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Sun, Jun 13, 2010
Urban, The Straits Times
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Cathryn Wills: stand out from the crowd
by Hong Xin Yi

From her Betty Boop-like curls to her preference for punk-inflected style, it’s clear that Cathryn Wills, the creative director of Australian accessories brand Mimco, believes in standing out from the crowd.

It’s an instinct that she has been honing since she was a tween growing up in upstate New York, says Wills, 39.

Her family moved from Australia to New York due to her father’s defence industry job there and Wills found herself surrounded by peers who favoured “the preppy look”.

Her two older sisters bucked the trend by sticking to Australian-style staples like “little tank tops and tight jeans – they were quite cool chicks and the boys liked the way they dressed”, she remembers. “I didn’t adopt the preppy look either – I liked wedges and overalls back then. I was styling myself to stand out from those around me.”

Today, she still loves “people who look unique, quirky, maybe even a little odd, not necessarily people who look like they just stepped off the catwalk”.

She applies the same principle to her work.

“There is a lot of competition in the accessories business but I am not dejected by
that,” she says. “I believe in bringing freshness to the table.

“I have interviewed job applicants whose sketches are clearly lifted from brands like Dolce & Gabbana and Prada. I don’t hire these people.”

Prices at Mimco range from $35 to $780, with the brand’s leather bags typically occupying the high end of the price range. These may not be It bag prices, which
usually run into four figures, but still count as considerable investment pieces.

“This is a bridge brand priced between high-street labels and high-end brands,” says the Melbourne-based Wills, whose boyfriend is an entrepreneur. “We use quality raw materials but the prices are still relatively attainable.”

Not surprisingly, she isn’t a fan of It bags.

“Those bags encourage a disposable culture. I want to create things women will still find beautiful in five years’ time.”

This article was first published in Urban, The Straits Times.

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