From spending her childhood years in a sleepy beachside town located on the NSW North Coast to amassing an empire of jewellery worn by famous celebrities, twenty-something creative, Samantha Wills, “dreamt big” and “achieved bigger”.
Having moved to Sydney at age 20, the business-savvy blonde chose to forgo university to work in retail until she “figured out where my place was in this world”.
Wills initially set-up her label selling costume jewellery at the Bondi Beach market; a forum well-known for showcasing some of Australia’s best up-and-coming design talent.
The Samantha Wills brand made its official debut at Australian Fashion Week in 2004, with Wills meeting her current business partner, Geoff Bainbridge, three years on. Wills credits Bainbridge with growing Samantha Wills into a commercially viable brand, currently sold throughout Australia, Asia and the USA.
Famous fans of her jewellery include actors Eva Mendez, Kate Bosworth, Drew Barrymore and Jessica Biel. A selection of Wills’ jewellery also featured in the fashionista’s cult classic movie, Sex and the City.
Now residing in the “Big Apple” (New York City), Wills regularly frequents Sydney for business and to visit family and friends.
Editor, Michelle Larin, interviewed the talented jewellery designer about her brand, views on style and fashion and to find out where Samantha Wills is headed next.
Q: Thanks for speaking with Net-A-Shopper Samantha; can you tell me more about what inspired you to become a jewellery designer?
A: Throughout school, I undertook a few creative subjects, but these subjects always involved a lot of limiting criteria. I was frustrated by this (probably very obnoxiously), as I wanted to have free reign to execute my creative ideas as I saw fit and not how someone else wanted them to be. Starting my own business seemed like a means to be able to do this.
I've always loved that jewellery can be created for all women, despite their shape or size. Once I discovered the confidence my pieces inspired in women as they wore them, I was hooked!
Q: How do you conceptualise your designs and what inspires their creation?
A: My designs are inspired by various experiences, people, objects, books, lyrics and many other things! Depending on the season, I immerse myself in whatever adventure life has planned for me and embrace all experiences with open arms. I see the beauty in even the most simple things in life and I draw on this when designing. A constant source of inspiration for me are the women who wear Samantha Wills jewellery. We are lucky, as brand builders in this day and age, to have platforms like Facebook & Instagram to provide visual images of the Samantha Wills woman wearing her jewellery. It is her that I design for; she is my muse.
Q: What is your ethos as a designer?
A: Always be true to your signature style.
Q: Where is your jewellery made and why?
A: Where a particular piece of jewellery is made depends on the types of materials used in its creation. Most of our semi-precious stones are sourced from China, crystal is from Korea, woods and leathers are from India and our couture pieces are all handmade in our New York City studio. Each geographic region specialises in certain materials and we capitalise on that.
Q: What type of materials do you use to create your jewellery?
A: Depending on the piece, we may use natural dyed stones, semi-precious stones, Swarovski and czech crystals, leather, silks, woods and resins.
Q: Who is your style icon?
A: I love Kate Moss' bohemian chic style. It’s timeless.
Q. Describe your personal style? What would you normally be seen wearing?
A: My style is 'Bohemian Luxury'. I like to mix boho elements with luxe elements, in particular blending the masculine and feminine. For example, I may wear a studded skull t-shirt over a lace skirt. This style also resonates strongly in the design elements I apply to the Samantha Wills brand.
Q: What is your favourite city in the world and why?
A: At the moment, it is New York City! My home is here for now and my love is here.
Q: Which city do you think has nailed style best: Sydney, New York, Paris, London or Tokyo?
A: I am often asked about the “forwardness” of Australian fashion. I think Sydney (and Melbourne & Perth) style is very forward. I resonate with it (obviously because of my origins), as I feel it is a beautiful balance of beach luxe and cosmopolitan chic. It depends on your personal style, but I believe Australian fashion designers are nailing it in terms of the creation of wearable designs.
Q: What is the ultimate lust-have item in your wardrobe?
A: My CHANEL handbag! I saved for a year to purchase it and did so when I was in Paris on holiday. It represents to me how far the business has come and was my first real treat to myself. Because I spent so long saving for it, I still treat it like a newborn child!
Q: Your jewellery featured in the Sex and the City movie. Tell me how that came about.
A: Patricia Field's assistant saw our collection in 2008 and sent through a request to hold pieces in the accessories wardrobe. We didn't think any more of it until 2010 when we received a card in the post that had an illustration of the four girls and text saying, “One hand in the air for the big city, thanks for making us look so pretty!”. Following this, we saw the ISABELLA earrings on the silver screen! It was very surreal! Apart from the amazing coverage we received as a result, it was a real honour to be affiliated with such a strong fashion franchise. Not prior, nor since, has there been anything like Sex and the City; it allowed our brand to grace the global stage.
Q: What in life are you most passionate about?
A: Travel, photography, friends and celebrating every little moment. I think the celebrations (no matter the occasion) are important. They bring people together, usually over food and wine, which is a beautiful way to connect with loved ones. I also love watching the sunset, dreaming big dreams.
Q: What's next for the Samantha Wills brand?
A: We are getting ready (finally) to launch a capsule handbag collection of clutches that incorporate signature Samantha Wills jewels. It’s an exciting time for our label to be diversifying into another area of the accessories space.
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