Tor White is a local creative with significant international experience, largely as creative lead for an international travel brand, she is now Creative Director for Lewis Road Creamery. Tor talks with us about the challenges of WFH in a role which she had only recently begun, among other things.
Lewis Road is of course an Aotearoa born and bred business and were lucky enough to have a safe supply chain which enabled them to keep bringing their products to supermarket shelves over the last five weeks in lockdown. They were also able to partner with other NZ businesses to deliver goods to doorsteps of bubbles and to support as many front-line workers and initiatives as they could.
Congratulations on your new role as Creative Director for Lewis Road Creamery. How did your settling in period go, or was it “jump in boots and all” from the get go?
Thank you! It was definitely a ‘dive right in’ from day one, which is what I love about a brand: I see it as a living thing, so you have to start dancing straight away! I try to match both deep listening and learning about the brand and business from those who made it and live it already (and for me with LRC, an entirely new industry) together with trusting what you know, to bring that to the party, swiftly.
It’s been a couple of years since you returned to NZ after living in Australia and the UK for many years. How big of a transition was it, settling back into life in Aotearoa? Has the creative landscape changed a great deal in your view?
I left New Zealand straight after design school, so never really had any network or professional connections here, and I also didn’t plan to be back in NZ! So personally, it all felt quite upside down at first. However once I started connecting with folks – and people were so generous with time and introductions – I started to find my people, things started to expand, and (right now especially, being close to family) this feels like the best place in the world to be.
You’ve spent some time in roles both agency and client side. How have you found the transfer-ability of skills from one to the other? What have you enjoyed most about each side?
I do love the deep and wide thinking and craft that goes on in (my experience of) agency land, and the ability to work with a diverse range of big businesses. But I feel I am at home being brand side. For me businesses are inherently creative and holistic – all parts connect. There is a momentum working with a brand, and I make sure I feel an alignment with the purpose, vision and energy of the place (for me with LRC it’s all about “doing things the way they should be done” – questioning the status quo) and when you have a great team to work with, and can make things happen, it’s pretty wild. And it’s up to you to deliver!
And how is lockdown going for you? How’s your home office looking!?
Personally, I’ve consulted and worked from home/my own studios before, so that’s fairly straightforward. Each bubble has to figure out it’s own shape and ways of managing each day: from families with young ones, to those with housemates, to people living alone, to our older generation, and some are going to be trickier than others. I feel right now is about riding this crazy and testing wave, feeling gratitude for so many things that we do have here in NZ (sunshine, fresh air, Zoom!), going back to basics to look after mental and physical health, and looking out for each other.
How have the Covid-19 restrictions affected the work you’re doing at LRC?
I worked in the travel industry for a lot of my life, and so it feels very strange (and lucky) to be in a new industry and with a brand like Lewis Road at this time. It’s a creative business with a creative team, it’s built on curiosity and thinking about different ways to do things anyway, so we get to put those muscles to the test in very practical day-to-day ways right now.
One small example from a creative POV is in how we continue to make fresh content: As we are a human-to-human brand, we are well set up to be a bit “home-made” at this time. I’ve enlisted all the team to get cooking in their kitchens and film it as well as they can (children are often the camera crew!) so now we have an “At home with Lewis Road” cooking IGTV series that will now continue on after lockdown ends.
Any hobbies or projects you’ve managed to find time to dig up since we’ve been in isolation?
I’m a keen kundalini yogi so been getting more time on the mat which has been great, started a spreadsheet of tools when this all began, put together a little cardboard creative challenge with my friend Mat Bogust who is a cardboard engineer, made a mandala out of seeds and spices for the Lockdown Mandala project … but have a couple of side projects I thought I’d do much more with… and my ukulele is still unplayed!
What’s the one thing you’re looking forward to doing again, once lockdown is over?
Having the biggest and longest hugs ever.
This is a difficult time for everyone and has hit businesses hard. What silver linings or positive outcomes do you think we may see emerge for New Zealand’s business and creative communities?
My heart squeezes. I don’t think we can know what will happen. All I can know is what I see now, which is deeper connection and care, a humbling, a softening, and a deepening of understanding of what’s important to each of us individuals, as families, and as community. I just hope we can take these teachings through to the next wave of creative/business/building/expression/magic that WILL emerge out of this… that we don’t forget how we felt throughout this time.