This week we talk to a lawyer and longtime Matilda customer Adria Poljak. Adria shared with us some of her life history, and how it's impacted her relationship with fashion.
Tell us about your family history.
My mother is Finnish but was raised in New Zealand, and my father is of Slovenian and Serbian descent, so it's a real mix. My mother is a nurse and came to Australia when she was twenty-one years old, where she met my father, whose family was already in Australia.
How did you arrive at law?
My career path has not been conventional and it’s probably accurate to say that it evolved over time as opportunities arose. I was actually more into science as a child, and was always performing experiments in my back yard, even at an early age. After high school I did a degree in Medical Science at the University of Technology Sydney, and went to work as a hospital scientist in the pathology division. Working in the hospital was loads of fun and always interesting as the pathology division was multi-disciplinary. This meant that on any shift I was working in haematology, microbiology, and biochemistry and transfusion medicine. It was through this work that I became interested in clinical trials, and specifically the ethics involved. This lead me to appreciate the legal and commercial aspects of the work, specifically intellectual property issues surrounding pharmacology and biotechnology. From there, I decided to study law. I studied a Masters of law and Legal Practice at UTS, during the day while doing night shifts in the hospital lab. My Masters component was in intellectual property, international trade and health law with a particular focus on Biotechnology. As my studies progressed I decided to leave the laboratory and became an Ethics Officer at Royal North Shore Hospital. In that role I managed the Human Research and Ethics Committee which approved and monitored clinical trials and research projects that were conducted in the hospital.
After the completion of my legal studies I volunteered at a community legal center in Sydney where I had the opportunity to do a lot of court work, and then I got a job with DLA Piper in Canberra, in their insurance division, before being encouraged to go to the bar. I was called to the Bar in 2012.
Although my initial intention was never to practice as a lawyer, I find that I really enjoy the work. In any event, it has somewhat done a full circle as my work now allows me to occasionally be involved in cases involving innovation, research and development and health law.
Your style can best be described as classic and elegant, without compromising on substance. When did you start to care about fashion?
To be honest, it wasn't for some time. I never much cared as a young girl, and as a scientist I was wearing a white lab coat most of the time, with little scope for fashion or to express myself through clothing.
I always followed my mother's advice and kept a few good pieces, and rotated my wardrobe around these, but nobody could ever accuse me of being fashionable then. It was only later, when I started working in law, that my real interest in fashion developed.
How did working in a professional environment affect your fashion choices and personal style?
I'm not one to wear suits of any kind, even when everyone in my professional world is wearing one around me. I like to wear a dress paired with jackets, or a skirt and blouse combo. I won't wear pants to the office - they're for the weekend, usually a pair of jeans. I'm not sure why you'd ever wear pants when you have the option to wear a dress - what can be easier than a one-piece outfit? And a black dress is probably the most versatile, most wearable single piece you could have.
Let's talk accessories. What works for you?
When I started working in law, I always made a point of wearing heels. Always. It gave me confidence, being elevated among my peers. There's something special about standing tall in front of the judge's bench, and being more equal to the men around me in height. I also believe heels make you appear stronger, and more striking. It's all about confidence.
So I love my shoes, and because I don't really accessorise with any jewellery, they carry a lot of my style. I've always felt jewellery doesn't look good on me - apart from my recently acquired engagement ring, of course! So it comes back to shoes and leather goods for me. My favourite brands are probably Salvatore Ferragamo for shoes, and Louis Vuitton for bags.
Your son, Alec, was born in 2010, so you've been a mother longer than you've been a barrister. How has that impacted your style?
Ease of wear was suddenly that much more important to me when I became a mother as well as a working woman with a growing career. Ease of care is also a huge factor: washable, with an option to iron. Quality fabrics are out there that can sustain wear but still look good every time.
Where do you draw your inspiration from?
I'm not a huge Facebook user, but love Instagram for inspiring different looks. I follow a lot of fashion publications, like Vogue, Harper's Bazaar, and a range of Australian and New Zealand designers.
What do you think of the current generation of Australian designers?
Out of the new Australian designers, By Johnny really strikes me as a standout dress maker. Their pieces are versatile, and not only is the quality outstanding, but so are their designs. Elegant enough to stand out, yet not so loud you can't wear it again and again, unlike other stand-out pieces which are made for big occasions and therefore only get occasional wear.
Sass and Bide are remarkable for their unique collections - great patterns, sophisticated yet fun and wearable. Their quality is fantastic. I also love their casual range - their jeans and tees are some of the best on the market.
How do you buy your clothes?
I don't like the experience of shopping - walking around, waiting for change rooms, trying on clothes and sizes. I'm a working woman, so I don't have time to browse half a dozen boutiques looking for inspiration. I am what you might call a binge shopper, in that I don't buy clothes all that often, but when I do, I buy a few items at once, after doing my research and being sure I know how what I buy fits into my wardrobe.
That's what drew me to Matilda. The convenience of shopping these Australian designers that I love, all in the one location, works for me. I also appreciate the regular e-mail updates about designer's releases - for a busy person, they work well. I joined their Styled by Matilda service and I'm able to message and ask what I want to try, and have them delivered to my work or home. I try them on at home, and know what I want to keep, and what I don't. Matilda is one of those rare businesses that is very response to my messages, and I appreciate that attention to my needs, as it makes me feel looked after, as if Matilda understands what I need or want for my wardrobe.