Byron Bay, Australia - February 16th, 2017
Thank you everyone for being here this afternoon.
It's so exciting to be able to present the SAMANTHA WILLS for BILLABONG collaboration to you. It's a true honour to be standing here in from of you, women of influence.
Things have a beautiful way of coming full circle in their own time.
My career was intertwined with Billabong from my first part time job at a local surf store when I was in high school. Surf brands were the most coveted possessions, and growing up I was allowed to pick one piece of surf clothing and one surf accessory that was my birthday gift, and the same for Christmas.
To make the surf brand cache work harder for me, I would carefully unpick any internal labels or tags, and hand stitch them to the outside of no name clothing.
I remember working in the surf store after school one day, unpacking a Billabong jewellery one afternoon, mesmerized that my favourite surf brand was making my favourite accessories category.
Two years later, I barely finished high school, and really didn't know what I wanted to do with my life, and as fate would have it, I was offered a job as a Billabong fit model, traveling up and down the East Coast with the Billabong sales reps. I was 19 years old.
When I finally moved to Sydney, I was making jewellery on my dining table, selling it at Bondi markets every Sunday, and working full time at Surf Dive n Ski (which is now owned by Billabong) before being transferred into SDS's new city concept store; the Billabong store.
To have this opportunity, almost 20 years on from my high school semi-counterfeit surf label reusable tag project, is truly a dream come true. Billabong's origins are similar to that of the SAMANTHA WILLS brand, both Australian originated brands, started with a big dream, on a small table, as a back yard operation.
All too easily, we get caught up in our work, and our vision can often become singular.
But the raw reality is, the world doesn't need another jewellery brand, or another product collaboration, or another beautiful Influencers feed. There's no 'need' for what you and I do, but what my jewelry business, and what the business you've created as an influencer does, is it allows us a platform. A platform to bring communities together, a platform to communicate, and above all, a platform to empower.
When Billabong and I started talking about this, we wanted it to be more then just a jewellery Colab. Billabong have a dedicated youth following, of young women looking up to their team riders and athletes, and as a brand Billabong invest and focus on inspiring and empowering young talent. When they spoke with me, they wanted to carry that same message over to inspire young artists and creatives. It's an honour to share our story in this way, and I am dedicated to telling it with much transparency, to ensure that we are communicating to up and coming artists and entrepreneurs, that there is no such thing as an overnight success; Success, and the definition of that, is different to everyone, comes with hurdles, and roadblocks, and tears, and sacrifice. I hope that our story inspires young women, especially those in smaller towns or remote areas. I hope that this story of 16 year old me, encourages them to lift their eyes to big dreams.
Finally, I wanted to take this opportunity to thanks the many hands who have touched this project. My business partner, Geoff Bainbridge for encouraging me to do this and for teaching me the ropes of the surf jewellery industry 10 years ago with Icon. To Billabong CEO Shannan North for allowing me such creative freedom on this, to the Billabong USA team Susan, Allison, Cathey and teams, to Billabong AUS Stephanie, Cayleh and team, to my team, Ben Byfield (Commercials Management), Kate (Production) , Jessica Hammond (Sampling), Bettina (Art), Rosalie Molloy (PR + Activation), and to the incredible Creative Team that brought all of this to life; Ali Mitton and team (Photography), Travis Mauck and team (DP), Stacey (H+M /SW), Sophia (Talent), Nicole (H+M / Talent) and to the ever talented Taliah Lowry for hosting us here at The Chalet as part of the Byron Beach Abodes portfolio.