Interview with Sam Todd from The Volt
Samantha Todd is a Brisbane based fashion designer who is making waves in the festival fashion market with her brand The Volt.
In just under two years, her designs have been seen everywhere from Coachella to Splendour in the Grass – captivating a niche market of eccentric festival goers, that want to look cool and comfortable at the same time.
At only 25 years of age, Sam is her target market so she understands the trends, needs and wants of young women attending music festivals in 2020. The Creative Issue caught up with Sam to ask her about The Volt and her plans going forward with the brand.
The Creative Issue: Hi Sam, let’s start off by asking where are you from originally?
Samantha Todd: I was born in Brisbane! However, I spent my formative high school years in Cairns. I’m back in Brisbane for good now!
TCI: How did you end up starting The Volt?
ST: Well to start the brand I needed two things that I didn’t have – the ability to sew and money. I flew to Cairns for a weekend where my mum lives and she taught me how to sew in one weekend (needless to say my skills were barely passable). I was working full time as a makeup artist at the time, so I flew back to Brisbane & worked all week. I then flew back to Cairns the next weekend and my Mum and I finished all the samples for the very first collection.
I rounded up some friends to model & take photos for the first collection and launched everything as a presale. I used the money from the first few sales to buy the supplies I needed to start making bulk outfits and it all just grew from there! Thankfully I don’t need to do presales to actually be able to make the garments anymore.
TCI: What was the inspiration behind starting The Volt?
ST: My biggest thing was that I wanted to make ahead of the curve, stylish pieces that were still modest in the world of festival wear. I am my target market so it has been easy for me to create as I feel like I know what people actually want to wear. I’m just not about having my butt cheeks hanging out or wearing a skirt so short it makes me feel self conscious – so I wanted to create pieces that people could feel cool in but also feel confident and free to enjoy themselves!
TCI: Did a past job lead you down this path?
ST: Not so much a job but more my financial situation. I was working a full time retail job and in my opinion, it is extremely difficult to get ahead financially whilst renting out of home in a capital city on an under 50k salary. I was working in a position where there weren’t many options for promotion either. I decided I wanted to start my own business (whatever it may be) because I didn’t want to spend more years of my life just getting by and living pay check to pay check!
TCI: How did you come up with the name “The Volt”?
ST: This is probably going to sound weird, but I was just sitting there staring at the wall trying to think of a name and with no warning “The Volt” just popped into my brain out of nowhere, almost like a higher power offered it to me because this is all meant to be.
TCI: Was fashion designing always something you wanted to pursue?
ST: Surprisingly not! I have always been very into personal style and festival fashion but I never had plans or dreams to be a fashion designer. As you can tell I kind of started my brand on a whim!
TCI: Was there a moment when you really felt that your brand was starting to take off?
ST: I feel like the first year of The Volt had a really steady upwards trajectory so it’s hard to pinpoint an exact moment. I was working myself so hard it’s all kind of a blur! Perhaps when I got my first wholesale deal with Dolls Kill, that made me feel like I’d “made it”.
TCI: What was your biggest fear when you jumped from your stable job to working on The Volt full-time?
ST: People NEED to buy outfits for me to survive! It is a bit daunting that my income is never guaranteed. So hopefully people keep liking the designs I bring out!
TCI: Your brand’s aesthetic is so bright and fun. Do you take inspiration from The Volt in your everyday outfit choices?
ST: Of course! Well, as much as I can. I work from home for The Volt so I don’t get out much anymore but when I do I generally like to combine one Volt piece with one casual piece to dress it down for every day wear. I like a bright Volt top with cool jeans combo or Volt flares with a vintage tee.
TCI: With social media, specifically Instagram, being your main channel of advertising, do you think this has made it easier to grow The Volt?
ST: So much easier! I am so grateful that when I started The Volt I already had a following on my personal account so I was able to convert my existing followers to customers and I didn’t have to start completely from scratch. The Volt had 700 followers before I even posted a photo just from me talking about it. It is crazy that we live in a world where anyone can start a business and advertise themselves for free on social media.
We offer pieces for all sizes and I share every customer photo that I can, so I think that really helps girls picture themselves in the outfit and see what their body type would look like in it!
TCI: Following on from the last question, do you think it is hard to maintain your unique branding in this age of social media?
ST: I feel like I have a clear concept of the brand image and voice I want to put out into the world. The hard part is constantly putting it out there! Social media doesn’t sleep and there are a million other brands out there, so you really need to be online & active every day creating an image for your brand. Constantly posting and engaging might be the most exhausting part!
TCI: Have other companies ripped off your designs?
ST: Unfortunately yes! It’s happened to me many times during my short time in the game. I‘ve had my prints, designs and even website layout copied by other brands and individuals. I got really fired up about it the first few times it happened but now I’ve come to accept that it’s just part and parcel. There is always going to be copycats in the fashion industry but those people won’t go far without creativity – my main focus is on ensuring people want to shop with the original!
TCI: What was the inspiration behind #voltgirl?
ST: I wanted it to feel like a club that everyone can be a part of and would want to be a part of!
TCI: How do you want everyone wearing your designs to feel?
ST: Cool and comfortable! You can’t feel cool if you don’t feel comfortable in your outfit (learnt from personal experience), so I design every piece with that in mind. All of the fabric is super soft & stretchy and I endeavour to only bring out styles that won’t limit your ability to dance & have a good time.
TCI: What would be the ultimate goal for you as a designer and for The Volt?
ST: Eventually I would love to have a small studio (everything The Volt happens in my spare room at home) and team sewing for me – as much as I love making clothes, if I keep working myself this hard, I’m not sure I’ll survive to enjoy the success. It would really help my work/life balance (I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been working in the spare room until midnight) and would also improve our turn around time significantly. I would really love to have some super iconic celebrities wearing The Volt as well (The Veronicas, Halsey, Doja Cat?) a girl can dream!
TCI: What do you think festival fashion will look like in the next year?
ST: Thats a tough one! I feel as though festival fashion takes current every day wear trends to the extreme. I think the resurgence of 2000’s styles will continue to be huge & we’ll see a lot more of that! It’s really fun to see trends from our childhood be recycled for the first time. Definitely makes it easy to draw inspiration.
TCI: Do you have any exciting collaborations coming up that you can talk about?
ST: Well I did just finish a massive project. I collaborated with another local Brisbane brand called Stardust Disco. We designed a collection together that is sold exclusively in her store in Fortitude Valley & through her website! It took months from start to finish & we had a big launch party recently to celebrate the completion of it.
Now that that’s over I’m kind of enjoying a moment to rest. I have also decided that in terms of social media marketing, instead of going down the influencer collaboration route, I wanted to focus on talented women in the music & fashion industries! Tkay Maidza will be wearing The Volt on tour this month which is super exciting & we’ve got a few other amazing female artists wearing the brand very soon as well.