Mama Duet Meets… Jade Chilton
I am very excited to introduce the third feature in my Mama Duet series where I find out how mothers in the industry balance it all.
I first met this stylish mama many moons ago interning for Now! Magazine’s fashion department!
I admire her passion for fashion and her drive to create her own dream.
Jade Chilton is your go to for all things mama and baby! She is the Acting Editor of Harper’s Bazaar Arabia and the Contributing Fashion Director Grazia Middle East sharing her ongoing journey online.
I am truly grateful to share this with you all and go check out Jade’s pages.
Enjoy and thank me later.
Working with you during my internship at Now! was my first step in fashion over 10 years ago. The fashion industry has changed so much over since then–so much so, Now! magazine no longer exists. I was nervous, but so happy to get into the industry that I love. How did you get your foot in the door? Do you think that this would still be the case for people looking to get into fashion now?
It was a pleasure working with you on Now! magazine, Victorine!
I think I must have written an email to every fashion editor working on every magazine in London asking for an internship. When I got my butt in the door at More! magazine I worked so hard, smiled at everyone and never said no, whatever the task. More! magazine was turning over several fashion shoots per week and therefore the sample returns were endless. On my first day I swear there was a stack nearly touching the ceiling of the fashion cupboard. For the first two weeks I sat at a desk filling bag after bag with samples to return to PR agencies, writing labels and stapling bags. It was monotonous but I kept going. A month in, I asked the Fashion Director, Sophie Stevens if she knew anyone I could speak to about securing an internship at Grazia (a magazine within the same publishing house) and she offered me a full-time paid internship for More! on the spot. I thought no one noticed me in the corner, beavering away at the returns, but it turns out I stood out because I showed up, I didn’t complain, I was never late and I proved myself.
We both worked with the fabulous Alison Tay (I know you still work together now), who became my first mentor within the fashion industry. Did you have a mentor? How did they help you?
I’ve had so many mentors over the years that have offered gems of advice. Recently I’ve listened to advice from two women who I really respect in the industry here in Dubai. They offer me solid opinions and aren’t afraid to ask tough questions. I think it’s important to find someone whose opinion you value, not to tell you what to do per se, but giving you the opportunity to think about things that you wouldn’t necessarily consider. These women have taught me what I’m worth and not to settle for anything less.
You moved to Dubai eight years ago, what made you make that brave move?
I’ve never been afraid of what might happen. I guess I’ve always had the view that things will work out and, to be honest, they usually do. I try not to focus on how it might fail (although this has become harder as I’ve gotten older). I guess it wasn’t much different from moving from the North West of England to London on my own – a big city with lots of opportunities. Plus, my then boyfriend, now husband, encouraged me to seize the opportunity in Dubai because he believed working abroad is exciting and rewarding – and he was right.
You’ve since had two adorable girls. How do you think your experience of motherhood has differed by being in Dubai?
Parenting in Dubai is vastly different to how I imagine it is in the UK. I often compare and contrast but I need to stop myself. It’s a bit like working out the exchange rate in dirhams to pounds: it’s pointless as I don’t earn in pounds. There’s no family support network here so I’ve had to heavily rely on friends who are mums for advice, mental support and playdates. In the past, when I returned to work when my daughter Greta had just turned eight months, we employed a nanny. I find it a strange dynamic as having help at home isn’t something I was familiar with when I was growing up but my mum reminds me that I have to adapt to our circumstances – sure, if I lived around the corner from my parents they would help look after my babies but I don’t, so employing someone to help is a sensible decision. Since the pandemic it’s just been me looking after a newborn and toddler. Some of it has been joyous, but it also hasn’t been easy, it’s been very tiring so as I start to ease myself back into work getting more help is the top of my list.
A topic you mention on @amamalessordinary is breastfeeding, which is a common topic of debate in the UK. What’s it like there? Have you experienced any challenges?
Dubai is super family-friendly. Nearly every restaurant has high chairs, ramps, kids’ menus and staff who are always willing to accommodate children. I breastfed Greta until two years old and still breast feed my youngest daughter now, and I’ve never experienced any problem or judgement. The malls have fantastic private nursing rooms in the bathrooms, with big, cushy armchairs and even small play areas to occupy toddler siblings. I think the UK should make a note or two.
You mentioned that you don’t want to share too many of the realities of the start of motherhood so as not to ‘quash all of their daydreams of newborn snuggles while unicorns float by’. How do you choose what to share and what’s too much?
I think it’s super important that we keep it real for new mums. However I don’t think a 38-week pregnant lady needs to hear about the newborn that wakes every 20 minutes, that doesn’t help anyone – actually, it’s terrifying. I guess that’s why pregnant women hear the old, classic line, “sleep as much as you can” so often.
Not a single person can prepare a woman for motherhood until she’s experienced it herself. The lack of sleep, the crying, the gas (baby and mum), the painful stitches, the breastfeeding struggles and sore nipples will mean nothing to a first-time expectant woman. But what we can do is be there the moment she’s had the baby, to tell her to put coconut oil on sore nipples, send her videos of how to hold her ‘boob like a sandwich’ when getting the baby to latch and sending food parcels instead of flowers.
Who is your go-to support person? Do you have someone that is there to support you as Jade, rather than Mum Jade?
Gosh, that’s a hard one. I have wonderful friends that would drop anything to be there for me: to listen, cuddle (pre-pandemic) and make me tea and bring me cake and babysit my babies. My sisters in England are wonderful, albeit very busy with looking after their own children and my mum is always on the end of the phone. My dad even flew out in the middle of the pandemic in boiling hot July to help me as I was in the trenches with a two-month-old baby and a potty-training toddler after my husband had returned to work. Being so far away from family has made me pretty self-sufficient, but I’m working on asking for help when I need it, whether it’s for a good cry or a giggle.
Through your column for Grazia and your Instagram account, you give a really honest depiction of what a typical day of being a mum in fashion is like. What made you start sharing your experience?
I feel every new mum can relate to the feeling that, when our babies are born, so also is an entirely new identity. I felt like I needed somewhere to channel all of the new ‘baby thoughts’ that were over-crowding my already frazzled brain. I was nervous to post all the time on my current account should I scare people away with ‘boring baby’ content so creating @amamalessordinary felt like a more natural place. I found it difficult to switch off from work when Greta was born so writing my column for Grazia felt like I still had a foot in the door in the industry.
What is your go-to feel good colour?
Pistachio green is a key colour in my house, whereas blue is my favourite colour to wear.
What are some of your favourite small brands (for you and for your kids)?
There’s a wonderful boutique in Dubai called Marmarland which has the best brands such as Olli Ella and Liewood. For myself, I currently love Sleeper – they have the most gorgeous linen clothes in flattering cuts that are perfect for Dubai weather.
Who inspires your style?
I’m obsessed with the founder of Loveshackfancy, Rebecca Hessel Cohen. I love the brand’s whimsical, vintage clothing and her beautiful floral, shabby chic homes are to die for.