After two stints in London working for British VOGUE, former fashion magazine publisher and our editor-at-large Emily Armstrong returned home to Sydney for a couple of years. She recently relocated from Sydney to Singapore with her family...
Inspired by her travels, Emily is also the founder of The Paradise Catcher, a chic accessories line (you’ll want one of her basket bags which can be personalised with initials and motifs this summer). A busy mama of three – Beatrice, Eddie and Agnes – Emily recognises that family chaos isn’t always stylish, but believes we can all daydream. We spent 5 minutes with our editor-at-large to get a peek inside her world…
Holding image: Grace Alyssa Kyo
Emily Armstrong photographed by Julie Adams
How would you sum up your role with The Grace Tales?
I work on brand and content strategy for The Grace Tales with founder and superstar, Georgie. We map out the year together and keep on track with weekly (and more) meetings via Skype. We think global and find new and interesting ways to connect with our audience whether this is through brand extensions such as GRACE TALKS events, video series, a podcast (coming soon!) or something new which is mega exciting and been taking up a lot of our planning time – hint GRACE COLLECTIVE. We brainstorm everything from inspiring mothers to profile, to editorial features, to brand collaborations to new contributors from around the world. I also help with writing stories and curating social posts too. Now I’m based in Singapore I am focusing on Asia content and am excited to connect and reveal more with so many incredible women from the region.
Talk us through what you were doing before you joined the team?
My last big role was as Associate Publisher of British Vogue. I had worked at Vogue in London for about eight years (with a break in between in Sydney working at Vogue and then on the launch of fashion weekly, Grazia). I had worked my way up on British Vogue from being the research manager after leaving advertising agency land. I had some of my happiest years ever in London working with an incredible team at Vogue. I returned to Australia again from the UK in late 2014, and for this next chapter, it was all about how I could try to balance family and work. During these recent years, I had my third baby, turned 40, launched my own accessories brand, The Paradise Catcher, edited In/Out by the Arent&Pyke interior design studio… and joined The Grace Tales team.
Favourite part of your job?
All of it! One of the great things about being part of a small team with a dynamic founder is that you can make things happen… fast. We come up with an idea and we just go for it. There are no departments to check in with or forms to fill out! Working with Georgie is really the highlight. She is a dear friend now, someone I admire and respect hugely. Georgie is all about the sisterhood. I have never met anyone in my career that is so kind and such a supporter of women. She genuinely cares about and celebrates the successes of the women we profile, and is passionate about storytelling, connecting and supporting women through motherhood and beyond. And of course the whole point what we do – the why – is empowering other mothers, so being a part of telling their stories is really wonderful.
What are your time management tips?
This is honestly not my forte, though two things I’ve found that help me are – 1) getting up early before anyone else at home. It’s amazing how much I can get through and how smoothly the day runs from there. I have always been a night owl but flipping it has made a massive difference for me, and 2) removing my mobile phone from my workspace – if I’m on deadline or just need to tackle something with focus, I put my phone on charge in another room. I can procrastinate like crazy if I start scrolling and/or be reminded of all the things I need to do with flashing WhatsApp messages and the like. And yes, I do have to put it in another room otherwise I reach for it. Sad but true…
How do you like your coffee?
I don’t like my coffee, I love it! I’m currently trialling no dairy (or soy) so it’s an almond milk flat white and I waste time driving to the only cafe in Singapore I have found to order it! Or I make it at home. Either way, I can’t really start the day physically or mentally without that coffee ritual.
What was your last fashion buy?
Last ‘investment’ buy was a linen Albus Lumen dress which I’ve already worn so much. Then loads of Mango’s summer collection, Lucy Folk headbands, which I’m obsessed with, and some little gold mixed earrings, ear cuff and anklet from my fave, Missoma. All really for my recent European summer holiday.
How do you approach the juggle?
You win some, you lose some. And with that I mean the days doing the juggle. Parenting is the antithesis of perfection and after a few years doing the mama thing I’ve wised up to that… I’ve found you’ve just got to let go a bit. When our third baby came along, it was a big lesson, as truly there is always someone or something to worry about. So my attitude now is about one day at a time – ‘what’s happening today and how can I adapt’. Some days you’ve just got to laugh or cry and remember tomorrow is a new day. But some days are so tiring physically and mentally when there are fighting siblings, toddler (or in my case 7-year-old) tantrums, stacks of laundry to do, family members ill and a work deadline. But there are those really amazing days too and amazing moments even on the worst days (usually when I’m watching them sleep!). And I guess it’s all first world problems. Something that I read on The Grace Tales recently was a game changer for me – read it here. It was an article about changing your mindset from ‘I have to do this’ to ‘I get to do this’ and it’s such a cool little trick to have up your sleeve when you catch yourself feeling overwhelmed about everything that has to be done. I know I am so incredibly lucky to have my children and the opportunity to work flexibly too. Gratitude is key to approaching the juggle for me. A good night’s sleep helps enormously too.
Favourite work attire?
As I work from home presently, work attire is not really something I consider. In the past, it has been dresses in summer and jeans/blazers/tees or skirts/sweaters in winter. For now, it’s a bit of a hot mess of exercise gear and school run get-ups.
Piece of advice for mums juggling work and kids?
Go easy on yourselves! It is not easy to juggle! People train for years in a circus! Seriously though, even though we are slowly gaining more choices as working mothers, the gender bias around childcare and housework still exists. I really feel that women are just doing more (more work, more housework, more childcare, more juggle) instead of working on ways as a society and family to enable mothers to work, parent and take care of ourselves physically and mentally.
They say it takes a village but in my experience, that village may not always exist. If you don’t have family around who are able to help or a great community it can be challenging and isolating for working parents to manage the juggle. We have such a long way to go to support working mothers at work and at home.
Despite all of the above, I feel it’s so worth the frustrations that sometimes come with the juggle, as if you love your work, it’s so good to keep that part of you that is you, in whatever capacity, and at whatever stage you can manage as a family. There will be good days where it all works and you feel pretty smug and there will definitely be days where everything goes wrong and you feel like you’re not being a good mummy or a good colleague or a good partner. That’s when you need a kind, honest tribe of women around you to remind you we’re all just doing our best.