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hermione underwood

Fashion, Lifestyle

Girlboss Q&A: Hermione Underwood, Founder of Atelier Romy and Espie Roche

23rd May, 2018

Being a true girlboss often requires a little multitasking. In Hermione Underwood’s case it’s a bonafide juggling act. Being at the helm of four business endeavours, that include handbag label Espie Roche and jewellery brand Atelier Romy, Hermione manages to make it look oh-so easy. After leaving her beloved Sydney behind to relocate to London, the entrepreneur has flourished in her new home and says it has been the major turning point in her career. Here Hermione chats to me about learning to be a little fish in a big pond, ignoring the doubters and why she thinks a positive attitude is everything.

You currently juggle your brand consultancy, your style and travel blog hermioneolivia.com, Atelier Romy and Espie Roche. How do you manage all four?

I find the busier I am, the more I get done. It just requires some fairly strategic time management and planning. Despite the fact there are multiple businesses, a lot of what I do crosses over so it is manageable.

What’s the biggest business challenge you’ve faced and how did you overcome it?

Pushing forth when people told me I was crazy… and then pushing forth when I momentarily thought they might be right!! More specifically, I would say raising capital investment for my fashion ventures and securing the entrepreneur visa in the UK have been recent highlights.

What’s been the biggest turning point in your career and why?

Moving to London was definitely the turning point for me. I wanted a challenge and boy-oh-boy did I get it. I went from being comfortable and supported to being a tiny fish in a big pond, having to build my network from scratch with limited resources whilst pursuing much bigger career goals. Four years later, the gamble is paying off and find it exciting to be working in a big international city on these businesses.

Who or what is your biggest inspiration?

I’m inspired by people who execute their vision. Those that quietly chip away to see success. Two Aussie friends, Alyce Tran of The Daily Edited and Justin Hemmes of Merivale come to mind… they both have the Midas touch.

How do you start each day?

Usually checking my whatsapp and emails and racing off to a meeting…!

What drives you?

At the end of the day, I just want to do good work that I’m proud of, be challenged and always be learning. I thrive seeing vision come to fruition. I feel very fortunate that my work rarely feels like work because I’ve turned my passions for travel, brands and fashion into businesses.

What are some tools – whether it be a gadget, an app, a favourite site – that help you manage all your various businesses and projects?

I actually run my businesses on whatsapp—it’s obviously immediate and allows my business partners and I to share and easily access documents, references, passwords, designs—you name it—all in one place at any time.

I also use Planoly and UNUM which are Instagram planning and scheduling apps.

What do you think has been the key to your success?

Success is an interesting word. I don’t feel as if I’ve made a success of myself just yet but I would say that I now have the foundations I dreamt of because of hard work, not taking no for an answer and putting my fears to the side.

Where do you hope to take your businesses in future?

I’d like to see my brands Atelier Romy and Espie Roche grow internationally, continue to develop their unique aesthetics and collections and continue learning about the digital/social space to bring them to life online. Recently I’ve acquired a really wonderful group of international clients which I’m helping to infiltrate into the UK and Australian markets which is really exciting for me.

What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learnt in your career?

Positive attitude is everything and as my grandfather used to say, ‘the harder I worked, the luckier I became’.

What’s your working style? 

I try to have at least 1 meeting free day each week. This allows me to focus on real work. I’m also most productive in the morning so I try to ensure meetings are in the afternoon to give me that time to catch up on Australian clients who have emailed overnight, and to get the most important tasks done before the day begins.

Every day is different for me. If I’m not shooting or travelling, I’ll usually work at Chess Club in Mayfair or at one of the Soho Houses.

What’s your number one social media tip for someone starting a business?

Have a clear vision and aesthetic, know your audience and unwaveringly stick to it. I also think it’s important to not take it too seriously and to let your personality shine through.

What’s the best piece of advice you can give to anyone starting a business?

You are going to be faced with countless hurdles and have your decision tested repeatedly so make sure you are truly passionate about whatever it is you are pursuing.

Fashion, What I Wore

Meet Espie Roche – the new luxe Australian bag brand you’re going to love

11th April, 2018

Quality is so important to me so I love it when I discover brands that are not only doing beautifully well made pieces but that they also have a link close to home. Espie Roche is the brainchild of Australians Hermione Espie Underwood and Airlie and Alexandra Roche Hamilton who looked to their mothers love of classic, longlasting handbags as inspiration throughout the creative process. To honour this journey they decided to use their mothers’ respective maiden names to craft the moniker, Espie Roche. Each piece in the range is made in Italy with quality leather and hardware and all four handbag designs are simple, elegant and designed to be a forever piece. Bespoke orders are also available if you’re really after a bag that’s all your own.

When I asked Hermione, Airlie and Alexandra about the brand’s aesthetic they describe it as being “about discretion and the elegance of simplicity. Our pieces are not overtly branded, we want you to wear the bag, not for the bag to wear you!” This really resonated with me as I always gravitate towards bags that are understated and quite simple and in a way, that to me, is what makes them stand out. I want pieces that won’t date and that I know I can pass down to my daughters when they’re older.

The brand’s hero piece is the Arno satchel, which I’m wearing below. Not only is it a great size and shape, it’s got my favourite bag criteria covered in that I’m able to wear it in multiple ways. The bag comes with a detachable strap so I can wear it as a satchel for days when I’m busy running around, a top-handle bag for dressy events and a clutch for an evening out. Also, I love the grey hue which is understated and so wearable. I know I’ll be able to pair this with multiple outfits with minimal fuss. There is a lovely timeless feel to the style which is important to me as I’m all about accessories that have longevity and are destined to become a wardrobe staple—something that Espie Roche echoes through and through.

Credits: Blazer, Rebecca Vallance; Jeans, Camilla and Marc; Satchel, Espie Roche; Sunglasses, Pared; Heels, Gucci

Photography: Sophia Athas