Posted by Bernie McDougall

Our handbags work as hard as you do. Inspired by the women who wear them, it is about designing pieces that make our wearers feel like they’ve got their act together without trying too hard. In our latest interview of the series, we profile boss-babe, product stylist and photographer Sophia Spahn to talk about how travel encouraged her move to freelance work, how she manages her time and the Vanitas collection imagery she created for us.

Photographer, product stylist, fitness enthusiast, landscaper (what am I missing here?)… Sounds like a few hats – have you got a favourite? What does a week in your diary look like?
I don’t think I have a favourite because I like doing something different everyday – it keeps it really interesting and exciting. I like being busy and managing my own hours so quitting the 9-5 grind and living this lifestyle makes me the happiest I’ve ever been and really no week is ever the same which is just how I like it.
 
How do you manage your time, so that you are able to meet deadlines and easily switch from one project to the next? Is there a recipe for that?
I make lists of my To-Do’s, prioritise everything from there and then transfer it into my diary which is truly my best friend and goes wherever I go – from desk to shoots to meetings and lives in my Matilda.
 
Let’s back it up one step, can you give us a quick low down on your back ground?
I have tried a few things since leaving school a decade ago (ahhh a whole decade ago) I was cabin Crew for Air NZ for a few years, then worked as Brand Manager for a fashion import/distribution company and finally as a Visual Merchandiser for an interior company. I gained so much knowledge and experience which gave me the confidence I needed for running GGC.
 
Talk us through those initial steps starting Golden Gild Collective
My partner and I travelled for 6 months in 2016. We travelled through Europe and spent our last month in Bali where I made the call that I wasn’t going back to the 9-5 life. I had set up an Instagram account for GGC in 2014 and had been tinkering with the idea for a while so while in Bali I built my website and got my portfolio looking sharp. When we got home I started targeting clients and kept working on my portfolio and have been building from there since.
 
Was it easy/difficult to go out on your own? What, if any, challenges did you face along the way? 
Initially no it wasn’t difficult because I was so over the 9-5 thing and so relaxed after travel that I felt like I could tackle anything and that was a great boost for the starting stages. As I got further down track I realised that working on your own and motivating yourself can be really hard and the work isn’t consistent but then when I am busy creating beautiful images for clients I am on such a high because I get such a kick out of being able to do what I love for a living. 
 
Perks of the job?
Working with freaking amazing clients, I have worked with so many amazing people. I think we are so lucky in NZ because everyone is so understanding and supportive of each other and I have gotten a lot of amazing goodies for myself as well.
 
What has been your favourite project to date?
Saben Winter 2018 Vanitas lookbook images. I can’t give away too much but that was such an arty, creative project. Eeek so excited for everyone to see!
 
What is your ‘OMG I might actually pee a little in my pants” dream project?
I would love to work on a film set or big magazine spread, something that’s really huge and scary but no doubt heaps of fun and super rewarding.
 
You have a really varied client list… In your experience, is there a difference between working with big clients and small ones? Which do you enjoy more? Why?
Both. Every client I work with is so different and that makes my work so exciting. The big clients usually really push my boundaries and challenge me which is scary at the start but when I complete those projects it’s something I am so proud of. The little ones usually let me run wild with my creativity and it’s always so rewarding when they love what I have done with it.
 
Thank you for sharing your home with us!! Do you spend as much time styling your own space as you do your client projects?
I do! I love living in a beautiful space - it inspires me. I have built a collection of beautiful interiors over the years and it’s finally coming together. I finally feel a little bit grown up living in my home that I get to style myself. In saying that when I’m in the middle of a project the house is chaos and you usually can’t see the floors.
 
Do you have a key feature or element which your projects would never be complete without?
Probably foliage. If I’m creating images and something isn’t right then majority of the time it’s because I’m missing that soft touch that flowers or foliage add.
 
Can you share a styling secret for amateurs at home wanting to create a beautiful image?
Maybe the above but also don’t overthink it. Often if I am working on something the ideas that come quickly and naturally work best. If I start thinking about it too much it can look really forced and I need to walk away from it for a bit.

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