I was recently incredibly shocked to be nominated for my work abroad, as an Australian in the ‘Commercial Creative' category, by the Advance Global Australia’s Awards – So when I received an invitation to the gala to celebrate the awards this evening at The Sydney Opera House, I was thrilled to be able to attend & be in the same room as some of the most incredibly esteemed Australians, across many fields. So when my name was announced as being awarded the runner-up in this category, I nearly fell off my Opera House chair.
I am a very proud Australian who is based in New York City. I think I speak for most creatives, that when you are lucky enough to find a career that is truly creative, you almost feel as if you are cheating the system. The fact that someone would actually pay you to do what your absolute true passion is, and in most cases, what you would be doing as your hobby in your spare time, is the epitome of doing what you love.
I think it is a fact that most creatives start out broke, couch surfing between friends apartments early in their career because they can’t afford rent, or like me, survived off baked bean jaffles (oh the irony… for anyone who follows our IG feed) for the first two years of my creative existence. Such is the hustle to break & survive into this elusive ‘art world'.
So when all your perfectly pantone coloured ducks all line up, being that you are able to be creative day in & day out, AND get paid for it, there is an constant fear that someone from the accounts department is going to knock on your door at any given moment, ask you to hand back your paint brushes & ideas… and all the money you have been paid over the course of your career for all the fun things you have had the pleasure of creating. The fear is real.
As a creative, you choose an avenue early on in your career. I refer to these two options as an ‘Artist’, or a ‘Commercial Creative', and I often joke that you can tell the difference, because the true artists are usually the ones, years on, still surviving on baked bean jaffles! For such admirable reason, such is their commitment to their art, it is of the purest form where money, notoriety or public & industry approval have no value to them – because it truly is about their art.
Not me – I chose the Commercial Creative avenue from day one. It would have been fraudulent of me not to. I grew up in Port Macquarie, I finished high school, but never went to university, so my education on fine art consisted of my Dad adding water to the paint when Mum wasn’t looking so he could finish the kitchen walls without having to go down to Bunning’s to pick up another tin.
The digital age we now live in has changed the landscape of the creative world. Because now everyone is a creator, if you have a instagram feed, you are a publisher, anyone can produce content & be a blogger – it is looked at in two ways within the industry, but I believe it is a positive thing. I believe it is positive because it keeps established creatives on their toes & continually having to move forward & create newness; it allows renegades (like me!) with no formal training to hustle like its nobodies business to forge their way through with nothing but a dream & a willingness to do whatever it takes, & it also allows commercial creatives to interact personally with our consumers on a day to day basis.
I often get asked what inspires my designs. Is it my travel? Is the colour of the spices in the Moroccan Market? The blush palette of the sun setting in Greece? I know they want me to say something that has such romance, but the honest truth is that, as a commercial creative, I am inspired entirely by our consumers….(YOU!) And the beauty of that, is that in this day & age, you are showing me daily how you are wearing my product, telling me what you want, and also what you don’t; you are showing me your favourite colours & allowing me into your lives, showing me how my product plays a part in that. The #SAMANTHAWILLS Hashtag has been used over 74,000 times, and it blows my mind. I think that is so incredibly gracious on your part & makes me so thankful to be able to be a commercial creative in this day & age.
We have over 139,000 Facebook fans & are about to hit 200,000 Instagram followers – so our access to our most engaged consumers is high – but I truly believe that with that type of following, comes great responsibility. The majority of our followers are young females, it would be remiss of me to portray my story as one of all fashion industry glamour & no sweat, a series of airbrushed images that imply I just woke up one day with a global company, or that this fashionable life & path is only for the ‘chosen few’, because that would be fraudulent.
The truth is, for the first 3 years of this journey, I hand made every single piece of jewellery on my dining room table, my hands bled, and I was getting about 3 hours of sleep per night. I have had more doors closed in my face than I care to think about, but that just made me incredibly savvy about finding open windows. I have sacrificed relationships due to the amount of travel & time required to build a company from the ground up; there have been nights I haven’t been able to sleep given the pressure of what I am responsible for. I have pissed industry people off by speaking my belief that there is no actual ‘need’ for what we do in the fashion industry, but it is purely an industry based on ‘want’. And as such, it is my belief that we, as established creatives, need to be giving back. Giving back with time, knowledge, mentoring, funds, encouragement, inspiration. Something. Anything.
And that’s what I am going to use this amazing award for. I am going to use it as an example to our followers, that if a girl with no tertiary education, from small town Port Macquarie, can now be based in New York City, and be paid to every single day do what she loves, and tonight, is standing here at the Sydney Opera House accepting an award that celebrates that – then hell, so can you.
With eternal thanks & gratitude to the esteemed panel of judges & referees for this honor. I will continue to fly the Aussie flag proudly Stateside, and will continue to develop the SW Brand to further grow our platforms to be able to share our story that I hope shows women everywhere that anything is possible. Thank you. – SWx