“Simple can be harder than complex. You have to work hard to get your thinking clean to make it simple.”
— Steve Jobs
10 years ago Audrey McLoghlin founded Frank & Eileen (named for her grandparents) a high-end brand which has been worn by Oprah, Ellen Degeneres, and a whole bunch of other glamorous ladies. Grayson (named for her daughter) is Audrey’s most recent project, a brand offering the perfect shirt for every woman, at a price point that’s achievable for those of us who aren’t Oprah. We’ve been test-driving the Hero Shirt around Brooklyn for the past couple months and we’re loving it. We’ve got a Q&A with Audrey below, AND she’s offered Woolfers 20% off purchases from Grayson using the code THEWOOLFERS at checkout!
Stephanie and Nina in their Grayson Hero Shirts.
We heard you started your career in engineering, how did that come about?
Shortly before I was born, my parents emigrated from Ireland with nothing but what they could fit in a single crate (which we kept in our garage as a toy box as I grew up). My father was a very tough man and living with him wasn’t easy, but he was an Engineer and he encouraged my love for math at a young age. My mother always told me that if I studied Engineering, I’d be able to do literally anything I wanted afterward. So I got a degree in Industrial Engineering from Georgia Tech, then went on to work for an MIT startup during the first dot-com boom. I ultimately felt creatively stifled (and tired of being the only woman), but my mom was right; the training did prove invaluable for my career. I have a deep understanding of manufacturing and a ruthlessly logical mind that’s helped me immensely in the fashion industry.
What’s the story behind Grayson?
Over the past five years or so, I’ve really watched the world change. The fashion and retail industries have undergone a seismic shift, women have made extraordinary strides, and my own world was rocked after I had my first child three years ago. So I got to thinking, ‘knowing everything that I’ve learned throughout my career, what kind of company would I create today?’ And the answer was Grayson, which makes just one single, perfect, everyday button-up silhouette in a variety of ridiculously good fabrics. It took me forever to find a textile manufacturer that could partner with me to meet my quality standards at an accessible price, and then I spent a year fitting over 30 different real women of all shapes and sizes to really nail the silhouette. I think women today are quite literally superheroes — we’re all juggling so many things and transforming the world around us, in ways big and small — so we deserve an awesome shirt that makes us feel effortlessly pulled together and ready for anything.
Why just the one style of shirt? do you plan on expanding?
We designed our signature silhouette, The Hero, to look incredibly good in a million different fabrications. We fit over 30 different real women (not models) of all shapes and sizes to make sure the silhouette was truly perfect, and it took me almost five years to find a textile manufacturer who could partner with me to make beautiful fabrics with real integrity at an accessible price point. We won’t make another one for another year or so, but yes, we will eventually release another silhouette. I don’t want to give too much away just yet, but it’s called The Trailblazer.
What’s your intended “corporate vibe” at Grayson?
We have “roll up your sleeves and conquer the day” written in massive neon letters across our office wall, because it’s something my mom always told me and something of a motto for me. We’re a creative bunch and not very corporate, but we work incredibly hard and we’re not afraid to challenge one another. I want the office to be a place where people feel like they can be completely themselves, but also inspired to push past their limits and reach beyond their comfort zones.
Can you tell us about the Grayson Dollhouse?
Yes! When I had my daughter a few years ago, honestly, motherhood kicked me in the teeth. I really struggled with figuring out how to be an entrepreneur and a mother at the same time. And I thought, ‘if it’s this hard for me, and I own my own company, I imagine this must be nearly impossible for other women.’ So I built a two-story life-size playhouse modeled after a beautiful house for moms to bring their kids to work if they want to. Some women have their children in the office all day with a nanny, so they can take time to play with them or breastfeed, etc., and others bring their kids in when childcare inevitably falls through or there’s a school closure. It’s just one way we’re hopefully walking the walk and sending a physical signal that career and motherhood don’t have to be constantly at odds with one another.
What staples would you say every woman needs in her professional wardrobe?
First, a really good, well-fitting bra — it’s something I see time and time again when we fit women in our shirts. When you have a bra that lifts and separates, your shirts will just feel and fit better. Beyond that, I’d say just classic pieces made from high-quality fabrics that fit really well and are made to last. It takes a lot of trial and error to find those things, but when I do, I buy them in multiples. Oh, and simple, everyday jewelry that you really love and feel like personal, signature pieces.
How has your personal style evolved over the past 20 years?
Ha. So much! In my math & science days, I used to think J.Crew was the height of fashion. But over the years I’ve spent so much time with people who are really the best at what they do — whether it’s textile manufacturing, garment dyeing, or denim washes — that my taste level has changed dramatically. Now I only want to spend my money on things that have been made with real integrity. In the summer, I live in our lightweight Mary shirt dresses. I can’t stand being overheated — it’s the Irish in me! I gravitate towards classic but special pieces that are never too fussy and can all be paired together in a million different ways.
What’s the most unexpected challenge you’ve faced launching a new brand?
It’s not unexpected, but connecting with people on a really big scale is harder and harder for brands today. Once women try on our shirts and really get a sense of the fit, they can usually feel the quality and all the intention that’s gone into the design and they fall in love right away. But there’s just so much noise today and we’re all moving a mile a minute and getting our information from so many different places, so it’s not easy to get people’s attention in a meaningful way.