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Megan Hess is Drawn to Fashion

Fashion illustrator Megan Hess at work in her studio in Victoria, Australia.

By Janelle Zara

An air of elegance and whimsy permeates artist Megan Hess’ work. The timeless glamour of her illustrations is what continually draws commissions from the likes of Dior, Vogue and other icons of the fashion world. We spoke to the Australian native about her sources of inspiration and where her career began.

What steered your career toward fashion illustration?
I studied graphic design because it felt like a “real” job in the art world. But I really always wanted to be an illustrator, I just didn’t know that it was a possible career choice! After working as an art director at agencies for several years, I packed everything up and moved to London, where I worked in a million different creative jobs. In my final job there as art director at the department store Liberty, I realized that I had a burning desire to be an artist. I started to do very small illustrations for Liberty, and from there, other art directors saw my work and little commissions began to follow. After about a year, I found myself with nonstop work. I wasn’t earning a fortune, but I’d never been happier. I knew I was going to do this forever. Today, I can probably only do about 20 percent of the projects that come my way. The biggest challenge for me these days is fitting it all in. But at the end of the day, it’s my dream job, so I’m very grateful.

You illustrate for the biggest fashion houses and publishers in the world. Looking back, is there a project that you consider your first big break?
As my clients got bigger and better, I was able to be a little more selective and to work on briefs that I knew had a great creative opportunity. Then in 2006, I got a call in the middle of the night from Candace Bushnell’s publisher asking if I would illustrate her next novel, “One Fifth Avenue.” This was when things took off at rapid speed. Her book became a New York Times best-seller. I met with Candace and she asked me to illustrate all of her previous books, including the cover of “Sex and The City.” Once it was released, I was contacted by Time and Vanity Fair to create portraits for them. This was a dream come true. Tiffany & Co., Chanel, Dior and Cartier followed. At the same time that my work finally took off, I had my first baby. It’s funny, I always tell people that I haven’t really slept since 2006.

Your illustrations have a very distinct, romantic style. Where do you draw inspiration? Are there particular films, artists or moments in history that influence your work?
I get inspired by many different things—people, fashion, art, music—but probably the biggest influence is travel. I think the more you travel and immerse yourself in different countries and cultures, your eyes are opened, and you become inspired by new things. I love to arrive in a new city, find a busy cafe, and start sketching people around me—secretly, of course. My characters and fashion sketches are how I express my thoughts and experience. Students always ask me how they can find their own style, and I always say, “Keep drawing, and your style will find you!”

Although the majority of your clients are based in Europe and North America, you still call Australia home. Have you ever considered relocating?
Because of technology, I could actually live anywhere and do the same work. I love living in Australia. It’s a beautiful country. The funny thing is that nearly all my clients are somewhere else. Australia is a day ahead of the rest of the world, so I usually have my completed sketch for an overseas client waiting in their inbox before they even wake up!


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