There aren’t too many Dream Job opportunities for interior stylists in New Zealand. Surely one of the best of them all would be the role of Head Stylist and Display Designer for New Zealand homeware leader Città. It’s a position that belongs to 26-year old Sam van Kan, a graphic design graduate who brings a can’t-be-taught taste level, discerning eye and fresh creative feel to the design of Citta’s retail stores, and the art direction of their seasonal campaigns. One to watch (and be inspired by)…
Hey Sam! Tell us about your job…
I work closely with the textile design team to translate the inspirations for each seasonal collection through to the imagery for each collection campaign. I plan the layouts and interior design elements for our Città stores, and work with our content team on all the styling tips and advice on Style Your Space on the Città website. I’m also the #askthestylist for Città!
BTS on a winter bedroom feature for Homestyle magazine and the Città Style Your Space website.
These looks were a styling collab with Homestyle Editor Alice Lines.
What has been the career journey to get to this point?
I started working for Città part time in 2013 in our Britomart store while I was studying Graphic Design. Once I graduated with my degree, I took up an opportunity to move to Wellington for a year to set up and work in our new Thorndon store as Visual Merchandiser and Assistant Manager. The Stylist & Display Designer role was a new position created in the marketing team while I was in Wellington. I loved living in Wellington but this was pretty much my dream job. So, I applied, and here I am!
What projects are you working on at the moment?
The Spring Summer 2018 campaign photo shoot is the biggest project right now! I am currently going through the process of immersing myself into the minds of Immy and Soph from the design team, and seeing where they went through their creative process while designing the collection. From here, I take their ideas and inspiration and come up with a concept that translates them into aspirational (and attainable) lifestyle shots.
A little of Sam’s work
Can you share the schedule of a typical day or week in your work life? If there is no ‘typical’ for you, what constants remain?
This definitely varies from week to week! There is usually a shoot of some sort, whether that is campaign, product, promotion specific, organic, or Homestyle Style Your Space. Which, for the larger offsite ones can take up a good portion of the week – with half to one day beforehand spent prepping and packing, the day (or sometimes two) of the shoot, and another half day post with unpacking and piecing the showroom back together!
Outside of that I create content for our Style Your Space blog, answer #askthestylist questions (via Instagram), create content for social, and work on larger brand projects, with the occasional commercial interior project thrown in for good measure as well.
Lovely things on set
Showroom display planning
Città team round-table
The only thing that remains constant is the team coffee run in the morning, to which we always BYO mug (in an effort to reduce the use of disposable cups), read our horoscopes in the herald and solve the word wheel. I mean, how else are we meant to know how to attack the day ahead without the planets informing us?
Oh, and our Monday morning marketing team meeting! Those are great to find out what everyone is up to and to start the week off all on the same page.
In what ways do you give yourself work/life balance?
I feel like I need to start this answer off with a disclaimer: I live for my job because I absolutely love what I do, so clocking off doesn’t come naturally to me! You can often find me scrolling Pinterest or Instagram for inspiration into the wee hours of the morning. But that doesn’t count as work though… Right?
Which is why I find it easier when I am actually doing something. I have just recently picked up embroidery again! We have even started an embroidery club at work with monthly meets and have aptly named it Stitch & Bitch. It’s pretty neat to work with such interesting and clever people that share common interests. Although, not a whole lot of embroidery gets done at the meets – the main focus is on the later of the namesake, devouring home baking and topping up glasses with gin and tonic…
Forms of meditation for the creative mind – flower pressing and contemporary embroidery
On sunny days I love strolling down to the waterfront from our apartment and paddle boarding or going on outdoor adventures with friends. Rainy ones too actually – strangely, there’s something so satisfying about a hot shower after getting soaked to the bone!
Throwing in the occasional film, RNZB performance or a show at the Basement never goes amiss either.
What was a highlight of your past week:
There is nothing more rewarding than finishing a shoot day and feeling like it went well. That sigh of relief that it all came together. Maybe except for seeing those images in print… That’s pretty rewarding too! Seeing Tessa Waters at the Basement as part of the Comedy Festival was a definite highlight as well! She is utterly ridiculous (but I also secretly want to be best friends).
A challenge/frustration you’ve been dealing with lately:
Overcommitting… I’ll admit it. This often means booking myself out every night and slotting things in between other things over the weekend to fulfil friend and family duties. Although, I wouldn’t really want it any other way – I love seeing all of their lovely faces! I just need to get better at not feeling guilty about wanting some me time. I guess in a round about way, that’s just something else I need to commit to!
van Kan vignettes – corners of Sam’s Auckland city apartment
Advice you would give to someone wanting to become a stylist:
Gain experience, play and have fun! Unfortunately there is no clear-cut way to become a stylist, but if you have the passion and drive for it, you can make your own path to get there. I’ve always thought that styling for photography is much like Graphic Design, only on a 3D level. So having that skillset under my belt has been invaluable. Starting as a Visual Merchandiser in a store is a fantastic way to show your skills (and grow them!) and get your foot into a company that you align with. Outside of that, you could approach stylists with a small portfolio or link to some of your work and offer yourself as a shoot hand to gain experience and see how the industry works.
What’s the best thing that’s happened to you work-wise/creatively over the past year?
Going to China to showcase our products at an international design show was pretty amazing! It’s rather neat seeing something go from 2D guesses in a rendering of a space that you have never seen, to 3D actuality. Seeing how the other side of the world interacts with our products and responds to the styling of them was a cool part of the experience too.
The space Sam created for an international design show in Shenzen, China. Imagine travelling halfway around the world to unpack 46 cartons and layout and style 276 square metres of homeware and furniture. So proud of you Sam.
How would you like to see your career path unfold in the next few years?
I would love to further develop my skills in editorial styling and interior projects. I’m massively into the idea of being able tell visual stories and elevate everyday life through inspirational styling. Wherever it goes, as long and I’m spending my time making a living doing what I love.
Finally, we’d love to know what you’ve been getting into lately…
Guilty Feminists podcast as I bake or do the housework (rather ironic, I know), Spotify playlist Mellow Beats in the background as I read and write, Tash Sultana (or secretly, Beyonce) up loud as I walk to work. I think I have a problem with silence…
The Lost Flowers of Alice Hart by Holly Ringland. Admittedly, I fell in love with cover first, but have since fallen in love with the book also.
Looking Forward To:
My sister coming home from London for a few weeks in July!
I have a few weekends away to inconspicuous North Island destinations planned with a few good friends – a good chance to refresh and break up the (always) long(er than summer) winter ahead.
Shortly, my first batch of homebrewed kombucha! Fingers crossed it’s not a complete disaster.
Follow Sam on Instagram