Ambitious is a word that Georgie Abay doesn’t shy away from using (proudly) to describe herself. And why should she, as her go-getter attitude has served her well. The former Vogue Australia deputy editor started fashion-focused site for mothers The Grace Tales in 2013 whilst working full-time at the masthead. However, due to the demands of a second baby and the burgeoning success of the site, she left the world of glossy magazines to wholly dedicate her time to what has become not only an online destination, but also an e-magazine, a series of talks and most recently, a personal styling consultancy business. Busy, yes. But also undeniably successful. Here, Georgie opens up about how her ‘dream job’ turned out to be not-so-dreamy, balancing babies with running a business, and her guiding MO – in work but also in life.
Describe your current role:
Mummy. Boss of two toddlers. Actually, that’s all wrong. Slave to two toddlers. Editor and founder of The Grace Tales, the online destination for the style-conscious mother.
And what formal education or training did you undertake?
I studied media and communications at university then went on to do a semester abroad at the London College of Fashion. I loved my days at university and loved my days in London. More than anything, I miss learning so much all the time. And the reading – I wish I could spend more time reading.
What was the inspiration behind The Grace Tales?
I worked in fashion magazines for over a decade. I had been obsessed with glossy fashion magazines since I was a little girl. I’d spend all my pocket money on them. I inherited my mother’s determination and worked from the bottom up. I didn’t take no for an answer and eventually, I landed my dream job at Vogue. I adored my time spent working in magazines. When I became a mother, everything changed for me. I couldn’t do it all – I didn’t want to travel as much, I didn’t want to do events after hours and more than anything, I didn’t want to sit in an office all week while a nanny looked after my baby girl. Life is too precious. So after my second daughter arrived, I left to focus on The Grace Tales. It was just a passion project in the beginning. Something I did at night or while she was sleeping. I’ve always loved the story-telling aspect of editing and writing and wanted to share the stories of inspiring mothers around the world. How did they juggle their work with motherhood? How did they decorate their children’s rooms? I’ve always been fascinated by how other people live. After I left magazines, the site went from a passion project to a business and it’s now my full time focus (when I’m not being bossed around by my toddlers).
What has been the most rewarding moment in your career thus far?
There have been so many. Becoming the deputy editor of Vogue. I’m very proud of what I achieved in magazines. Launching The Grace Tales and having since profiled seemingly countless inspiring women from Miranda Kerr to Peta Murchison. Launching Atelier/Child a children’s knitwear line with my close girlfriend Jessica Baird Walsh and Colette picking it up the first collection. Walking into Colette in Paris and seeing it on the rack by the door was a ‘pinch me’ moment. But really, none of this matters – I’m most proud of being a mother to my girls.
What advice would you give someone wanting to follow in your professional footsteps?
Ok, if you’re looking to go into magazines, times have changed. Forget about focusing solely on print. You need to get as much experience as possible in digital media. I have a lot of interns who come and work for me and tell me “I want to work for Vogue”. I always tell them to learn as much about digital as possible because unless they have these skills, they won’t stand out. The media landscape is changing at a rapid rate – no one knows what’s around the corner. We’re all trying to keep up and outsmart one another. I’d also say have a long term vision – where do you want to be in 10 years? Map it out, then start from the beginning. Don’t be precious. Be gracious. Be polite. Have manners. Have respect for your elders. Do the crap jobs to start and don’t complain. And drop the attitude – it’ll get you nowhere. Fashion is a tough industry but if you keep your head down, work hard and a good person, you’ll get there. If you’re looking to launch a website, focus on a niche market. Niche sites are the future.
The challenges you’ve experienced along the way?
Fashion magazines can be tough – I’ve experienced bulling before and it’s not nice. The industry can get a little exhausting but it’s also a lot of fun and I never took it too seriously. Getting knock-backs can be tough too but hearing “no” just makes me more determined. Let’s just say getting a job at Vogue didn’t happen overnight – it took years of hard work to get in the door.
How do you measure success?
Success to me is flexibility and freedom to control how I spend my time. It’s also being surrounded by wonderful friends and family.
Do you have a mentor or someone who has influenced you in your career?
I worked under Grazia’s editorial director Rachel Sharp in Dubai and then at Harper’s Bazaar in Australia – she’s always been incredibly supportive and kind. I’m so grateful for her support. Edwina McCann – ridiculously talented, grounded and wonderful to work with. I loved my time working for her and if I didn’t have two little monkeys to run around after, I’d still be working for her.
How do you feel about the future of your industry?
I wish I knew the future. Honestly, the whole thing is exhausting. I can’t keep up with digital media. I used to read stories over and over again when I worked in magazines but with digital, the pace is so fast. I crave the old days. I also think women need to spend less time on social media – too much time on Instagram is bad for your self-esteem. That said, it’s a very exciting time in media. Women all over the world read The Grace Tales – that’s pretty amazing.
What words do you live by?
“It is very telling what we don’t hear in eulogies. We almost never hear things like: “The crowning achievement of his life was when he made senior vice president.” Or: “He increased market share for his company multiple times during his tenure.” Or: “She never stopped working. She ate lunch at her desk. Every day.” Or: “He never made it to his kid’s Little League games because he always had to go over those figures one more time.” Or: “While she didn’t have any real friends, she had six hundred Facebook friends, and she dealt with every email in her in-box every night.” Or: “His PowerPoint slides were always meticulously prepared.” Our eulogies are always about the other stuff: what we gave, how we connected, how much we meant to our family and friends, small kindnesses, lifelong passions, and the things that made us laugh.”
― Arianna Huffington, Thrive: The Third Metric to Redefining Success and Creating a Life of Well-Being, Wisdom, and Wonder
Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
Getting more sleep, travelling more (I used to travel so much and miss it), dealing with teenagers. I’m excited about the future.
Would you do it all again?
If I could have my time in magazines all over again, I’d love it. I loved my time spent living in Dubai working in magazines – I met so many amazing women who I am still very close with. I loved my time spent in London and also in Sydney. But I couldn’t imagine going back – life feels so complete now. Being a mother I now feel like life makes sense.