Megan Hess On Coco Chanel and Candace Bushnell
When Australian fashion illustrator, Megan Hess, got a 3am phone call from Candace Bushnell’s American publisher to illustrate a book, she naturally snapped up the offer. What she did not know was that her illustrations would be gracing the pages of the author’s bestselling book, Sex and the City.
Since that golden phone call in 2008, Megan has become one of the biggest names in fashion illustration and has collaborated with luxury brands the likes of Louis Vuitton and Christian Dior. She is on a creative roll, has clients begging her to work with them and has no plans to slow down.
woman with drive caught up with Megan to talk about her latest book, Coco Chanel: The Illustrated World of a Fashion Icon.
Do you remember the first time you discovered Coco Chanel?
I was a teenager and remember reading about Coco Chanel and her famous boutique on Rue Chambon in Paris. I read that she had an apartment upstairs and lived at The Ritz down the street and I recall thinking I would love to do that – live in The Ritz and have my boutique down the street! From that moment on, I have been gathering and collecting information about Coco Chanel because I was fascinated and interested in her world.
When did you first start working with the Chanel fashion house?
I did my first Chanel illustration about 10 years ago. It was of the Chanel No. 5 fragrance and since then I have done lots for them from illustrating the classic Chanel bag to the jackets and the iconic façade of Rue Chambon, the first boutique Coco bought.
What did you learn about Coco Chanel that you did not know until you started working on your latest book?
I thought I knew a lot about her but when I started working on the book I discovered so much more. I had read so many autobiographies over the years but learned a lot about her romantic life of which I did not know. She never married or had children but she had some amazing romances throughout her life. I thought it was interesting the different men she was with and the timings of them in her life, the dynamics of that, how it impacted her brand and how it influenced in the building of her success at the time. It was quite telling about her as a person and how it translates into designs and the brand she created.
What springs to mind when you think of Coco Chanel?
When I think of Coco Chanel, I think of the classic tweed she created and I picture loops and loops of pearls with her famous CCs. I see her surging down the street with a slight hunchback and purposeful walk, dressed in her iconic, signature colours of black, cream and white. I picture strength – even in her older age she had that same gusto and sense of style that she created in the early days.
How did the Sex and the City cover illustration work come about?
Candace Bushnell’s publisher saw my work in a magazine editorial and approached me. At the time I was working full time as an illustrator [doing pizza delivery design] but not on fashion projects although that was what my heart wanted to do. When the publisher rang me in the middle of the night, I did not think that would be the call that would change my life forever. It was a project that took my work from the studio to the world stage. More than anything, it turned my approach to my work around and gave me the confidence that I could work on things I really wanted and it was possible.
Have you met Candace Bushnell?
Yes, I have and I call her a friend today. She is almost like a mentor to me. She is someone who early on gave me a lot of advice on being confident about my work, how to deal with American clients who give you a million changes, knowing when to hold your ground and how to stay in there with a client when things go pear-shaped. You always have to respect everyone you work with because you never know where that person will end up. And she is right. We always catch up for a glass of champagne and have a good laugh. She is completely down to earth and so humble considering how many books she has sold. She is a fantastic person.
Image credit: Megan Hess
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