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How one designer is blending fine jewellery with social causes

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Designer Samantha Siu on the top at a staircase during the London Fashion Week 2024
Samantha Siu: second generational jewellery designer launched her first collection in 2019

Boxes wrapped in a turquoise paper and generous golden ribbons are decorating a couple of long tables when Samantha Siu enters the room at the Ned, a former bank turned private members club and luxury six star hotel in East London after a £200million makeover. The venue has been featured in James Bond film Goldfinger and is the hub where singers and screen stars turn up to celebrate awards with champagne and vegan burgers. It wouldn’t be surprising if Siu, a New York-born jewellery designer, had personally wrapped each box herself, given their meticulous attention to detail, precise folding, and impeccable symmetry with the table’s cutlery. Packaging is something Samantha herself would be familiar with, as years before launching her own brand, the designer worked in her family business wrapping items to be shipped to clients.

“I started from the very bottom of packaging, with bracelets and earrings, putting them into boxes to send it to vendors. I would get paid with pieces of jewellery for that job,” she recalls. “Every day, I would try to pack things as fast as I could to get a bracelet or something. My aunt kept me motivated, and when I was around 16-years old I transitioned into sales, which was a very different part of the business.”

Since launching her first collection, ‘A Love Affair,’ in 2019, Samantha has seen her work featured in Esquire Magazine, Bazaar, British Vogue, and Elle. Her fine jewellery is now available in upscale department stores such as the iconic Selfridges in the United Kingdom, as well as in Wolf and Badger in New York.

It is London Fashion Week season, and tonight she is hosting a dinner for the media and influencers. Just before we sit down, I tell her that I will be working on a feature that starts from back to front.

– Is that a good thing? – she asks glancing the room around.

– It is – I assure her.

Normally fashion features start by showcasing the work of a designer and ends briefly touching on the social work done behind the label. As much as I admire the bold pieces of her jewellery collection using a Chinese wax carving technique dated back to 4,000 B.C., I want to explore more her philanthropic side.

“I don’t think the media talks enough about that side of the business, which is so close to my heart,” says Siu who, in 2016, co-founded the Phoenix International Foundation, an international relief organization providing assistance with education and medical care in countries such as the Philippines, China, Cambodia, Peru, and Thailand.

Social responsibility: business is funding initiatives with community projects in Thailand, Cambodia and Peru

“Wonderful jewellery you are likely to see everywhere. But wonderful messaging is not necessarily at the forefront of many jewellery brands out there. That is why I created a non-profit organization,” explains Samantha, a former Fordham University alumna who majored in psychology.

“When I was around 18, I went to China on a missionary trip with my church, where I taught English to underprivileged children. It was a defining moment that made me realize how privileged I am and how important it is to give back to society. So since the beginning, I wanted to create a company that would use the purchasing power of those who can afford it to make a positive impact on others,” explains Samatha. Her brand donates 10% of net profits from all purchases to various causes.

“The main business funds our sister project, a non-profit organization that allows us to invest in projects focusing on education enhancement, wildlife and nature conservation,” she continues. The scope covered by her Phoenix International Foundation ranges from supporting an elephant named Dhala in the Elephant Nature Park in Thailand to funding science projects for students in the Philippines. The foundation also operates a micro loan program that supports families in villages in Cambodia, among other initiatives carried out in collaboration with local partners throughout the year.

Pieces of her sustainable jewellery brand are as diverse as her social projects, including versatile items that can be worn in different ways. The secondary generation jeweller is not afraid of creating big pieces – and spending time to accomplish that.

“It can take up to six months to create a single necklace due to the artisanal process involving multiple hands,” the designer explains, “But when I create something, the idea is that I am creating an everlasting piece of jewellery.”

Craftsmanship: Creating a necklace can take up to six months

Throughout the evening, Samantha Siu goes around tables to talk to people and posing for photos with guests. She watches people opening the boxes wrapped in turquoise paper and golden ribbons.

“I like to see people’s reactions when they open things,” Siu says, pleased with the smooth flow of the evening. “And I am genuinely interested in how people feel when they see my work and understand the creative process behind each piece, and how it impacts others.”

I wonder how much of that psychology degree the entrepreneur Samantha brings into her philanthropic work and vice versa, as her business and her passions are now so intertwined that it is almost impossible to separate them.

It’s close to midnight when I leave the luxurious venue. As I depart, I notice partygoers arriving to join the live band on the stage downstairs, where the music will continue until the early hours of the morning. Some appear to be celebrating a special occasion, carrying gift boxes with them. However, none of their boxes look as neatly wrapped as the one Samantha Siu left on my table.

Marcio Delgado is a Journalist, Producer and Influencer Marketing Manager working with brands and publications in Europe, America and Asia.

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How to talk about your university degree in an interview

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A degree student being interviewed by a university panel
Keeping your answers concise and framing them positively are key steps for a successful interview | Photo: Andrea Piacquadio

For lots of school leavers, the decision to go to university is based upon the professional prospects it can offer. Over this three or four-year period, students will acquire new (and hone existing) skills that’ll play a pivotal role in their success post-graduation.

Employers in a range of different industries value the importance of a university degree, so it’s a common line of questioning for lots of interviewers to venture down. As a job candidate, it’s important to be prepared for this.

Your education will stay on your CV throughout your career. However, the earlier on in your professional journey you are, the more value your uni experience will hold in an interview. This is because you’re unlikely to have the professional experience to draw upon to answer questions, so it’s important that you become comfortable talking confidently about this important chapter of your life. Here are some key things to remember whenever you’re asked about your university degree in an interview.

Be honest

At the heart of any conversation about your educational background, it’s important to be honest, since exaggerating your qualifications or experiences could end up working against you. For recruiters today, it’s easier than ever before to check up on candidates and the accuracy of their answers, and providing false information will work against your credibility in their eyes.

If you didn’t quite achieve the grades you were hoping for, being honest doesn’t mean you have to talk about your experience negatively. Instead, you might choose to focus on the positive aspects and how you think they have helped to shape you into a competitive candidate for whatever role you’re applying for.

Don’t neglect your soft skills

Gaining a university degree is primarily about learning the specific skills that will help you to be successful in the world of work. Even if your course isn’t necessarily a vocational one, you’ll constantly be developing hard skills that can be applied to a range of different jobs. While you won’t find them listed on the syllabus, you will also have the opportunity to develop a plethora of soft skills throughout your course, and these shouldn’t be forgotten.

Especially if you haven’t yet gained much professional experience and had the opportunity to demonstrate these skills in the workplace, talking about your time at university is a good way to show you possess the soft skills necessary to succeed in the role. For example, think back to any presentations you had to do as part of a module, where you had the opportunity to work on communication and teamwork skills. Or, think about a term when you had to balance deadlines in different modules, speaking to your time management skills.

Look beyond the lecture hall

Everyone who goes to university will have spent lots of time in the classroom with their tutors, and while it is important to talk about what you did in that setting, you also want your account of uni life to be a little different from other candidates.

What could set you apart from another interviewee when reflecting on your experiences is the stuff that goes on outside the classroom. As part of your interview prep, you should equip yourself with anecdotes and experiences that played an integral role in your university journey, beyond the standard curriculum. This could be a term that you spent studying or in industry abroad, or maybe a way in which you contributed to the institution beyond your academic merits. This could be through sporting efforts or perhaps your involvement with a society that was important to you.

Common interview questions

There are lots of different ways your degree could be brought up in an interview. Understanding the types of questions that might come up will help you to focus your preparations. Often, interviewers will use open-ended questions, leaving you to call upon the most important aspects: “Tell me about your educational background”. Others might direct you to a more specific answer about a particular element of your experiences: “What skills did you learn at university that’ll help you succeed in this role?”. It’s important to remember that your answers can be applied to different questions, so come prepared with a bank of key points to call upon.

Even if they don’t explicitly frame a question through the prism of your educational experiences, you can always call upon them to answer common situational questions. For example, you could be asked about a time you had to overcome adversity, and it’s perfectly acceptable to draw upon your time at university to answer this.

Preparation is key

As we’ve alluded to, reflecting on your time in higher education should be a key part of your interview prep. Don’t rely on recalling odd memories from this period as and when a question comes up – note down a few examples of challenges you overcame and skills you developed during this period that could be adapted to answer different types of situational questions. As with any other question, keep your answers concise, and make sure to frame them positively.

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‘Influencer’ among UK children’s top 10 dream jobs 

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A female influencer filming content indoors.
5 billion people use social media, around two-thirds of the global population

‘When I grow up, I want to be insta-famous’. Young Brits look to social media for their dream job, new research by pocket money card and app nimbl can reveal.

The role of influencer, someone able to monetise followings on websites and apps like Instagram and YouTube, was the sixth-most popular career choice among UK children aged 6 to 171.

About 1 in 20 chose it as their top occupation, hoping to follow in the footsteps of homegrown internet celebrities like gamer- entrepreneur KSI, and lifestyle guru Zoe Sugg.

While teacher was the favourite profession in the study amongst over 1,500 children interviewed – followed by doctor and vet – influencer elbowed out traditional careers including nurse, police officer and musician.

Influencers make money through sponsored content, negotiating with brands to offer paid endorsements or earning share of advertising revenue. The amount they earn can depend on popularity, with Instagram users typically able to monetise content once they have gained a few thousand followers.    

According to YouGov, Joe Wicks is the UK’s most famous influencer, with four in five Brits recognising the fitness coach. About 5 billion people use social media, around two-thirds of the global population.

“Social media has driven expansion of our digital lives, providing connection and transforming entertainment and news. It’s also providing jobs – and the most high-profile influencers are inspiring young Brits careers. “Although long-standing occupations still dominate dream jobs, it’s clear influencers are having an impact, and school careers advisers will need to brush up on their hashtags,” says Alana Parsons, Chief Executive of nimbl.

“For concerned parents it’s important to recognise that – behind the social media sheen – the biggest online stars have built their platforms through hard work, drive and perseverance, qualities that younger generations can learn from.”

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Samsung’s ‘Newfound Equilibrium’ design exhibition closes today

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Samsung’s ‘Newfound Equilibrium’ design exhibition closes today
“Newfound Equilibrium" is showcasing the brand’s user-centered design philosophy

Samsung Electronics today announced that it will hold its design exhibit at Milan Design Week’s Fuorisalone 2024 from April 16 to 21.

A design exhibition located at Le Cavallerizze, in the Leonardo da Vinci National Museum of Science and Technology in Milan, Italy, will come to an end this evening.

Samsung’s Corporate Design Center’s exhibition, “Newfound Equilibrium,” is showcasing the brand’s user-centered design philosophy, “Samsung Design Identity 5.0: Essential∙Innovative∙Harmonious.

“Design must fully take the human experience into consideration, and Samsung’s design principles achieve this,” says TM Roh, President and Head of Corporate Design Center at Samsung Electronics. “With our human-centered design philosophy, we aim to create a future that harmonizes with the lives of our customers through innovation with purpose.”

The multi-sensory experience, featuring immersive installations, guides visitors through five spaces that express Samsung’s design identity. The spaces are titled “Essence,” “Innovation,” “Harmony,” “Infinite Dream” and “New Dawning.” As visitors approach the screens in the spaces, translucent elements change into specific shapes and textures, and the shapes beyond the window appear as if they are approaching onlookers, allowing them to immerse themselves in the dream of an infinite future drawing nearer.

Through collaborations with the human craftsmanship of ceramic masters MUTINA, and wood veneer wizards ALPI, the Bespoke Refrigerator and AirDresser have also been reimagined considering the co-existence of people and technology.

Samsung’s “Newfound Equilibrium” exhibition is located at Via Olona, 6 bis, Milan and offers free entry until 6 PM today.

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