Knomo: Hi Polly, great to meet with you, can you give a us a quick introduction to yourself and The Fold.
Polly: My name is Polly McMaster, I am the founder of womenswear brand The Fold. Our reason for being is to dress the professional woman: we want her to feel amazing every day when she gets up and dressed for work with a wardrobe that is stylish and contemporary – most importantly building her confidence so that she can go and get on with doing a fantastic job.
How do you think that the ‘professional woman’ has changed in recent years?
It’s been an interesting time because women have started to be able to express themselves more in what they wear in professional settings. I think it’s about looking put-together and feeling well-dressed for the occasion or the environment, what that’s meant is that people have moved away from the more traditional suiting and ‘manly’ wardrobe that would have been common ten years ago, and now women are able to have a much more feminine style and really express themselves.
In terms of how the world of women in work is changing, it’s exciting that this is now really on the agenda –that of the government, and from large corporate companies to small businesses – to give women more opportunity to either rise up in the ranks or making the workplace more flexible for people to work around other priorities.
From your own entrepreneurial journey, can you talk us through the story of how The Fold started?
The concept of The Fold came from my genuine need to find a working wardrobe. I was young, I was very ambitious, climbing the career ladder working in consulting and then in finance. The world around me was a sea of grey suits and predominantly male – what I found was that I had to dress smart enough to sit at the table and feel confident in meetings, but that I didn’t really have enough money to spend on designer options. My high-street wardrobe wasn’t really smart enough for me to have that presence and confidence in that environment.
I love enjoying what I wear, so I found it incredibly frustrating that I was working 70 or 80 hour weeks dressed for work more than anything else. Then, I was sponsored to go to business school by the company I was working for, and during that process, this conversation kept coming up with myself and other working women about how miserable the clothing options were, so I started thinking ‘someone should really do something about this’.
I’ve been able to bring together my different interests – from fashion to work to women in business – The Fold is the culmination of all these strands coming together.
Can you talk us through ‘The Fold Woman’ programme and how you bring your community together?
Because of my background and what I’ve experienced it, was really important to make a community of like-minded women the centre of the brand. We’re really focused on our customers and what they need, and this is the beginning of everything – from the design process to customer service and the whole ethos of the company. So it feels very natural to bring those customers into the brand and for us to tell their story to other women who are fascinated by their different and diverse career choices, as well as tips on managing their career around other interests, be it hobbies or family or other interests. It’s a great platform to be able to share these stories.
What we’re looking to do now is open that platform up and look for women to either share their own story or to nominate friends as a woman they would like to celebrate.
Through telling the stories of these women, as well as starting your own business, would you say there is a sense of freedom that comes with choosing your own path?
Starting your own business does bring you a lot of personal freedom. You’re building a dream, something that hopefully other people buy into and they’ll support – that you’re creating something you can be very proud of, and that you’ve created great opportunities for your customers and your community – these are all fantastic parts that come with starting your own business.
On the other hand, there is a lot of responsibility. You have to work extremely hard to keep the momentum going and there is so much involved in keeping everything running.
When we get an amazing piece of press it all really kicks into gear. We’ve had some particularly high profile customers wearing The Fold pieces – and it’s in these moments that it feels like the whole business is working in harmony and people are loving the product. When you see everything from customers purchasing through to the delivery and positive feedback: it’s in these moments that everyone on the team can take a step back and be really proud of their hard work.
Regarding everything coming together in harmony, would you say that organisation is key to running a business and being as productive as possible?
Definitely. A business is only as good as the team behind it. I think that absolute passion for the purpose of the brand and that if everyone is enjoying what they’re doing it pushes the business forward.
Then there is the question of ‘how do we put ourselves in the best possible position to get the job done?’ Work has become mobile and diverse in how a business can operate, The Fold team are always in different places – with customers or at events but the behind-the-scenes running of the business still has to happen.
Finally, can you talk us through your experience of Knomo – which products you use and how they’ve made your life easier?
I first came across Knomo a while ago as I was looking for a bag I could carry all my daily belongings inside, particularly the techy bits that I always need to carry. In my house there’s smartphones and tablets and Macbooks - every gadget under the sun.
I was at a networking event and there was a woman in the changing room who had this beautiful backpack. I’d been looking for a backpack to carry my laptop and work, but that looked smarter than the normal sporty rucksacks you see. So I asked if I could take a look at her backpack to see what the label was, and it was the Knomo Beauchamp.
Before I’d even got home that night I had been on the website and ordered one for myself. It’s great because it’s smart and modern, and it fits with my design ethos which is ‘just because it’s practical doesn’t mean it can’t be beautiful’.
Thanks so much Polly!