Thursday, September 24, 2015

SHE'S IN SIMONS: MONICA GAULT OF POPPY BARLEY

She's in Simons is a blog series produced in collaboration with Canadian fashion brand, Simons. We're profiling inspiring Alberta creatives who celebrate style through their work and wardrobes. This instalment was photographed by the very talented Carmyn Joy at the Pinterest-esque Poppy Barley Edmonton Showroom. 

You might call Monica Gault the woman behind the brand. She's been with Edmonton-founded e-commerce success story Poppy Barley right from the beginning. Actually, even before the beginning. 

Monica works as the Brand Designer Manager at Poppy Barley – which if you don't know about, you should. It's one of our proudest Alberta fashion success stories, a revolutionary online bespoke shoe company that is changing the way we wear shoes by offering custom made footwear through the click of your mouse at affordable prices. 

The company's now iconic blue logo and minimalist poppy flower and barley stem were thoughtfully designed by Monica. After completing a post-degree design program in Vancouver, she was introduced to Poppy Barley sister founders Justine and Kendall Barber. Monica would eventually move back to Edmonton to mould a visual identity from scratch that would communicate a new online concept to shoppers – not an easy feat. 

As the lead graphic designer, Monica keeps extraordinarily busy creating and designing everything from packaging, ads, signage, the company's website, even the tiny engravings you'll find on Poppy Barley's shoe hardware and the hand painted blue flower motif inside the brand's new bag collection. From the moment you click to the homepage of the Poppy Barley website, to the branded box that arrives at your door with your new shoes, Monica has visually designed each step of your Poppy Barley experience. 

Monica is wearing an Icone Top, A.L.C Skirt and Simons bracelet all from Simons, and Modern Mary Jane flats from Poppy Barley.

When and how did you join Poppy Barley?
While I was still living in Vancouver my sister Caroline Gault actually connected me with Kendall Barber, Poppy Barley’s co-founder through Skype, because at the time Kendall was looking for a graphic designer to help design a logo for a boot company her and her sister were starting. This was a really exciting prospect for me, because in design it's rare to be given the opportunity to design a brand from scratch. When they were ready to offer me a position full-time, though perhaps a risky venture, it was a no-brainer to join them.

What were your first steps in designing the Poppy Barley brand?
Company identity is very important for me, I’m not the type of person who can just design a logo overnight for a client. I need proper resources to truly figure out what makes each client unique and how I can best tell their story through design. So for Poppy Barley, rather than jumping straight into design, I spent a lot of time figuring out how Justine and Kendall envisioned their company. I did this through conversations and questionnaires, but also by getting them to share examples of brands they found inspiring, and also, hearing what they think the brand voice might be. I was gathering information from a spectrum of sources. These materials are what get me going. Once I had all this information from them I was able to design a few mood boards and then eventually create a few preliminary sketches for Poppy Barley’s logo. How has Poppy Barley’s logo evolved over time, or has it?
It absolutely has. It’s a lot simpler today. When Poppy Barley began we didn’t have lot to work with in terms of visual content, so I ended up designing something that had a lot of graphic style to it because when you don’t have a budget for lifestyle photos or models you have to convey that message in other ways. But gradually as we have been able to grow and tell a fuller visual story through photography we have pulled back on the logo, creating something a little more simple and streamlined. What is your design philosophy?
Design is never finished – after collaborating, tweaking and reworking in as many ways as you can think of, you have to decide when to stop and just put it out there to see what kind of response you get. Then you can take the results of real users and analyze the reaction to improve the next version, and the next and the next. Test, get smarter, tweak and improve the design. That is what Poppy Barley does every day — always trying to get better at what we're doing and knowing nothing is ever final.

What are you continually working towards or trying to achieve with your work at Poppy Barley?
User experience is super important for me. The design is not good unless it’s functional. Brand-story is also very important and carefully choosing how we tell this story. There is so much that can be done in terms of telling our company, employee and customers' stories. What is a typical day of work?
Everything I do is to support and drive forward our brand, website and community. Of course there are daily activities to maintain operations — social media, product development, website optimization, marketing, promotions, advertising, customer experience and concierge support — but the biggest part is envisioning with the team the possibilities for Poppy Barley, and prioritizing all our ideas so we can keep pushing e-commerce, transparent manufacturing and fashion-tech forward. Pushing it forward into something that is honest, fun, approachable and people-focused.

We have to ask... you work with your sister, Caroline Gault, how is that?
It really is great. Caroline and I are quite close, and it’s so awesome to work with someone who you are 100% confident with their ability to do something. That said, this goes for everyone at the Poppy Barley office. It’s so great to have co-workers who are uniquely incredible at their position. Is it hard being creative everyday?
It can be. There are definitely days when I’m just not feeling creative, but it’s important to take some personal time to really hash out ideas and get to that creative point. Creative group exercises can also be really helpful.


How has working for Poppy Barley changed your personal style?
It’s definitely changed the way I shop. I’m so much more aware that my clothing is made by actual humans, so I tend to invest in higher quality pieces that will last a long time, rather than just indulging in fast-fashion.
I also used to wear heels 85% of the time. I felt it was classier and more feminine and elongated my legs. But gradually, I tried out the flats and now have completely done a 180 — barely ever wearing heels. I think back to early days of walking 20 blocks to work in heels and just think how silly and painful! What I love about our shoes is that they feel professional, dressy and put together, but they are totally comfortable and practical.




2 comments

  1. Thank you for this article and for giving us a behind-the-scenes peek at Poppy Barley. I've always loved their product and the look and feel of their brand -- nice to read about the woman behind it!

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  2. I am loving this series so far Janice! Thank you so much for sharing all these amazing women and their stories. It's so inspirational.

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Thanks for your comment! xo