WHEN Victoria McKenna suffered a life-changing stroke which resulted in a lengthy hospital stay, she wondered what she would do next.

The successful telecoms businesswoman of 10 years enjoyed her job and had recently got married, but the stress and long hours of the work and the wedding proved ultimately detrimental to her health.

But since her recovery, Victoria was able to forge a new career path in fashion design, and now showcases her collections at the Chester Grosvenor Hotel, with ambitions of opening a dedicated studio in Chester city centre.

Victoria, 38, who currently lives in Gobowen near Oswestry, explained how her career transformation happened.

She said: "I had a really good job, but two weeks after I got married I had a stroke and had to quit my job.

"I went to a local hospital and they said it was a migraine with aura. Luckily my face was not affected but I went five days without proper treatment.

"My colleagues at work could see something was really wrong and took me to A&E, who diagnosed it within an hour.

"I was recovering for a year and wondered what I would do. I loved that career.

"I had been talking for about 15 years about designing clothes and everything to do with fashion.

"I wondered: 'What is the worst that could happen, as the worst has already happened?' I also had to have open heart surgery a year after the stroke as they found a hole there.

"The stroke had completely changed my look on life. When I was in hospital the doctors said an organ could shut down. It was quite a moment to think that."

Victoria started designing clothes and a chance encounter with a professional saw her on her way to setting up Victoria Jane McKenna (VJM).

She explained: "I started making samples and luckily I met someone through a friend who introduced me to a professional seamster. He helped me on the patterns and hone them so they became wearable.

"We must have gone around three to four rounds of blouses samples, we put them on and then think 'we know that does not work!'

"It took about a year between meeting him and coming up with the actual product."

Victoria explained how the new business has been beneficial for her health.

She said: "At least I have started my own business; if you have a bad day, you can take it off, it's not the end of the world. I'm in control of things.

"People have given me lots of advice, The Business Network Chester have given me a lot of help, they have been so nice and supportive.

"I have lots of friends in Chester and would like to move there, I have been coming to it since I was a teenager.

"I do quarterly open evenings in the Grosvenor Shopping Centre and am looking to open a studio space off Watergate Street.

"I don't call myself a fashion designer, I am a brand owner. I have got an activewear brand I am launching and handbags, and look to provide high-quality fashion.

"I'm hoping to sort out shopping evenings in London like I do in Chester and am looking to go international, going forward, but it's all about baby steps."

Victoria also had a clear vision of what she wanted from the brand.

"I wanted it to be about women so I wanted the shapes to be womanly," she explained. "I wanted people to know I have put myself into that brand.

"Because of nearly dying and feeling you have missed out on everything, I wanted to to show there is life after a terrible phase.

"All the dresses are wardrobe stable – there may be different colours but you want to keep those shapes so people can work their wardrobe around them, and that is going to be the same with the activewear I have chosen. I am just trying to give people what they want it's not about trends.

"It's not as expensive due to the materials but it's high-quality looks with a range of colours.

"The brands can be for all mums – there is a lot for women in their young 20s but not so much for those in their late 30s, and for mums it gets a bit thin on the ground.

"I have also had a lot of people who have had opportunities to see the activewear and their reaction to that has been amazing, I'm really grateful for that."

The VJM website explains luxurious silks are used to make the clothing range, with blouses made in London using couture techniques and designed to suit all body shapes.

  • For more information about Victoria Jane McKenna, visit www.victoriajanemckenna.com.