Join us throughout July as we celebrate the #InternationalIrish. This month IrishCentral pays tribute to the Irish who are breaking the mold, smashing glass ceilings, and emerging as the next generation of global thinkers and leaders.
Below we chat with the Co-Founder of FORM Atelier, Avril Nolan, who along with her husband, Quy Nguyen, launched in Soho, New York City, where they sell antiques, textiles and vintage jewelry, as well as consulting on interiors and spaces. After a decade of working in fashion and PR Nolan tells all on what makes her tick and how her Irish family and her Irish contacts have been so important to her life and career thus far.
How did you start out in your career?
I spent a little time in London during and after college working in various internships and jobs to gain experience but I had always wanted to give New York a try so I researched and planned it throughout college and moved over here 'for a year' - that was about nine years ago.
I worked at so many different internships and jobs for the first year I lived here, trying to balance paid work with unpaid experience. I remember at one point I had five different jobs/internships on the go at once. However, I knew I needed an employer to sponsor me if I was to stay beyond my initial one-year visa so I started looking for something more stable and that was how I fell into the fashion public relations (PR) world.
Through PR I worked with some amazing brands I'd never imagined myself working for, I gained a lot of invaluable insight into the industry and into running a business, and I met many inspiring people along the way. However, it was never my true passion so a little over two years ago, I left PR to start FORM Atelier with my husband, Quy. We now have a small store in SoHo and we also consult on interiors and spaces. Rather than simply 'mixing old and new', we're interested in revealing the modernity in antiques.
To some, in particular, younger generations, I think the antique world can be intimidating or overwhelming but, for us, it's a lifelong journey of learning. We want to inspire and encourage others to re-think antiques and objects and to find and refine their own eye over time. When I have the time, I really enjoy posting to the journal on our website with short little insights into the antique world in a way that's very approachable and unpretentious.
What spurred your decision to move to the US?
As a kid, I used to visit New York with my family to visit my mum's sister, Clare.
Clare was the most glamorous, fabulous person I had ever met (my sister and I used to tear through her wardrobe, staging mini-fashion shows in her living room.) At a very young age, I had already made the decision that I was going to move here to be 'just like Clare'.
What do you believe was the secret to your success?
Honestly, I don't think there is a secret. It takes a lot of hard work to make anything look easy.
Success - in New York or anywhere - takes a lot of perseverance and determination.
Do you consider being Irish as part of your brand?
It's not really relevant to my brand but it's definitely a big part of me as a person - I never want to lose that.
Who are the Irish people you admire the most, one from history and one from today?
From history, Eileen Gray - she was such a badass and is a big inspiration of mine.
From today, I really admire Nicola Parish, the owner of Parish PR. One of my first internships here was with Nicola and we've kept in touch since. I admire that she started her own agency as a brand-new Mom and has basically been killing it ever since, working with clients like Sony and Paramount on their premieres and red-carpet events.
It's thanks to Nicola I found myself casually standing beside SJP, Brad Pitt, Johnny Depp, Julianne Moore, Bill Murray, etc etc within a couple of months of moving over here. And she's still as down-to-earth as ever.
What has been your worst day on the job that you’d rather forget, and did you learn anything from it?
I guess I already blacked it out as I honestly can't remember...
What has been the hardest thing about living in the US as an Irish person?
The visa process. They definitely don't make it easy to move over here. Luckily, I did most of my visa stuff pre-Trump, I can only imagine what it's like now. I know it's a lot more difficult.
How does a normal day start out for you?
When I can, I love to start the day with a Pilates class. I've been going to the same studio for almost nine years now. I'm not naturally a morning person but dragging myself to an 8am class really helps set me up for the day.
Otherwise, I'll take a quick walk around the park in my neighborhood and listen to a podcast - getting out of the apartment first thing really helps me wake up.
Favorite career moment to date?
Opening our first store in SoHo. We're almost a year in and sometimes it still doesn't feel real.
If you could be anything else in the world, what would it be and why?
A tree. A really wise, old oak tree.
Using five words, describe what is needed by somebody starting out in your industry?
Determination, patience, perseverance, curiosity, and creativity. And body strength - there's a lot of schlepping.
What is your favorite Irish brand?
Once you get off the plane in Ireland, what is the first thing you look forward to doing the most?
Giving my mum a hug and sleeping in my own bed. Then going to Avoca for lunch - there isn't really an equivalent over here, unfortunately.
Favorite place in Ireland?
Home (Rathgar) with my Mum.
* For more visit www.form-atelier.com.