Ladies Wine & Design X ADLIB event: Meet Sara Foley

LW&D Bristol and ADLIB are excited to bring to you the ‘Women in design’ event taking place on Wednesday 24th January and we’ve taken the opportunity to have a chat with the organiser of the event, Sara Foley. Sara is Senior Designer at Mr B & Friends and we discus her history with Ladies Wine and Design and what inspired her to begin organising events.


Olivia @ ADLIB: First things first, how did you originally get started with Ladies Wine and Design?

Before I’d even heard of Ladies Wine and Design, I was always conscious that since I started in the world of work, I’ve had two female creative directors which I knew was not the norm. And I’d stepped out of the university having been on a course that I’d say was pretty even gender split-wise.


I had just started researching agencies to apply and get in contact with and I noticed the absolute sea of senior men. But it just made it all that more prevalent when you came across an agency that did have female representation within their senior staff. I think at that time it was something like 8% of creative directors were women, which is pretty low. And as I said, being on a university course where the stats were definitely not reflective of that, it was really interesting.


Fast forward a couple of years. I got my first job and I’d been in the industry for two or three years, and I’d personally been feeling the benefits of working with and having immediate visibility of a senior female both in my design director and creative director, which was amazing. It helped me in so many ways and gave me validation that, the design industry is an industry where I belonged, and it also gave me strength to know that, if they can do it, I can as well. As a junior, having that visibility I’d say was massively important to me.


I’ve been following Jessica Walsh (The founder of Ladies Wine & Design) for years, she’s one of my absolute idols and I’ve just been so inspired by her. She’s very confident in the way that she portrays herself on social media and was just a person I always took inspiration from. I’d seen that she’d been posting about Ladies Wine and Design and I was intrigued by it. The way that she had set it up in New York was she ran small salon nights, literally probably 10 maximum people. And they just end up having really intimate meetings and conversations. I thought that was amazing and it just kind of got me thinking, well, you know, it’s a worldwide community. They’ve advertised it, as being global and you can find a city near you. So, I went on their website, and I just very much assumed with Bristol, being a creative hub that, there would be one here. And so, when I went on to their website and saw that there wasn’t, I was shocked. There was a question on the website, do you want to start a chapter? So, I went for it and just submitted it. A day or two later I received an email with a website and a ton of assets.


Olivia @ ADLIB: What inspired you to start organising events?

I almost see myself as a bit of a facilitator to offer opportunities and spaces for people to potentially come away with the same sort of level of support, encouragement and inspiration that I’ve received from being mentored by two amazing women.


When I initially started, I thought even if just five people come along and left with new relationships, getting some level of support, which they don’t have in their current workplace, that’s what success would look like for me. Now, I think of what we’ve achieved with the most recent event having 96 people on the waitlist, the fact that there are that many people interested in attending, honestly, really touches me. It feels like a proper community of people.


I run it with some amazing women who support me and give me the encouragement to think bigger with the events; shout out to Beatrice Menis, Helen Liang and Sam Longstaff. We all do this alongside our day jobs. They do so many amazing things behind the scenes. They are literally my unsung heroes.


Olivia @ ADIB: What has been the best takeaway from talking to the women at the Ladies Wine and Design events?

I don’t know if it’s surprising to hear but I don’t do a huge amount of talking to people at the events. I check everyone in, I welcome them, but then I’m like an absolute worker bee. I just fly around making sure that everyone’s okay. It’s fantastic that we seem to have a core group to come to all the events and reconnect, which is wild, that that’s even a thing. I love hearing about how inspired everybody gets by, the speakers that come or the workshop hosts and how thankful they are that the events and the community exist. It’s really, humbling.


There was one moment last year when we’d just done an event at the Gather Round space and it was an event where I decided to step out of my comfort zone and give a talk myself. I put myself directly in the limelight, which is something that I’m not really that comfortable doing. I’d given a talk about imposter syndrome and how I’ve come to realise just how many people have that, especially women in the creative industry. I’ve by no means got the cure to it, but I’ve managed to overcome it to the point where I can live with mine. At the end of kind of my talk, the room opened up for questions and it turned into a discussion with about 40-50 women in the room just having a genuine, respected conversation. The focus wasn’t on me anymore and it was just about women sharing their experiences. And honestly, I nearly cried because it was the first time that I’d been able to just stand and watch before my eyes the reality of what I’d created. That’s going to live with me for quite some time. I think it was just so powerful. And yeah, as I said, I nearly cried.

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