Samantha Siu: Groundbreaking & Innovative
Samantha Siu, raised in the jewelry industry, creates designs that bring to life her adoration for traveling, giving her the ability to materialize each beautiful destination she has seen into her designs. Through her abundance of mentors and experience in the industry, Siu has created her own unique brand that produces sustainable, everlasting designs.
Can you tell us a bit about the inspiration behind your first collection, A Love Affair?
A Love Affair was inspired by my first love and the travels we had. Each necklace pays homage to different places all over the world. The colors, motifs, and design on the links were designed to take you away on a journey around the world. In some places, partnering non profits in different countries inspire me to include them in my story. Every place that I’ve traveled to has laid a brick to the road of my life, so I am very thankful to have had these experiences.
As you have mentioned, your beautiful pieces can take over four months to create, due to your delicate and meticulous manufacturing process. Can you tell us a bit about your design and manufacturing process?
My design process begins the moment I arrive to a destination. I look at architecture, prevalent colors, and motifs that surround me. I then envision the lower back neck as a canvas and think about which shapes will lay nicely on it. After I decide on a design, I sketch it out and give it to our artisanal wax carver to create. They start to hand carve the clasp that can take up to 2 months to make. Meanwhile, I go on the hunt for the perfect stone that (in my opinion) can evoke feelings of being in that particular travel destination. In the same spirit, we find our links and chain designs. Lastly, I hand off my stone collection and chain designs to our makers in Thailand and they begin the process of creating the hand-chiseled frames, chain creation, and hand assembly of the necklace.
You have mentioned that your signature pieces are created using wax carving techniques. What initially drew you to this technique, and why has it become the go-to for your designs?
I didn’t feel like I belonged in the jewelry industry until i garnered a strength in it. It wasn’t until I took at wax carving class with Karen Bachmann at FIT that completely changed my jewelry career. I got sucked into the process. I would put my headphones on and get lost in a world of creativity for hours on end. Somehow, I would create something a little bit different from my classmates’ at the time. I see now, if it weren’t for my Psychology background (with an interest in Art Therapy) I would not have enjoyed the process as much.
Would you say that working in your family’s jewelry business as a kid has impacted Samantha Siu New York? If so, can you into how?
Oh, my family’s jewelry company has definitely given me an education that not a lot of kids have at an early age. I will forever be thankful for the hard work they gave me. I was able to experience different positions and understand production from the bottom up. This taught me the true understanding of hard work and the appreciation for the people that work around you and for you. I didn’t realize my hard work was the invaluable education until after I was out of the education system. I look back and can now see how my humbled beginnings benefited me.
Your designs are distinct and unique. Has there been anyone who has has been a mentor for you along the way in the development of your business and brand?
I am very blessed to have had great mentors in my academic and work life; people who believed in me during the earliest and hardest part of my career. Though some I have lost touched with, I will never forget about them. Because were it not for them, I would not have the opportunities I’ve had now. My aunts (who introduced me into the jewelry industry) were also great mentors on how I navigate the jewelry industry today.
The “Travel Stories” section of your website is unexpected and exciting. Can you explain the purpose of this page and what inspired you to create it?
The purpose and theme of our brand is to take our viewers, followers, and clientele on a journey with us; to learn with us while we learn. Just like how our necklaces take you on a journey, there is so much more to learn that may not meet the eye. Our travel stories may take a deeper dive into a destination or we will have interviews with friends of the brand. It gives us a little more depth into the brand, the people surrounding it, and of course, me.
Travel seems to be a large part of Samantha Siu, both in and out of the jewelry industry. What draws you to travel, and which place is next on your list?
Traveling is a privilege. It doesn’t phase me to say it because I know it to be true. The reason I know this is because when we travel, we are confronted with people from different backgrounds and experiences. And as an American I see the vast differences in lifestyles everywhere I go. It’s this part of the education that makes me compelled to travel; to try to improve the wellbeing in those that are not as fortunate as me. Thus, the Phoenix International Foundation was born.
I am also very fortunate to be able to travel, especially during this time. I just came back to New York from London, England for London Fashion Week. I will also be going to Hawaii for the first time in a couple of weeks.
The concept of a reversible necklace is a distinctive feature of your brand. What inspired this design?
There was a moment in a Chanel No. 5 commercial when NIcole Kidman glides up the stairs with a necklace worn backwards. At that moment I said to myself, “why aren’t there many necklaces that purposefully adorn the back?” This idea alongside my love for wax carving became the “Ah ha” moment that transcended into the first reversible necklace I created for jewelry class. When the necklace was shown in class, I saw the reaction on everyone’s face and knew I had something special.
Do you have a favorite gemstone to work with or wear (or gemstone combination)? And if so, what do you love about it?
I love to work with all types of stone and love working with all of them equally.
Tell us the story behind the favorite piece of jewelry you designed.
I love all my designs equally because they tell a story of my travel and love journey. They represent a few of my favorite places and experience.
How has being featured in publications such as Tatler and Vogue, and within the press in general impacted your business?
I feel so grateful and thankful to have been given such incredible editorial opportunities. To be mentioned within the same sentence is a honor itself. It has certainly given the brand a platform to grow and given us greater responsibility of the content we put out there. We love engaging with our followers and cannot wait for them to see what’s coming next!
We admire the philanthropy of your brand. Can you talk about your background with volunteering, and how that translates into your business?
The Philanthropic side of the brand is my favorite subject to talk about. Samantha Siu New York tries to engage and teach our audience that our jewelry is not made to be just adorned, but to impact the world in a better way. With each purchase of a necklace , each necklace can pay for one child to get a medical check up, allows ten children to be part of a science program, or support endangered Asian elephants. We want people to see that the brand empowers the wearer by not just design but by their purchase.
I can pinpoint the exact moment I felt like my life had a purpose. That moment came in the form of a volunteer trip at 18 to rural China. It was a graduation present from my aunt. And when I went, I was immediately humbled by the children I taught because they taught me how privilege I was. It changed my life and how I viewed life as an individual.
Do you have a personal mantra? A professional mantra? We would love to hear about them!
My favorite quote from one of my aunt’s is, “If you never exceed your limitations, you’ll never understand the true meaning of success.” I keep this with me every time I have an awkward moment or feel I’m too far from home. Also, my favorite chapter in the Bible, Ecclesiastes 3, talks about why everything happens for a reason and time in our lives. This teaches me not to regret and to see the reason of the now.
Can you give us a sneak peek into any exciting launches coming up for Samantha Siu New York?
I am so excited to say that we are launching our matching earrings collection to the necklace collection. With the same idea of functionality in mind, all our earrings can be worn more than one way; some even more than twenty ways! We believe that sustainability starts from design and if we are more creative, we can also aide in the reduction of our carbon footprint