“After 10 years in New York, we moved back to Sydney and one of the things I missed was access to top quality wardrobe basics. Clothes that are not too tricked up, made from great quality natural fibres and could work with pieces I already had in my wardrobe. And for me that quintessential wardrobe staple is a button-down shirt,” says mother of three Victoria McEvoy...
It inspired an idea – a brand of timeless men and women’s shirts. Having previously worked for Ralph Lauren and Tory Burch, she launched Irving & Powell with the philosophy that great style should never look too much like hard work. We recently collaborated with McEvoy on the perfect gingham shirt – it’s the one item every woman needs in her wardrobe this season (and the one after that – shop it here). Read on to hear McEvoy’s tips on starting a business, juggling three children and fashion. Photography: Julie Adams | Styling: Viva Vayspap | www.irvingandpowell.com | Pictured above: Irving & Powell X GRACE ‘Franklin Gingham’ shirt, $140
How would you describe yourself in three words?
(Relatively) calm, positive, upbeat.
What has motherhood taught you so far?
Motherhood has, of course, taught me a great deal about things like unconditional love and the wonder of the human body. As my kids get older, it has taught me about people. We are all just doing the best we can and you can never know what it’s like to walk in someone else’s shoes. It has given me greater perspective about the community around us.
Talk us through how you came to launch Irving & Powell? Why is it unique in the market?
I felt there was an opportunity to really hero the shirt, especially for women, to offer best fitting shirt at the right price. I personally don’t really do fast, throwaway fashion. Sure, you get a deal but for me, I’m always disappointed when I get it home and it doesn’t fit right or worse, it looks old really fast. I also don’t think you should have to pay hundreds of dollars for quality basics either. There has to be some middle ground. That’s where Irving & Powell comes in. I want my customers to know they can always come back and get the fit they love, know their size, trust the quality and know Irving & Powell is a brand they can trust.
What do you love most about running your own fashion label?
My time at Ralph Lauren truly taught me about building a brand, the importance of having a distinct vision, aesthetic and always staying true to what you are trying to say. I love building a brand my way and really owning what I’m putting out there. I’ve also been really amazed at how dynamic it can be. From my corporate past, I’m used to long meeting sessions, months of pre-planning to get things through lengthy approval processes. With Irving & Powell decisions can be made and actioned on the fly, which is how I thrive. As an example, I’ve just loved working with Georgie and The Grace Tales on our exclusive collaboration. There has been a real sense of autonomy in how we’ve approached the workload required to get it off the ground and approving the little details that make this collaboration so special. It’s been really liberating and opened my eyes to managing your own destiny.
SHOP: Irving & Powell ‘Franklin Poplin’ Shirt, $140
What are your tips for women looking to set up their own business?
I feel a bit unsure about how to answer this question as I’m still really in such an early stage of owning my own business. But perhaps as someone who’s just starting out, I would say to first start a business plan. Get those hundreds of ideas floating around in your head down on paper. It doesn’t have to be a pretty document and you may not be able to answer all the questions right away but it’s an excellent place to start. There are some great tools, including templates at www.business.gov.au that will help to get you started. And it’s important to remember a business plan should be a fluid document, you can always come back to it, update it and change it as your ideas and business grow. My next tip would be to reach out to your network, be open to talking to anyone, even if they don’t have an immediate connection to the industry that you are in. Learning from others experience and knowledge can be insightful. Lastly, I would say to just dive in. You’re never going to have all your ducks in a row, it’s never going to be perfect timing, so stop putting it off, rip off that band-aid and just get started. Oh, and get yourself a really good accounting platform! Stay on top of where your dollars are and look at it all the time. It will help to keep you grounded.
What are some of the challenges you face running your own business?
For me my biggest challenge is time. I’ve got three kids, including Al who’s 16 months, so home life is, well, let’s just say, busy. Irving & Powell just has to fit in and somehow it just does. The other challenges are pretty standard for most small businesses. Getting your brand out there in an already flooded space. Finding capital when you really want to stay independent and self-funded. Remembering to work within your means. I have big aspirations for Irving & Powell and sometimes I get frustrated things aren’t moving faster. I just have to remind myself that for right now, with where I’m at personally, Irving & Powell is where it needs to be and that’s ok.
Have you always loved fashion?
I’ve always loved shopping and clothes, ever since I was little. Some of my fondest memories are of shopping with my mum. She really instilled in me from an early age that it is better to buy quality over quantity. Mum is an amazing sewer and knows a lot about fabrics and workmanship and passed that appreciation on to me too. Funnily enough, mum has started taking my daughter shopping and she loves it too. So I guess the apple doesn’t fall too far from the tree.
Talk us through your journey to motherhood – can you share any highs and lows?
My journey to motherhood was pretty easy truth be told. I had no challenges getting pregnant, no real morning sickness (I did have to eat A LOT of vegemite toast though) and easy births. I did, however, have terrible trouble breastfeeding and can clearly remember the emotional turmoil of those early days when Charlie and Polly wouldn’t feed from me but then would demolish a supplement bottle, which I had used a hospital grade pump to eek out of my breasts! We had a wonderful paediatrician in New York though who very quickly identified the issue and really pushed me to wean them and give them a bottle. I feel so thankful that she saw I was struggling and gave me a solution rather than insisting I persist, and probably fail. We always wanted three kids, but I just couldn’t do it back to back. So as a result, we have an eight and six-year gap between Charlie, Polly and Al. I did have a couple of miscarriages trying to get Al and they rocked me for sure. But I believe things like that happen for a reason so I took comfort in that. Al came along in 2016. I made the decision well in advance that I was not going to breastfeed him. It had just been too traumatic the first two tries. And that has been one of best decisions I’ve made as a mother. As a result, Al was born into a calm environment. I was relaxed so therefore he was too. And he’s pretty much been that way since – toddlerhood is, of course, debunking that theory but that’s to be expected!
Favourite way to style a shirt?
My style is really understated and I like things to look effortless. That’s what a shirt is for me – effortless style. You can dress it up, throw it on over a swimsuit, or when you’re running out of the house with three kids in tow you can throw on a shirt and look “done”. I think for me I actually have more of shirt “mantras”. I always roll the sleeve, a high roll or just a quick turn back, doesn’t matter, just needs to be rolled. I’m also a tucker – half tuck, full tuck, low tuck – just tuck it! Buttons I’m a bit more flexible. In winter, I often button up to the top, layered under a sweater. If I’m going out I like a low button. The Franklin’s third button is placed just so to make that low button spot on. As for the collar, sometimes you just want to pop.
Favourite shirt from your new collection?
Of course, I’m mad for the Irving & Powell X GRACE gingham shirt. It’s such a classic style. But I’m really excited about our new Popover Shirts, Sullivan for Her and Thompson for Him. A little bit tunic, a little bit safari, more relaxed than a traditional shirt. What makes it different is the ½ length button placket, meaning you need to “pop it over” your head. It’s is perfect for looking smart on casual days. It looks particularly good on the guys.
How do you juggle it all? What about your time management tips?
Having Al has definitely tipped the balance in our family. I learnt quickly that I needed to let things go a bit. If the beds aren’t made, the washings not folded straight away then that’s ok. I work from home so I need to be really strict about my childfree time and remain really focused. I head to the library, or a café to get out of the home environment, and away from those pressures. Sam and I did a meditation course a couple of years ago. That was a bit of a game changer for me. It really is a powerful tool to help clear your head, give you an energy boost, feel calmer and weirdly enough give you more time. And while I don’t do it as regularly as I know I should at the moment it is something I can tap into when I feel I really need it. It doesn’t always come naturally but I also ask for help when I need it and I take it when it’s offered.
You’re off the beach - what do you pack?
With kids or without??? Let’s dream and go without! I’d pack a big umbrella, a beach chair, sunglasses, water, a good book and our Sullivan Stripe Popover. Wouldn’t that be divine?