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Georgie Abay of Vogue Australia and The Grace Tales

Studio Visit

6th December, 2013
Lucy Feagins
Friday 6th December 2013

The Grace Tales - a new Australian website for the stylish Mum, edited by Georgie Abay.

The Grace Tales - a new Australian website for the stylish Mum, edited by Georgie Abay.

Georgie Abay in her home office.  Photo - Julie Adams for The Design Files.

Details from the home office of Sydney-based Georgie Abay, deputy editor of Vogue Australia and creator of The Grace Tales. Photo - Julie Adams for The Design Files.

Georgie Abay, deputy editor of Vogue Australia and creator of The Grace Tales. Photo - Julie Adams for The Design Files.

I had the great pleasure of meeting Vogue Australia’s deputy editor Georgie Abay in Sydney recently.  It was certainly NOT a 'Devil Wears Prada' moment.  (I bet every magazine editor is sick of that stereotype...!).  Far from perpetuating the intimidating 'fashionista' stereotype, having worked her way up from from eager university graduate to the role of Deputy Editor at Vogue, Georgie is friendly and warm and so generous - though of course she is also effortlessly stylish, as you would certainly expect!

It's been a very eventful year for Georgie!  She became a mother for the first time just a year ago, and it seems she spent her maternity leave very productively (!), dreaming up a new project, The Grace Tales, which launched in September this year.  The Grace Tales is a brilliant website for stylish mothers, edited by Georgie and inspired by her own experience as a new Mum.

'When I was on maternity leave, I spent a lot of time on the Internet searching for inspiration on everything from nursery decor to baby clothes to maternity wear' explains Georgie below. 'There are so many great sites dedicated to style and beauty, but what about sites dedicated to the stylish mother? I wanted to see inside the world’s of other mothers. How did they decorate their nurseries? What was their take on motherhood? What was their advice to new mothers? How did they handle the sleep deprivation? Where did they buy their children’s clothes? Where did they buy their own clothes?'

Having worked in high profile magazines for over a decade, and assisted by talented friends and colleagues including photographer Julie Adams, Lifestyle Editor Georgia Macmillan and Beauty Editor Sigourney Cantelo, it's no surprise Georgie has hit the ground running with The Grace Tales!  It's such a beautiful, tender and thoughtfully edited site - much like a conversation Georgie herself, TGT is a relaxed though somewhat refined experience, yet is also utterly unpretentious, friendly in tone and accessible to all.  I most love the profiles series - a collection of photo essays documenting a bunch of gorgeous Australian Mums, their children and their different lifestyles.  'You’ll find mothers on this site who work in everything from fashion to finance' explains Georgie below.  'I’m surrounded by countless inspiring mothers, and I wanted to share their tales with you'.

We're thrilled to interview Georgie today and learn a little about her role at Vogue, the creation of The Grace Tales, and how on earth she manages to juggle everything now that she's back at work full-time!  Huge thanks to Georgie for her time with this interview, and to Julie Adams for the beautiful photographs of Georgie (and Arabella!) at home in Sydney.

Tell us a little about your background – What study and career path led you to your role at Vogue?

I’ve loved fashion and magazines for as long as I can remember and I knew very early on I wanted to work in magazines. I put my head down and studied like mad in my last year at school and then took the following year off to go travelling with a girlfriend. Travelling has always been a big part of my life. I started a degree in Media and Communications at Sydney University and during my third year, I began working two days a week as an Editorial Co-ordinator for what was then FPC Magazines (now News Life Media). They publish magazines such as Vogue, Delicious and Country Style. I worked in the custom publishing division and did everything and anything. When I graduated, they offered me a full-time position.

Ultimately, I knew I wanted to work at Vogue. I would send my CV to the then fashion director. I used to style my own little photo shoots at home and photograph them and I remember sending her the pictures. She was very kind to write back! My very first article was for Country Style magazine. I was 21 years old and my mother’s friend lived in Berry in a beautiful country home. I photographed it and took myself into the editor’s office with the pictures and nervously asked if she’d be interested in featuring the home in her magazine and if so, could I write the story? She said yes!

After two years, I left the company to go and do a semester abroad at the London College of Fashion and also to do some more travelling. During this time, I just kept pitching ideas to various editors and slowly, story by story, I built my portfolio. Another year passed, I came home and a few months later I moved to Dubai to work in fashion magazines over there. It was one of the best career moves I’ve ever made. I ended up working on the launch of Harper’s BAZAAR Dubai. I think living and working overseas is invaluable. It certainly made a huge difference to my career path. When I returned home two years later, I was offered the job of fashion news editor on Vogue Australia. After a stint back at BAZAAR, I’m now back at Vogue working as the deputy editor under the wonderful Edwina McCann.

Congratulations on creating such a beautiful website in The Grace Tales! Can you tell us a little about the concept and development of the site – how did the idea come to you, how long has it been in development, and what is your longer term vision for the site?

I became a mother for the first time a year ago and about five months into my maternity leave I started thinking about launching a website for stylish mothers. I wanted it to be very clean and polished. I get overwhelmed by cluttered websites. I could only find a couple of sites targeted towards mothers that I liked, and they were based overseas. I was so curious about what other Australian mothers had to say about motherhood. I wanted to know all their secrets. What advice did they have? How did they get their baby to sleep? What did they wear? I am also very passionate about interior design and wanted to see inside the homes of these mothers. How did they style their child’s nursery?

I decided to launch a site with a focus on going inside the homes of stylish mothers. The site took about six months to complete from the moment I decided I was going to do it. It was on a trip to Hong Kong visiting some friends that I came up with the name. My friend Jess and I wrote down every word that we could think of which related to the idea behind the site and just started messing around the words, finally we got it! I was very lucky to also have the support from a close friend of mine Georgia Macmillan. She’s our Lifestyle Editor and responsible for the beautifully curated product galleries, among other things on the site. Her sense of style is mind-blowing. I’ve never met someone so effortlessly stylish. She’s also a mother to a one year old girl Olivia.

Long-term, I want to continue to inspire other women and also to help them navigate their way through motherhood. I love posting a new profile. Everyone has something different to say and I find each mother so inspiring.

The Grace Tales - a new Australian website for the stylish Mum, edited by Georgie Abay.
OK so you're back at Vogue, you're running The Grace Tales and you’re a mum to one-year-old Arabella Grace – this sounds very busy! How do you juggle these various roles, is there a clear way you structure your time, particularly the balance between your job at Vogue and generating content for The Grace Tales?

Everything changes when you become a mother (and sleep will never be the same!). I don’t go out at night as much as I used to because I just get too tired, so I’ve simply substituted that social time for working on The Grace Tales at home. My days working at Vogue are incredibly rewarding. For me, working is like ‘me’ time. It’s so completely different to the days I spend with Arabella and having both in my life is really satisfying.

When I’m at work, I don’t think about anything else and I’m careful to keep my site very separate. Some weeks are harder than others, especially if I have a lot of functions at night, but I usually work on the site at night from 7-9pm or on the weekends when Arabella is having a sleep or my husband minds her. She still sleeps about three hours a day so on a Friday, my day with Arabella, I have that time to work on the site.

I’m also lucky to be working with Georgia Macmillan who generates a lot of the content. We’re both completely immersed in the world of motherhood so TGT doesn’t feel like work – I enjoy curling up on the couch at night and working on the site. Some weeks are busier than others and it can get overwhelming, but I try to take one day at a time.

Georgie and one year old Arabella Grace at home!  Photo - Julie Adams for The Design Files.
What does a typical day at work involve for you?

On a work day, I get up around 6.30am when I hear Arabella talking in her cot. Going in to get her up is my favourite moment of the day. She just gets so excited when she sees my face. It’s heart-melting. She potters around our bedroom while I get ready and then her Nanny arrives at 8am and I’m out the door to work (usually doing my make-up in the car and grabbing a coffee on the way). At Vogue, it depends how far into the production cycle we are but I spend a lot of my time in meetings, reading copy, writing copy, proofing layouts or planning future issues. Most weeks there will be a couple of functions at night, which can be tiring, but it’s an important part of the job. If I don’t have a function, I’ll get home around 6.30pm. Arabella is asleep by 6pm, so it’s dinner with my husband Mark then time to work on The Grace Tales (or if it’s a Monday, watch Homeland with Mark!).

Can you list for us 5 resources across any media that you turn to regularly for creative inspiration, or just to be kept in the loop?

I think Instagram is brilliant. It’s so visual and I love dipping into other people’s worlds. It’s especially great for keeping in the loop while you’re on maternity leave.

I spend a lot of time on the internet browsing fashion, beauty and interior sites. Of course, I love The Design Files. Also IN/OUT, The Coveteur, Vogue and Net-A-Porter’s Edit magazine.

There’s a great site in the US, which also profiles stylish mothers called The Glow. It was a big inspiration for me.

I love my monthly magazines: Vogue Australia, British Vogue, Vogue Living, Architectural Digest, Vanity Fair.

The New York Times. I read it daily on my iPhone.

Which Australian creatives, artists or designers are on your radar at the moment?

Artists: I think what Heidi Moore-Gill does with Bespoke Balloonery is just so wonderful. She just did some balloons for my daughter’s first birthday. Gorgeous tulle covered balloons in sorbet colours wrapped in paper flowers. They made me so happy! I also love the colour and energy of artist Rachel Castle’s work. Finally, artist James Gordon is very, very clever with everything from paper to watercolour. I’m always asking him to create something for me!

Designers: I think Scanlan & Theodore will always be on my radar. I can always find something to buy from this brand. Ephemera is a new luxury swimwear label designed by Paris-based Australian designer Nicole Banning. She used to work at Yves Saint Laurent and left to launch her own label. Also, Maisini & Chern is a new luxury pajama label created by two Melbourne-based girls. I have a bit of a pineapple obsession so their pineapple print PJs are on my wish list.

The Grace Tales - a new Australian website for the stylish Mum, edited by Georgie Abay.
What is your proudest achievement to date?

My beautiful daughter and also what I have achieved in my career.

What would be your dream project?

I do have a long list of mothers I am dreaming of having on my site. I think as your life changes, you’re always coming up with new ideas and dream projects. I would never have imagined two years ago that I’d have launched a website targeted towards mothers. You never know what’s around the corner.

What are you looking forward to?

Travelling to Barcelona in 2014 to visit my brother. He lives there and I miss him like crazy.

Details from the home office of Sydney-based Georgie Abay, deputy editor of Vogue Australia and creator of The Grace Tales. Photo - Julie Adams for The Design Files.

SYDNEY QUESTIONS

Your favourite Sydney neighbourhood and why?

Paddington. I’ve lived here for over three years and love it. Each terrace house has it’s own charm and style and I never get bored of walking around this area. I live near two beautiful parks, art galleries, cafes, shops and lots of my best friends. Living two doors down from a café also comes in handy when you’re a coffee addict like me!

Where do you shop in Sydney for casual but stylish daywear for Mums?

As the name suggests, Bassike does fantastic basics – I live in their canvas track pants on my days off; Scanlan & Theodore does everything beautifully and it’s hard not to spend a fortune when you walk through their doors; Bloodorange – the owner Loren has such great taste and her edit is flawless; Country Road is fantastic and affordable; and Zimmermann for sundresses.

Where / what was the last great meal you ate in Sydney?

I had lunch at Fratelli Fresh (Café Sopra) in Potts Point with our lifestyle editor Georgia Macmillan and our little girls. It was our last lunch together before she moved to Dubai. Tiramisu topped off with lots and lots of laughs!

Where would we find you on a typical Saturday morning?

Either at Kings Cross markets with a coffee in my hand or walking down to Rushcutter’s Bay Park with Arabella, Mark and our two dogs. Although, I’m about to start yoga again on Saturday mornings!

Sydney’s best kept secret?

Balmoral Beach. It’s hardly a secret, but it’s so much more peaceful than many of the beaches in our city. There’s something really relaxed about it. My mum lives up the road, so I spend a lot of time there.

Georgie Abay outside her Paddington home in Sydney.  Photo - Julie Adams for The Design Files.

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