Pictured at the Virago HQ in London, Vanessa Ford (left) and Teodora Berglund (right) wear Sophie Lis jewellery thought the shoot
Vanessa and Teo are the dream team behind Virago Films.
Meeting this dynamic duo you are immediately transported into their world, a positive happy, almost dream like place where magic can happen.
You can understand from the outset just how the pair get s*** done.
I recently found myself reading Forbes article on the key to entrepreneurial success and all I could think was tick, tick TICK… the Virago girls have got it all and in spades!
They and both whip smart, cultured, well-travelled and informed. With it, they are approachable, relatable, positive and kind.
They have a relaxed self-assured confidence which makes you believe anything is possible… however crazy the idea, there is no doubt this duo can make it happen!!
Vanessa and Teo posses a fresh and diverse, childlike approach to thinking which is why you can see they are experts at creating fresh, unique ideas and storytelling with total originality. You want to be part of their world which is why top power houses such as Acne, Nike, Graff and Harrods use them to create their ads. Above all, spending time with them is FUN!
Not only do the girls have contracts with these powerhouse brands, they also are working on their own passion projects based on empowering women around the world.
Virago means Female Warrior and this team is just that, a role model for feminism and entrepreneurship.
I am honoured to introduce you to the team and hope their story inspires you.
1.) Can you give me a brief summary of your careers to date and anything outside of this which has been of significant influence or had a serious effect on your life?
I started modelling and acting in my teens while in high school, which helped pay my way through university where I focused on tropical medicine. I spent my summers in Africa and South East Asia, from Swaziland and South Africa to Mozambique and Singapore volunteering and doing research to improve access to HIV treatment, particularly for children and women. I began using film as a means of documenting my research, and realised that I unintentionally had captured footage that was powerful enough to make people think.
This led to assistant producing a mini series starring the sons of Bob Marley focused on African Unity during the World Cup in South Africa and the rest is history. I did an internship at the World Health Organisation and a brief stint in management consultancy but always found my way back to storytelling. An opportunity to work for a studio in London soon gave me the experience and network I needed to tell my own stories, stories with a strong female voice which led to co-founding Virago Films with Teo,
TB: Coming out of high school my focus was humanitarian work. The last year of school I had been devoting myself to create a talent show called “Youth Helping Youth” that would generate sponsors and money to build a primary school in Benin, Africa. After that I was part of a project to build a health clinic in Kenya and I also worked with an organisation called Charity Rating, an independent rating platform of NGO’s. Working with this organisation I realised that only 2% of the money NGOs generate goes to the designated destination in need. I didn't like it and decided I wanted to get out of that field and instead work with storytelling to communicate human condition and imbalances in the world.
I then went to Paris to study filmmaking and communications which lead to a long learning experience within the industry. I ran an independent film festival, worked as a TV producer for the advertising agency Fred and Farid Group. After two years of managing and working on big budget productions, I just couldn’t put my director dreams to rest... I had an urge to create and write. I moved to London to develop my filmmaking skills and after that I started working on a fictional account of a personal story about my godmother which I mentioned to Vanessa when we first met, and this became one of our first projects (and learning lessons!) with Virago Films.
2.) Where did you grow up, what brought you to London?
VF: I grew up in Toronto, Canada with summers in Treasure Beach, Jamaica and crossed the pond to study at Oxford, but didn’t expect to stay in London until I fell in love.
I grew up around female forces- from my grandmother in Jamaica who ran her own company to watching my single mother balance her full-time job, an evening gig and weekends antique dealing at the market with my sister and I by her side all with incredible skill, savviness and pearls around her neck. She taught me to think bigger, be impeccable with your word and never forget where you came from. The most inspiring and empathetic woman I knew.
TB: I grew up in Stockholm, Sweden. I also had a very strong mum who always pushed me to think that I could do anything I wanted to do. If I wanted something she would say things such as, “just write to Obama and ask him. I’m sure he would love it”. Taking all this with a pinch of salt, she still made me rather fearless. So after school I was in Africa to follow the construction of the school, then I travelled Asia and finally landed in Paris where I would live for 6 years Before moving to London, which I now consider home. My passion is people and their actions and psychology motivates me. The stories I am driven by are always generated by humanity and what drives it.
We as a team are passionate about telling stories that focus on unheard voices, particularly those of empowering women. The word ‘Virago’ actually means “female warrior” and embodies what inspires us and defines us.
Teo stacks our Sundance hoops in XL and mini sizes
3.) Tell us about your company Virago. How did you guys meet and how was it born?
We met through a common friend that was starring in one of the films Vanessa was studio exec-ing with the Weinstein Company. It was at the Swedish festival Way Out West (think a tidy version of Glastonbury) and we actually almost didn't talk to each other then...in retrospect, it was almost as if we were both intimidated and fascinated by each other. Back in London, we met for a coffee and could not stop talking. We bonded over David Lynch, Transcendental Meditation and our thirst to understand the big questions in life.
It was one of those cosmic moments that you never expect, that leaves you no choice but to embark on a new adventure. Virago Films was born, a creative studio where we produced short films and commercials. We soon realised we needed to tell our own story, inspired by the truth of our experiences, and began working on a series called +1 about the complexity of a modern woman who has to be an adventurous & spontaneous lover, an adoring mum and a powerful careerist. We like to say it’s a female version of Entourage with a bit more edge. We’re developing it with Nice Drama.
Teodora is also repped by Acne Films where she does all of her commercial work and Vanessa is heading up production for Kukua, an African children’s entertainment company bringing strong female African role models to children worldwide. We feel so lucky being able to be a part of diverse projects that keep us on our toes and learning from each of our individual experiences.
First and foremost, we’re sisters and partners for life so we will never stop working together...even when we’re 90!
4.) Can you describe your personal style? What are your hero fashion pieces / couldn’t live without staples?
Off-White meets old school vintage. We’re both storytellers so in a way we like our personal style to emphasize that...a little old and a little new, and to put things into a different context.
Our hero fashion pieces...definitely our Nike Air Force 1 shoes - we are both obsessed with them : ) We like to mix and match and always have a statement piece, whether it’s a leather vintage jacket or fun earrings.
We both love colour- Vanessa more into bold, contrasting colours and metallics, while Teodora sees black as her national anthem and has a fetish for neon socks.
5.) Your individual style obviously has huge influence on your creative vision. How do your styles work together?
We both share the same style philosophy when it comes to spicing things up. We are obsessed with mix-match, nothing can look too perfectly coordinated. We gladly mix vintage with couture, there’s nothing better than Levi’s with a vintage Chanel jacket. Teodora loves Scandinavian brands and Vanessa’s obsession is jumpsuits and streetwear- she is even launching a children’s clothing line called Mini Monroe honing her effortlessly cool style for all mini me’s out there.
We love clothes swapping, revamping and upcycling. Vanessa loves adding cool elements to revive her wardrobe...like changing the buttons, adding epaulettes, or putting golden wings on a ripped jean jacket.
Our main differentiator in style is that Vanessa prefers a more feminine look (she really can pulloff a Jackie O look even with that wild hair) while Teo is more into the androgynous look....black suits, leather jackets, levis jeans and sneakers. However, we both agree that there always needs to be both feminine and masculine aspects in a look in order for it to stand out and be interesting.
6.) What sets Viagro apart from its competitors?
We are really on the quest to understand the next wave of feminism and telling stories that challenge the status quo and represent our generation in an honest way. We’re by no means experts, but we are hustling everyday to make sure these stories stand out and get seen by the audience they deserve.
Vanessa wears our Shooting Star diamond hoops
7.) You are both working mothers. How do you manage balancing work and family life? What’s the secret?!!
This is an interesting question because we believe if you think of work and family life as separate elements, you have already put motherhood in a box. As mothers, we are still our individual selves with our own purpose as we were without children. I guess we have just never stopped to ask ourselves that question, LOL!
It’s like a marathon, we keep on running - sometimes faster, sometimes slower. Sometimes we hit rock bottom and need to find our way back. But working and “running” life together, it is so much easier and when one of us needs more support or just time to take a breather, we share energy. Our theory is that pregnancy and motherhood can be your force, your light. We make sure we use every drop of time and have the best team around us to execute. We prioritise. We balance caring for our loved ones, nurturing our souls and bodies whenever we can, surrounding ourselves with challenging ideas, good vibes, colourful food, yoga, mediation and friends who make us laugh. Watch our insta to see the launch of our project MOTHERHOOD shot by Teodora drop next month.
8.) You are both travelling a lot. What are your secret weapons to move from plane to train to meeting to night out whilst always managing to appear so fabulous?
TB: Ever since Vanessa gave me her secret mixture of shea butter and vitamin E, I’ve been hooked...that trick is everything to keep your skin looking fresh. My personal weapon is to not eat in airplanes as it’s harder for the body to digest in the air and it naturally fatigues you more. Face masks, laughter, the joy of discovery of new places and people are my weapon to staying fabulous and we also both try to take time daily to meditate and source the creative energy. When all the above has tried and failed... we turn to tequila, aperol spritz and reggae music!
VF: As Teo said, my secret weapon is healthy skin...no matter how much makeup, outfits, accessories you wear, if your skin is glowing and flawless you will always look fabulous. Scents are also a priority for me so I carry around a kit of Doterra homeopathic essential oils to help keep me going and wake up my spirit, and never forget my B12 supplements!
Vanessa wears our Fallen Star ring
9.) Is jewellery (or other accessories) important to you?
TB: They have started to be in the past years. because I realise I can embrace a comfy style and then by just putting on some badass jewellery, I can totally own the look in a different way.
VF: Growing up, accessories were always important to me- I would find little pieces at the antique markets my mom worked at and I would use it to dress up my clothing or a brooch to repurpose an old hand me down bag. Now it’s less about being fashionable, and all about defining who I am so I chose pieces that are little symbols that tell my story. I am all about contrast so I like to pair big stones with ripped jeans and boxing shoes, and my colourful, playful costume Jewellery with a black tie gown or cocktail dress
10.) What is your favourite piece of Sophie Lis jewellery and why?
We were both fans of the Venus Hoops and the shooting star pearls hoop because they represent what’s important to us- female force and our unstoppable drive to keep going onwards and upwards. We could not decide which ones we both preferred the most, so we decided to split up the pairs and have one of each. Asymmetry is always the best.
Teo wears our Lightning Bolt hoops
11.) What is your favorite thing about being a “Girl Boss”?
Our hope is that soon the concept of “girl boss” would just be referred to as boss…period. Just like we hope that one day soon, people will not need to use the term “female producer” or “female director”. But yes, our favourite thing about being our own boss is that we can make the time to do what we love and this is a luxury we both deeply cherish.
12.) With so much responsibility, do you find it hard to switch off? What do you do to disconnect?
We are experts at dance offs. Vanessa is a secret old-school hip-hop DJ and Teodora is (not so secretly) working on her dancehall moves of twerks and dutty wines after our trip to Jamaica.
13.) When you’re not in the office, where can we find you? Click your fingers and be…….
Where weird, creative and inspiring things are happening!
With…..? Our families and friends