Polly McMaster is her own perfect customer. Originating from the competitive world of consulting and finance, McMaster has a Cambridge PhD in Molecular Biology and an MBA at London Business School. She is also the co-founder of fashion label The Fold. The idea for The Fold, which launched two years ago, came from her need to look as smart as a man in his bespoke suit. The Fold helps create a stylish, contemporary wardrobe for women who believe that being serious about their work need not compete with being interested in fashion. In July 2013, Management Today voted Polly one of its ‘35 Women Under 35’.
Why is this The Fold’s moment? We are currently experiencing an amazing time for working women – there has been a huge push from all sides to recognise the achievements of women in the workplace, and the amount they have to juggle. The Fold exists to support and celebrate these women. If we can help these incredibly inspiring high-flying women feel great when they get dressed for work in the morning, and have a boost to their confidence to achieve their best everyday – then we are doing our job.
Why does style matter at work? Style matters because its an expression of who you are, and who you are representing. At work you are representing not just yourself, but also the company you work for. You don’t have to be a slave to trends, or to a corporate uniform – you can find your own path and a style that gives you great confidence, but that also is appropriate for the environment you are in. The Fold is aimed at modern women, not just in a corporate environment, but in any environment where they want to feel confident, put-together and stylish. The collection aims to cover versatile separates (our Marais Capsule) that can be dressed up or down, all the way through to your ‘go-to’ dress for a really important event such as an interview or presentation. We hope to help our customers build a wardrobe of great quality, flattering, covetable pieces that they will love wearing whatever the day is going to throw at them!
Is comfort or style key? I tend to wear The Fold most days, of course I’m biased but I genuinely feel comfortable in the collection. I think comfort and style can go hand-in-hand – that was one of our goals when designing The Fold. I think if you look stylish but feel uncomfortable it will undermine your confidence, so feeling and looking great in what you wear is critical. You can achieve that through great fabrics, contemporary cuts, dresses that are beautifully lined and cut with the wearer in mind, and versatile separates that are easy to travel in.
How has your previous career impacted on The Fold and its aesthetic? I started my career in Strategy Consulting and then in Private Equity. I always loved fashion, but felt when I was working in a corporate environment that is was hard to find clothes that I felt were stylish, contemporary and allowed me to ‘be me’ at work. This has had a huge influence on the ethos of The Fold. By being a true customer myself, we can continually check we are providing a great product and service that is relevant for our customers and that they will genuinely love wearing.
Is there a simple formula for nailing a women’s working wardrobe? The scope of what women can wear to work is certainly more diverse than it is for men. This can make it much more fun – being able to build a fantastic wardrobe for work that can be different every day. It’s also great to standout in a good way – but ultimately you want to be remembered for the fantastic work you do, so your clothes should enhance you rather than distract. The downside is that its easier to have those days where you misjudge the dress-code or your outfit just doesn’t go together quite right (and becomes a distraction), and its harder work to actually put together looks continually rather than just have to think about changing your shirt and tie! We try to make women’s lives easier by giving them fantastic quality basics that mix and match together, smart fabrics, and dresses which are flattering and can be dressed up for evening or events, but are perfectly appropriate for the office. We believe there is a great opportunity to really love what you are wearing to work and enjoy dressing for the office, since you do it for so much of the week!
Work shoes: are there rules? The main rule is make sure you can walk in them. Its fine to wear heels – they are fantastic and will often be the final key element that really makes an outfit, but there is nothing worse than tripping up all day or teetering along the hallway while the guys you are walking with are striding away into the distance. There are also lots of fantastic smart flats – but go for the ones that are properly made, a cheap pair which look sloppy will really let your look down. My favourite brands are: Uterque, Jemima Vine, and Upper Street shoes, where you can design your own pair.