As the first female Publishing Director of British Vogue, Vanessa Kingori MBE, is a trailblazer in the fashion industry and an inspirational force in the publishing world. We recently had the chance to sit down with this Kenyan-born beauty at her office at Vogue House in Hanover Square, London to chat with her about her love of white flowers, her childhood memories of hibiscus from her upbringing in the Caribbean and her greatest inspirations in art and fashion. Oh, and that time her office was completely filled with flowers.
White or coloured flowers?
Mostly white. They go with any room, vase and decor.
Tell us about the first flowers you ever received and how they made you feel?
Growing up in the Caribbean and in Kenya, flowers were in abundance. So, it's quite unusual to receive flowers because they aren't regarded as a luxury item in the same way. You receive red roses around Valentine's Day and flowers of condolence but unusual as a marker of celebration. London was where flowers became a luxury item to me and I remember receiving them for my university graduation, that sense of occasion and grandeur really stuck with me.
Is there a significant flower that has played an important role in any of life’s milestone moments?
The hibiscus flower is a flower of significance to me. It is the flower of St. Kitts where I spent my formative years, and I have great memories of playing in beautiful gardens adorned by hibiscus. They are rare here but beautiful and in abundance in St. Kitts.
"Flowers are real sensory markers for key moments for me - you smell them, you touch them, you see them, and they keep you in the celebratory mood."
What do you love most about flowers?
Flowers are real sensory markers for key moments for me - you smell them, you touch them, you see them, and they keep you in the celebratory mood.
What is your most powerful memory involving flowers and scent?
When I was first appointed Publishing Director of British Vogue. That was the first time I received hundreds of bouquets of flowers which literally filled my office, and I could barely fit into it afterwards! It was incredible because it really highlighted to me how much support I had and how much people were vying for me to succeed. It made me feel an incredible amount of love.
Which flowers do you like to give and why?
I love to give white flowers - big and dense beautiful bouquets of roses as well as any white flowers of the season. I love that they feel fresh and crisp, and there is a sense of renewal to them. They tend to work for all tastes - you can put white flowers into an opulently decorated room, and they still make sense. Equally, if you are a minimalist, white flowers work with the aesthetic too.
Which flowers do you most like to receive?
Despite all I've said about white flowers, the flowers I most like to receive are blush peonies of any colour really. I really love how beautiful they are in the different stages as they unfold, they evolve almost into a different flower.
How does your flower choice reflect your personal style?
It changes depending on what I'm doing and it is always evolving. I generally don't like anything too fussy, I love anything quite classic but with a little flair.
What is your favourite flower season?
Probably winter because I really love bouquets with slightly festive hints. I also think that flowers feel a little more rare and special in that season.
What are your top tips for hosting a dinner party or any special occasion?
I think it's really important that every guest feels that they are the guest of honour. My mother was a brilliant party host and everyone would come away feeling that she had given them the most attention, which is a real skill.
Who would you invite to your own dream dinner party?
Oprah, she's really fun and insightful. Definitely Edward Enninful, he's a scream. I would love Josephine Baker to be there, and Cate Blanchett. Bob Dylan and Bob Marley, largely to see how the other guests navigate his accent!
Is there an area in your home where you always have flowers?
I like to have flowers in my hallway as much as possible. I have a broad hallway and I think it makes the home feel really inviting. It's quite nice for me when I'm coming home as the first thing I see, it's also inviting for guests.
Describe your interior style?
My interior style is a work in progress at the moment. We moved into a new home two weeks before I gave birth to our first son, so we're still working on our finishing touches. I like quite muted colours with opulent textures - deep woods, velvets, cashmeres, things that are as tactile as possible to create an inviting space.
Who inspires you in art, design, fashion or music?
My favourite artists are Malick Sidibé who is a photographer and also Kerry James Marshall.
Which designers are you wearing right now?
I love a broad range of brands. At the moment, I'm particularly loving Bottega Venetta, Erdem and Grace Wells Bonner.
Tell us about a wardrobe heirloom you cannot live without?
I stole so many pieces from my mother, I took them under the guise of borrowing and have never given them back. One of them is a vintage Aquascutum mac which I'm definitely keeping, now that the brand no longer really exists it feels even more special. I have my grandmother's silk scarf which I wear in all sorts of different ways. These pieces have significance to me because of evocative pictures I've seen of my mother or grandmother wearing them.
What’s the best thing about London style?
For me the best thing about London style is how individual it is. I often think I can tell where people are from based on their style. I can often guess a Parisian and I can often guess a New Yorker, usually by a great blow dry! You can give five Londoners exactly the same sweatshirt or shoe and they will have a completely different interpretation. We bring an individualism to fashion pieces like nowhere else.
“My interior style is a work in progress at the moment... I like quite muted colours with opulent textures - deep woods, velvets, cashmeres, things that are as tactile as possible to create an inviting space.”
What do you love the most about your international upbringing?
Mostly that I can holiday in several places I call home. But I think the most important thing that it taught me, is that there is a commonality to human beings wherever we are from. It also unwittingly taught me to be able to fit in and adjust to lots of different settings.
Where is your favourite London hotspot?
This is hard as there are so many different places I love in London. In terms of escaping, I love moments in Mount Street Gardens, it's usually really quiet and serene. Often you see people coming out of their weddings and it feels a world away from the hustle and bustle of Mayfair. That's probably one of my favourite secret escapes but there are absolutely so many places I love in London.
Where is your perfect escape?
For escaping outside of London, I really love holidaying in any part of Italy. I love that it has so many different seasonal cuisines to offer as well as beautiful beaches and mountains. For me, it's the perfect holiday destination.
How do you end your day?
My partner and I end our day by having dinner together almost every night, unless I have a work dinner, talking about anything exciting or challenging that came up during the day. We talk about our high points and low points, and it's always quite a nice sign off to put things to bed literally, and encourages us to start a new day afresh.