Exploring the multiple aspects of design and creativity with Samantha Wills

Having burst onto the fashion-accessories scene at Australian Fashion Week in 2004, Samantha Wills has been heralded as one of Australia’s leading creative forces, speakers and personalities. She was all of 21 when thrust into the spotlight, and has since then carved a niche for herself in the industry to create an empire worth millions. Having spent the last decade in New York City, she’s recently returned home to Sydney, where she now works as a creative director, writer and keynote speaker.

After building one of Australia’s best-known accessories brands, Samantha is passionate about sharing her insights into modern and creative entrepreneurship. Her desire to nurture, educate and support emerging founders and entrepreneurs saw her create the Samantha Wills Foundation in 2016.

The Talk Design podcast episode had Samantha and host Adrian Ramsay delve into many areas, including her role as an Australian creative success story, the creative process, feminine vs masculine energy, and shedding the frameworks that have been set for us, and tend to hold us back.

The conversation kicked off with Adrian discussing the ideas of ‘feminist’ and ‘feminine’, and if the two were mutually exclusive.

“I think it’s a stigma that they can’t coexist,” Samantha said.

“A lot of my design energy is ‘masculine meets feminine’.”

As her career and life evolved, she has brought the masculine-feminine blend to her work, in a professional and activist capacity. Adrian’s own experience mirrors this approach, but admits in the interview he approached his career in designing womenswear with a masculine mindset.

Samantha also runs her namesake foundation, a platform designed to empower women in business, and chronicled its founding in her memoir, Of Gold and Dust. Given her successful career path and her role as a business mentor for women, Adrian asked how she could be everything to everyone.

“You can’t,” she replied. “If you try to be everything to everyone, you end up engaging no-one.

“In the world of 7 billion people, the natural creative process is to think ‘It’s already been done,’ or ‘Who am I to do this sort of thing?’

‘If there’s a way that we speak or want to be communicated with, or there’s a value we hold, there’s a huge market of other people who are like minded,” she said.

Being that she’s now in her late 30s and afforded the opportunity to look back and reflect, Samantha spoke about how her career was one of good fortune coupled with talent.

“People say, you were so brave to do it at 21, and I was naive. I look back at 21 me and if I knew then what I know now, I would be much more hesitant and scared. But ignorance is bliss in some ways, and that really allows you to take some big jumps sometimes.”

As for her creative inspiration and ‘force’, she affirmed to Adrian that there’s got to be something deeper, as a driving force within the creative person.

“As a creative veteran, a creative founder, to me it’s more detrimental, fraudulent to push forward without that creative soul. So if I’m showing up every day and designing jewelry with my hands and not my heart, the whole thing’s a disconnection. And that’s more fraudulent to me, and that’s when I would start to see it commercially run into the ground.”

Samantha Wills’ memoir, Of Gold and Dust is available here.

Adrian Ramsay is an award-winning designer based in Buderim on Queensland’s Sunshine

Coast. His podcast Talk Design features leading figures from the world of architecture and design in conversation about their process.

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