The Interview — Sarah Wattson, VP of Creative Strategy at Away
Meet Sarah Wattson, Away's VP of Creative Strategy. Away is a direct-to-consumer luggage brand that believes in making connections: on the road, online, and in person. Away values access over aspiration, and exploration over escape. For Away, all time away is time well spent. Starting with the perfect suitcase, then building from there, Away created a range of travel standards that speak to different personal travel styles and needs, each one developed from the travel stories of friends and seatmates. Their pieces aren’t “smart,” they’re thoughtful, with features that solve real travel problems and premium materials chosen to be resilient and beautiful. The result: travel standards that are perfectly, functionally minimal—that help you find your way by staying out of it. For more on Away, get to know their VP of Create Strategy, Sarah Wattson, by reading up on what she loves most about her work, who's had the biggest impact on her career, best travel tips, and her 10 must-have travel essentials. Follow Sarah on Instagram at @sarahwattson, and follow @Away on Instagram and Twitter!
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Walk us through your typical work day:
There’s almost nothing typical about my work day! I love that every day is something new—some days I’m reviewing concepts for an upcoming photoshoot (like one we recently did in Miami to launch the first drop in our collaboration with Dwyane Wade), brainstorming launch assets for one of our upcoming physical retail stores, or working with our brand marketing team on the creative strategy for our upcoming holiday collection.
What do you love most about your work:
The excitement and diversity of every project makes my job so fun. When you start out on the agency side, there’s always a fear that moving in-house will be a bit boring by comparison, but that couldn’t be further from the truth at Away! The amount of exciting things we’re working on at any given time is unlike anything I’ve ever experienced. I’m constantly learning something new and finding creative ways to tackle challenges that inevitably come up. And I get to do it all alongside the smartest, hardest working creative team there is!
View Sarah's Essentials
What has been the biggest challenge you’ve been faced with throughout your career:
It can be challenging to take a step back to truly disconnect. I’m passionate about the work we’re putting out into the world, so consciously removing myself from time to time can be tough, but I know how important it is for my creative process. I’ve been lucky to have roles that I’ve been so passionate about throughout my career, but no matter how much you love your job, it’s important to be able to separate yourself, unplug, and get…Away.
I’ve also learned to get more comfortable with the fact that making mistakes is inevitable (and normal!). We’re encouraged to take calculated risks, knowing that we might fail along the way, which can be tough for a perfectionist. Facing mistakes and being comfortable with less-than-perfect is still challenging, but I’ve come to appreciate and embrace these moments as an opportunity to keep learning and improving for the long-term.
Who has had the biggest impact on your career:
One of my first bosses, Heather. Not only did she teach me that attention to detail and work ethic are imperative, but she was also the one who encouraged me to apply for a role I later took at Media Arts Lab, which is what really kicked off my career in a major way. It’s rare to have a boss who looks at you and sees not just what’s best for the company, but what you might be able to grow into one day. It’s what separates someone you view as a boss, to someone you view as a mentor who you’ll keep in your back pocket for life. I try to be conscious of that as a leader for my own team, helping each person identify where their passions are, or where they might be able to grow, and identify what I can do to help get them there.
One piece of advice you would give your 18 year-old-self:
Smart is the new cool—soak up every opportunity you have to learn.
Your go-to power outfit:
Black on black, always.
Skincare product you can’t live without:
Pale, freckly skin and growing up in California are not a good mix. In an effort to keep my wrinkles at bay, I avoid the sun as much as possible—but that doesn’t exactly leave me with a summer glow. So my new favorite product for the warmer months is the Gradual Self-Tanning Lotion from KORA Organics. It’s super hydrating, made with clean, vegan ingredients, and it smells amazing! No one can tell the difference, and my future self loves me for staying out of the sun.
I also have super dry lips and am addicted to lip balm; my favorite is Paw Paw. Secret tip: dab a little on your cheekbones to give your face an instant glow.
What apps and gadgets can’t you live without:
I won’t leave my house without my Apple earpods, and I’m usually listening to The Daily or Pod Save America on my commute into the office each day.
Best travel tips:
When it comes to packing, The Everywhere Bag from Away was a game-changer for me—it has a pocket for everything so it easily fits a laptop (and a million other things) in a way that keeps me organized, and it sits perfectly on top of my Bigger Carry-On so I don’t have to carry it (my favorite part). It’s also a great gift, so I’ve bought it for several friends!
Traveling can leave your skin pretty dehydrated, so I’m also a big believer in the importance of an inflight skincare routine. Mine includes everything in Susanne Kaufmann’s travel kit—face mist, lotion, and more—and I won’t get on a plane without it.
For planning the trip itself, I recommend doing a bit of research to figure out a few places you really want to visit (e.g. a restaurant that requires reservations), but balance it with a bit of spontaneity. It’s really freeing to travel without an agenda and just explore once I get there—you never know what you’re going to find or who you’re going to meet! Everyone at Away shares a deep love for travel, so I’m never short on recommendations from the team. We also have an in-house media team that produces Here, an online and quarterly print magazine, so that’s always one of my first stops when making my list.
What’s the most exciting thing in your life right now:
Away recently launched a massive billboard in Times Square in July that was the result of countless teams’ hard work and dedication to building something really amazing. Everyone worked incredibly hard to make it happen, and I’m really proud of what we were able to create!
My boyfriend and I have also been planning a trip to Puglia, Italy as I’ve been dying to stay at Masseria Moroseta. Nothing like mixing in a little architecture and design inspo into a relaxing break from the city.