always justify a good coat as an instant game-changer (Jigsaw’s new collection is looking very impressive). I buy men’s T-shirts from Uniqlo because they hang so much better than any women’s ones I’ve tried and they are great quality. The on-trend teeny-tiny micro handbags are out and totes are in – because, quite frankly, my life requires space for the paraphernalia that comes with having two under-fives.
Beauty-wise I really do take good care of my skin, it’s just that now it comes with a price tag so it’s far more considered. Tata Harper (eye cream), Votary and Ilāpothecary (facial oils) are new discoveries that I will be standing firmly by. I am a slave to Eve Lom cleanser (by night), and Sisley foaming cleanser (by day). My husband has latched on to the latter and I feel like charging him per use. The Clarins body balm – oh, so good – has been swapped for coconut oil (it helps that my husband is an oil buyer for Waitrose). I have had to swap the days of Kérastase for Waitrose Essential shampoo simply because, at 79p, it is magical. I still see my hairdresser, Christina at Daniel Hersheson, for a biannual cut and colour ( just without my press discount). I simply cannot delete her out of my life. I see Danuta Mazur for facials (dmpure.com) and had to think hard about revealing her expertise in this piece – she is London’s best-kept beauty secret.
Sadly, my tottering days are over. I don’t buy high heels any more. Though if you are wondering, the heel I recommend to clients is a Jimmy Choo Romy (85mm) because I’ve
road-tested them pre and post children (oh dear God, the bunions) and I can actually walk in them. They are the ultimate day-tonight work shoe, as opposed to a ‘car-to-bar’ flight of fancy. I never buy ballet pumps, they are terrible for my feet, and that omission saves me a lot of time. I recently invested in Rupert Sanderson’s Clava pebble heel, because a hint of height makes you walk better and I like my shoes to be a talking point when I go into meetings. They are genuinely my favourite find of 2018.
I do feel a slight relief that I don’t have to be on top of the trends season after season. By 9am, my conversation is probably more about spilt Shreddies than Sacai, and my shopping list is more likely to include bleach than Balenciaga. But that’s not ‘motherhood’ or ‘living in the country’ – no, that is just real life. That doesn’t mean I am not eyeing up Riccardo Tisci’s new collection at Burberry.
I am amazed by the brands that permeate my post-Vogue life, and how they really do hold a special place in people’s hearts when I refer to them. Boden, Jigsaw and Next are beloved stalwarts for many. Veja are the vegan trainers du jour; Ganni and Rixo have inspired amazing levels of obsession. Arket is a new favourite for those who love an intelligent staple, and my corporate lawyer clients adore Roksanda. The potent sales effect of Hush is astounding – it’s the best-selling womenswear brand at John Lewis & Partners. What do all these brands have in common? They offer effortless, joyful pieces for women who want to look stylish but don’t have the time and insider access of Team Vogue.
Now that my own business is established, I’m privy to a lot of women offloading their frustration with fashion. They want to buy pieces that are uplifting, but that are more in keeping with their real lifestyles, and very real bank balances. After monthly outgoings, they may have £200 to £800 left to spend on themselves. My job is to remind people that Zara is not always the solution; you probably don’t need another Breton top right now. You should try to operate a ‘one in, one out’ policy, and yes, you should sleep on it and see if you still love it in the morning.
I’m definitely not counselling that designer brands should be off-limits, though. You can take the girl out of Vogue, but you can’t take Vogue out of the girl. It’s just that this girl has got real when it comes to her new-found shopping habits. vchstyle.com
Right Virginia at home with her two-year-old daughter Maggie.Below left With Vogue editor Edward Enninful in November 2017. Below rightWith model Suki Waterhouse (left) and make-up artist Mary Greenwell