London-based entrepreneur Rachel Verghis on her passion for art and culture, philanthropy and the gin brand she launched during Covid
As told to Selma Day
What sparked your interest in art? You are an art patron, collector, entrepreneur and investor and, of course, a mum. How on earth do you fit it all in?
As with every woman I know, multitasking is ingrained, especially if necessitated by all the varying roles we have to play – or want to play. It’s an endless juggle to ensure the house of cards does not spectacularly collapse.
You had a career in banking. Why did you decide to give it up?
It was time. I had such a fulfilling career which allowed me to pursue other interests so when the time came, I did it without hesitation. This is an interesting one. On some level I was always drawn to it – I had no formal training but was really very curious.
Tell us about your art collection?
Eclectic would best describe it. I only ever buy pieces I fall deeply in love with. There’s no overarching theme. I collect contemporary art, furniture and jewellery. But I do love a sculpture piece too – for example, the 180 lead birds by Patrick Goddard [pictured above and below right] which have graced my living room for two years.
There’s a philanthropic element to what you do – is that reflected in the kinds of artists and initiatives you like to support?
I have great admiration for the courage and vision of the artists I support. That does inform the direction of philanthropy somewhat, yes.
Which art galleries and museums are you involved with?
I currently sit on the board of the Biennale of Sydney, divesting my involvement from a number of wonderful institutions last year to concentrate on a future project. I do, however, support various cultural institution fundraisers via MarGin, my gin company – for example, events at the Serpentine Gallery, the National Theatre and the Cliveden Literary Festival to name a few.
What kinds of businesses do you invest in?
Ones with a new tech element like Zome – an AR/VR blockchain messaging system – and Addland, a land acquisition tech platform. I am very interested in the application of blockchain technology to age old processes. I really think it’s a paradigm shift in our evolution
Tell us about MarGin – and why gin?
Because I drink a ton of it! This was my Covid boredom project. All the talk of the death of the physical currency got me thinking we should capture the essence of the sterling note as a momento mori. Why not in a gin? Countless early distillation attempts even featured printer ink in order to evoke the smell of money! The genius of Mark Boswell, the distiller, eventually managed to capture the final cool, crisp, dry taste of a fresh note with three main organic botanicals. Thenlabel also pays homage to the “white fiver” – the precursor to the green £5 note we have in circulation today. It launched in 1793 and was decommissioned in 1961. We used the black lettering font and even reprinted an original white fiver in the bottle itself.
What sets it apart from other gin brands?
It’s primarily a sipping gin. A very smooth, crisp, dry sipping gin! And it makes an extraordinary martini. We have also created a negroni variation with fresh pomegranate juice – the MarGin Melograno. It was a crowd pleaser extraordinaire when we supported 18 art and culture events in 2022 with this concoction, and we launched the gin itself for sale this January.
Is gin having a moment?
In all honestly probably not, as it has passed. I certainly never factored that into my stubborn head when I embarked on this project.
What projects are you most proud of?
Having my son Louis was probably a seminal moment – and creating a gin features quite high on the list.
Do you use Mayfair?
Yes indeed. I just start on Berkeley Square and fan out in a circular motion from there – I go and see an art show, buy a piece of clothing or jewellery, have a G&T, finish with some Japanese food and repeat!
Do you shop in Mayfair? Any favourite places or designers?
I am a huge fan of the Row, from the Turrell masterpiece as you enter to the exquisite clothing. It’s a temple to worship in really. I have quite a masculine sensibility with dress so Daisy’s divine bespoke suits from the Deck are also a firm favourite. Artist jewellery from Elisabetta Cipriani is another obsession.
How would you describe your style?
A tad androgynous, sober on occasion. I believe I only have three colourways in my wardrobe. It makes for dressing ease, though I am sometimes drawn to architecturally impossible to wear pieces.
Where do you like to hang out? What are your favourite restaurants, bars and clubs etc?
I love a good sundowner G&T – so anywhere really from Mr Fogg’s to 5 Hertford Street and Oswald’s.
What’s been the highlight of your career so far?
That I’ve made it to 50 with a wonderful set of memories behind me – I have no regrets at all.
What projects are you currently working on?
Apart from MarGin, I have had dreams of starting a residency programme with a twist for artists. Watch this space!
What are your long-term ambitions?
I wish I could say I have huge ambitious plans, but really it’s just to be as content as I am now.