Meet Megan Hess one of the world’s most famous fashion illustrators who works with the most prestigious brands as Prada, Dior, Louis Vuitton, Tiffany & Co Yves Saint Laurent, Vogue, Fendi, Givenchy, Wedgwood, Salvatore Ferragamo, Michelle Obama, Cartier, Montblanc, Balenciaga, Chopard among others, author of 7 books, philanthropist, mom and wife.
Who is Megan Hess? define yourself
I’m an Australian artist living in Melbourne. I illustrate for the most prestigious luxury fashion brands around the world. I’m an author of 7 books and I create beautiful Limited Edition art prints and products. I’m married with two children. My greatest passion is traveling the world with my family.
"That true luxury is how something makes you feel. It’s the experience. The most iconic fashion brands"and designers have become iconic because they’ve stayed true to their history and the very essence that first made them special"
You are from Australia, tell us more about your family, how were you as a kid?
I had a very happy childhood growing up in Queensland Australia. Most days were like many other kids, playing with my sister and brother and all the kids in our neighborhood. The drawing was always my true love. I would draw all of my friends and it was always the one thing I loved to do more than anything else.
You graduated from Griffith University, in Australia, you got a bachelor's degree in Graphic Design, why did you decide to study that?
Honestly, I wasn’t sure what I should study when I finished high school. I knew I wanted to be an artist but I could see a direct career path for that. Whilst Graphic Design never felt like my end path, I learned so many valuable design tools that I still use today. I also made lifelong friendships while studying - it was a wonderful time in life.
Upon graduation from university, you landed your first job with Mojo in Brisbane, one of Australia’s high-profile advertising companies. After working as an art director in various advertising agencies for several years, You packed everything up and moved to London where you worked in a variety of creative jobs, for example, you were the art director for Liberty department store. How did you jump from that point to illustrate the cover of the book Sex And The City - written by Candace Bushnell?
My clients gradually got bigger and better and I was able to be a little more selective and just 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 for me. Her book became a New York Times bestseller and I met with Candace and she asked me to illustrate all her previous books including the cover of ‘Sex and The City’. Once ‘Sex and the City’ was released I was contacted by TIME magazine in New York to create portraits for them.. Following this, I began illustrating for Tiffany & Co, Chanel, Dior, Cartier, Vanity Fair, Italian Vogue, Bergdorf Goodman, Laduree….. Ironically, at the same time as 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!!
You are one of the world’s most sought fashion illustrators, you have made portraits for Vanity Fair and Time created iconic accessories for Henri Bendel and illustrated the windows of Bergdorf Goodman in New York, your list of clients include: Prada, Dior, Louis Vuitton, Tiffany & Co., Yves Saint Laurent, Vogue, Harpers Bazaar, Fendi, Ladurée, Givenchy, Wedgwood, Salvatore Ferragamo, Michelle Obama, Cartier, Laduree, Montblanc, Balenciaga, Guerlain, Paspaley, Tag Heuer, Disney and recently Chopard. What are the learning's you have acquired working with the world’s top fashion designers and brands?
That true luxury is how something makes you feel. It’s the experience. The most iconic fashion brands and designers have become iconic because they’ve stayed true to their history and the very essence that first made them special. There’s nothing more exciting than working with brands that I have loved and followed for many years. For me, it’s about understanding what is unique to them and separates them from everyone else.. Once I’ve identified that it becomes the heart and soul of what I illustrate for them.
"I’ve always believed that ability will only get you so far and attitude is everything, I think never giving up is the biggest lesson I’ve learned"
What do you love most about your job as a fashion illustrator? & what is the most difficult part?
Getting paid to do what I love for a living while being a mother. I see that as a huge luxury to be able to do both and it’s something that I’m very grateful for every day. I’ve also been able to donate many pieces of my work for charities and causes all over the world and in some small way, I feel proud that one of my drawings may have helped someone where.
The most difficult part.. managing it all! In the very beginning, the struggle was to find great projects to work on. I had no clients and I wasn’t yet a Mother so the initial challenge was to get things moving. THEN once my work took off after Sex and The City I had the opposite problem - I had lots of great projects and brands coming to me to collaborate and I also had just had a baby so it was quite overwhelming. Today I still find the biggest challenge juggling it all. I can now only take on about 20% of the jobs that come to me each year so I have to be very careful about what projects are the best fit - I’ve learned that it's better to do a smaller amount of jobs at 100% then lots of jobs at 50%.
At the end of the day, I try to base this decision on what projects will have the best Creative outcome - some projects have huge budgets and others are tiny but I always choose to work on projects that will fulfill me creatively.
What inspires you?
Everything! I love just getting out of my own little world and seeing how other people dress, live and create. I’m an observer and I love all the little details that make people interesting. I also think travel has a huge influence on me and provides endless inspiration.
You have achieved a lot, you are an author of 4 bestselling books, your work has appeared on the bottom of luxury swimming pools in Dubai to bespoke homes in Paris and New York and on the walls of the most coveted fashion houses around the world, etc. What is the recipe for your success?
I’ve always believed that ability will only get you so far and attitude is everything. I think that in the very beginning (before Sex and the City) I gave 100% to every single illustration job that came my way. Most of the projects that came to me in the very beginning were NOT inspiring - For example I was asked to illustrate a 300 page Horse Manual that on completion was canceled! After 6 months of work, I received a tiny ‘Kill fee’ and really felt like giving up on my dream of becoming a Fashion Illustrator. Another soul-destroying job that almost made me give up was a Pizza Toppings illustration for a Pizza Company. I remember very clearly the day I finished drawing that - I turned off the light in my studio at the end of the day and thought to myself….I think it's time to give up. That very night at 3 am in the morning is when I received the call from Candace Bushnell’s publisher and my life would be changed forever. In short, I think never giving up is the biggest lesson I’ve learned.
"Take leaps of faith and enjoy the process as much as the outcome. For me, it's pretty simple - I’m most successful at the things I enjoy doing and I also believe in working with people who are smarter than me and much more capable of doing the things that aren’t my strength"
What is the reality of your day-to-day?
I’m up early doing any overseas skypes before the rest of the family wakes. Then my two children wake up and my husband and I are in ‘go go go’ mode! Making breakfast, school lunches, then my daughter is off to school and my son to kindergarten. Then my working day kicks off with any conceptual work first while my mind is fresh. I’m then drawing non-stop till the kids have finished school. I get them set up with a snack, homework, and craft while I finish any deadlines. Then its bath time, dinner and books for the kids and then we put them to bed. At this point my husband I fall onto the couch with a glass of wine and hear about each other’s days! It’s the winding down after a long day. And my final ritual is a hot bubble bath. It’s the one time of the day I feel like I clear my head and completely switch off from the day.
Do you have any particular philosophy that guides your career decisions?
Enjoy the journey as much as the destination. Sometimes I think we spend so much time getting to the next thing that forgets to stop and enjoy the process of getting there.
If you could, would you change any steps you took in your career, and if so, what would you change?
Aside from signing a few very bad contracts in the early days I actually wouldn’t change a single thing. I’ve certainly failed at times but when I look back, those moments of not succeeding brought me to bigger success in other ways. I truly believe that everything (good and bad) is meant to happen and it ultimately brings you to where you’re meant to be.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
I really encourage anyone to make their passion their day job. If it seems impossible, I suggest you start working on your dream job whilst you’re still in your day job. Get up early, stay up late and work in it while you have another income. Some people have the financial freedom to switch careers but most people don’t (I certainly didn’t) But you have nothing to lose if you put the effort in. Better to have tried than to always wonder what could have been.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?
Take leaps of faith and enjoy the process as much as the outcome. For me it's pretty simple - I’m most successful at the things I enjoy doing. In the beginning, I was very results-focused but I realized that means you’re never there yet. Now I’m more mindful and try to enjoy the moments just day today and it made an incredible difference to the success of my business. I also believe in working with people who are smarter than me and much more capable of doing the things that aren’t my strength.
You are a very busy woman, always traveling, still, you have found the time for helping many charities. What drives you? What´s your motivation?
My life is very busy but then so is everyone else life. I always feel I could be doing more for charities but I have taken so much pride in being able to help many different not-for-profit groups in a small way. Every year we donate many pieces of art to raise money for various groups in need. I also try to use my Instagram for good when I can. If one of my illustrations can highlight something very important then I feel I’m using that connection in a very positive way.
"You have to look at social media as a visual world to get inspiration - not a world to believe that everyone's life is perfect"
What do you like to do in your spare time?
I’m a big fan of meditation. In the beginning, I found it really hard to do but I can now do 20 minutes a day and I feel like it completely resets my mind and body. I really believe that you need to take care of yourself in order to be able to take care of others.
How is Megan as a wife and as a mom?
Well, you would probably have to ask my husband and kids! My family is everything to me. Every single night before I go to sleep I think the heavens above that I have them and I all I ever really want is for them to be happy.
Many authors say women can and must strive to have everything – a shining career, blossoming family life, and a perfectly balanced lifestyle all at once, others point out that– then women are placing unrealistic expectations on themselves if they believe they can have it all, You are married and have two young children so according to your experience, what do you think about these statements?
This one is hard to answer. I do believe that anyone (men and women) should be able to have what they want and what makes the happy in life. All of it takes work and ‘having everything’ is a different equation for every person. I think it's about forgetting what society tells us we should have. It's about forgetting what our friends have. To me, it's being honest with yourself and finding what really makes you want to spring out of bed in the morning and then it's being brave enough to go after it. My life is a mixture of absolute chaos and utter bliss. every day is different and rarely ever his a day perfect. My Instagram is very curated. I’m a visual person so I love to post beautiful images. I don’t post pictures of me at home with a head cold feeling miserable or the nights where the dinner I cooked looks unfit for any human to eat!! You have to look at social media as a visual world to get inspiration - not a world to believe that everyone's life is perfect.
What are your plans for this 2019?
I have lots of very exciting plans this year. lots of great collaborations all over the world coming up. Many new bespoke products that I’m currently developing and very excited about. More books! lots of travel and hopefully lots of relaxing time too.
There is still the glass ceiling for women in the world: Fewer opportunities, jobs underpaid just for that fact of being a woman, etc. Have you experimented the glass ceiling? if yes, What are the biggest challenges you have faced and how have you overcome them?
I’ve worked for myself for 20 years so my experience is to not be intimated by anyone in a business sense. I’ve always gone after my dreams - even though sometimes it's scary! I’ve learned to not fear rejection and to stall behind my ideas and beliefs. The more women forge forward with confidence the more the ‘glass ceiling’ disappears.
"I’ve always gone after my dreams - even though sometimes it's scary! I’ve learned to not fear rejection and to stall behind my ideas and beliefs. The more women forge forward with confidence the more the ‘glass ceiling’ disappears"
What tips, can you give to young girls, who want to work in fashion?
Be prepared to work hard - a lot of girls want to work in fashion. Knowing about fashion and having great style is a bonus but being smart, pro active and having a great attitude will get you much further faster.
I think in your position, many people may have the wrong idea of who you really are (personally), and what do you (professionally), with this idea in mind, what is being Megan and what's not?
I have no idea what people think I do or am. The reality is I spend many many hours drawing and juggling my family and working life. I love fashion and creating beautiful images but my life is not picture perfect. For every beautiful picture, I post there was probably 100 outtakes that were a disaster. At the end of the day, I am someone that is very grateful for the life I have. I get to do what I love for a living and that to me is one of the greatest luxuries.
Who is the woman you admire the most and why?
My Mum. She is just the best person I know. Growing up she made me feel confident and gave me the strength to believe in myself. She has such a great sense of self and never worries about what anyone thinks of her. She has always been very inspiring to me.
Name: Megan Hess
Company: Megan Hess
Designation: International fashion illustrator/Author