Contemporary                     Culture

 

The (R)evolution of Ryan Willms

Then? Creative director. Now? Holistic life coach.

interview adam bryce photography justin chung
source index issue nº01; buy it here now

ryan willms

We first met when you were just starting Inventory, a magazine that went on to have a cult following unlike much else in recent times. It seems a lifetime ago though now, I think we met at an exhibition that The New Order magazine was hosting in Paris, I remember talking about Tyler Brûlé and other things. What do you recall of this time and what were you trying to create with Inventory?

I had a very clear idea, and I remember telling Tyler at dinner one night: “I’m going to make the best menswear magazine in the world.” I smile to myself now, but I think it’s important to set lofty goals to aim for. Then it’s about the process, the people, the experience and if you pour your authentic self into it, you might get there, but more importantly you’ll enjoy the ride. Besides that goal, what I really enjoyed was creating a world of Inventory. The print magazine, the daily posts on the website, online retail, and the physical locations, our collaborations, and DSM spaces. They were all facets of the world of Inventory and creating and sharing that is both what I learned to do, and love to do.

Then I recall, almost when it seemed at its peak, seeing a statement on the Inventory website that it was coming to an end and I was shocked. I had personally been through so many stages when I had wanted to end what I was doing in that same space and just start again. But for you and through this statement, it just seemed like that was it. What was going on for you at the time? I know first hand, that world we were in was tough, it was very competitive and it never seemed to stop, did that have anything to do with your decision?

There were a lot of factors at the time. Our team was split between Vancouver, New York, and London, and we didn’t have as much ‘fun’ creating in that way. Additionally, we probably needed to go all in; with retail and clothing, or the agency and consulting, that the magazine brought it, but we didn’t have anyone in our team that wanted to own the business development.

Personally, I felt like I wanted to diversify outside of what I felt Inventory had become. I started the magazine at 24 years old so, by the time I was 30 I had grown a lot and was increasingly interested in exploring more womenswear, photography and personal projects.

On top of that, the new print market that started with magazines like Monocle, Apartmento and ourselves had suddenly become quite saturated, and so I think all of these factors contributed to us deciding to go out on a high note, so to speak.

But that wasn’t the end for you, it was a transition. You shifted into creative direction and photography and did some really great work. Did you enjoy that part of your career?

I did, and I learned a lot as well. I did a lot of work with Stüssy on special projects where I got create product, campaigns, work with DSM, IDEA, Kiko Kostadinov, Twoness, i-D and others that felt really special.
I cherished that work, as I love Stüssy to this day, and to be able to contribute to that legacy makes me proud.

Otherwise I did a variety of projects, campaigns and creative direction that really helped me learn a lot, in terms of creative problem solving and my own creative process. This is when I really burnt myself out, but even
that has become a big lesson.

We hadn’t spoke in some time and seemingly out of nowhere, I saw through Instagram that you had started a new website called Into The Well. Something that still has your signature style but from a whole other world. As I looked more into it, I discovered you had been through some challenging times and had come out of that through your own self reflection and Into The Well was, in some ways, the result of that. And a portal into your new being.

As someone who has struggled with mental health issues throughout my life, I’m intrigued as to what you went through, how you dealt with the challenges and came out the other side?

It was quite a transition for me. About six years ago, just before moving to New York, I went through a break up that caused a shock to my system. Not to say I was perfectly healthy or aware before that, but it put a crack in my self perception. Subconsciously I began thinking that something was wrong with me, and I had to make up for it.

That never works unfortunately, so eventually after dealing with chronic physical issues mainly with my stomach digestion which ended up leading to a depressive period. With perspective, I can see that I was off-track with my own self, trying to be who I thought others wanted me to be, or what I felt I needed to be to get love or be respected, and that’s a very common issue, which generally leads to chronic un-wellness.

I finally decided to quit all of my work and leave New York to look under the hood, and dig into my inner emotional world. I knew I would need some space from work to do this properly and so my new journey really began.

Can you explain a little about this journey? It’s probably something a lot of us are aware of, but perhaps scared to start or unsure of how
to go about.

It can be really challenging to take this step. I remember being in New York and going for lunch and having coffee with my friends to say goodbye, and I felt shocked at the overwhelming majority of them sharing that they also felt depressed, lost and exhausted. Several of them told me they wished they could do what I was doing.

The reality is we all can, and nobody else can make a choice like that for us. We get attached to this made-up identity we have for ourselves, who we need to be and what we need to accomplish, at its core to be worthy of the love we crave. Through that process we often become disconnected with our heart and soul, rationalising whatever we need to mentally, to stay in the pain and suffering we’ve created for ourselves. If we do that long enough it’s going to become chronic and we’re going to be confronted with mental or physical issues, or both.

It’s crucial that we learn to feel and see these signs because our bodies and the universe is going to send us messages, but it’s up to each of us to listen authentically. Getting back into our bodies and out of our heads is foundational for this; meditating, yoga, can be great tools to reconnect. Once there is enough connection it’s a matter of re-learning to use our heart as the compass, not our minds, your heart will never lead you astray.

And now, Into The Well. As a holistic life coach, you’ve come out the other side and are now helping others. How does this work?

I’ve found it’s a pretty common path actually. Most people who are truly inspiring others, healing, sharing invaluable experience and information have generally gone through their own crisis. When you take responsibility for our life and make the changes and new choices to heal, it’s powerful and often that leads to sharing the tools and lessons you’ve learned with others.

Inventory for me was always about sharing cool gear that I was into. So what I’m doing now is quite similar in a way, just a new and arguably more important topic, although I still do love good gear. It was challenging to cross the threshold and step into a teacher or coaching role. I second guessed myself a lot, who was I to tell somebody what to do? But in time and with experience I realised it wasn’t so much about telling someone what to do, but being there to ask questions and really listen to them, and help them avoid the potholes I got stuck in.

We are in the midst of a time where many of our lives are enduring significant change. What advice can you give to those dealing with uncertainty and unwanted change?

Well, life is impermanent. Every thing on this planet is changing every second, so the sooner we can accept and surrender to the fact we have very little control of anything we’re able to find a little bit of peace. I believe a mindfulness practice is absolutely foundational to well-being however, and developing this over time will help in so many ways and it’s completely free to everyone. We are all completely unique beings, and all we can do each day is the very best we can. If we’re increasing our awareness regularly then we can do better each day incrementally, aiming for one per cent is all we need.

ryan willms

Physical well-being plays a large role in your wellness, can you give five tips on how to live authentically and find balance in your life?

Our bodies are our chief instrument. The more we can nurture our body with food and thoughts and experiences, the healthier we’ll be.

1. Work-in
The concept of working-in is about building energy and calming our nervous systems. We’re so conditioned to do more and more, including exercise. Running is great but its a stressor on your system, and so it’s crucial to use methods like qi gong, walking meditation, float tanks, yin yoga, sauna, cold water, breathwork, and sleep to build our energy.

2. Nutrition
What we put in our bodies, literally becomes us. It turns into the cells that make up every part of our bodies. So it’s really important to feed ourselves as consciously as possible. Organic whole foods, clean water and learning to listen to our bodies for what they actually need, not what we emotionally want to eat.

3. Push Your Limits
We can do so much more than we know we can. Whether it’s in your mediation practice, running, in a relationship, or trying something new — I think it’s so important to push ourselves as a way to grow and gain confidence in ourselves.

4. Meditation
This probably should have been number one. As I mentioned earlier, I feel meditation’s fundamental to living in good health physically and mentally. It’s a practice that has positive effects on stress, anxiety, and sleep, but it’s so much more than that. It’s a way of being in the world — with more awareness of ourselves and others we can make better choices, have more empathy, and hopefully be more gentle with our own self.

5. Journal
I don’t journal all of the time, but when I start feeling out of alignment or stressed, I know it’s time to come back to it. I’ve created a Daily Journal for Into the Well, which I’ll be using with my coaching clients as well. It really helps us connect the dots for ourselves about what we’re eating, our movement practices, how we’re creating space for ourselves, our goals and our challenges each day. So often we move through the day making unconscious choices that are holding us back from where we want to go, so if we can uncover where we’re doing that and make a new choice, it’s powerful.

ryan willms
ryan willms
ryan willms
ryan willms
ryan willms

“We get attached to this made-up identity we have for ourselves, who we need to be, and what we need to accomplish, at its core to be worthy of the love we crave. Through that process we often become disconnected with our heart and soul, rationalising whatever we need to mentally to stay in the pain and suffering we’ve created for ourselves. If we do that long enough it’s going to become chronic and we’re going to be confronted with mental or physical issues, or both.”

ryan willms
ryan willms

“About six years ago,
just before moving to New York, I went through a break-up that caused a shock to my system. Not to say I was perfectly healthy
or aware before that, but it put a crack in my self perception. Subconsciously I began thinking that something was wrong with me, and I had to make up for it.”

RYAN WILLMS FEATURES IN INDEX ISSUE Nº01
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