Inside Pippa McManus’ studio.
I have had the honour of knowing the exceptionally talented Pippa McManus for nearly eight years, and I can tell you she is a rare and amazing soul. She is beautiful inside and out. We first met working at ZOMP and over the years I’ve known her, her talent has evolved in so many ways; her work just keeps getting better and better!
Her works are highly coveted among fashion- and art-lovers alike, with many of her vibrant pieces already hanging in homes all over the world! Her recent solo exhibition at the Friends of Leon Gallery in Sydney’s Surry Hills was a sold-out exhibition. Titled ‘GYPSET’, the collection of works focused around the theme of gypsy and bohemian dress – a trend seen in many key fashion week collections. And so Pippa’s ‘GYPSET’ girls were decked out in statement clothing and jewellery influenced by worldly native costumes.
Launching tonight is her next exhibition ‘In Bloom’. The collaborative exhibition sees the likes of florist Fox & Rabbit, photographer Caitlin Worthington, stylist Emma Bergmeier-Varian, model Narcisa Music and of course Pippa, all combining their creative strengths to produce a magical collection of work.
I’ve always been a fan of Pippa’s incredible sense of style; her ability to carry such bright colours and prints always ceases to amaze me. Earlier this week I visited Pippa in her home/studio to discuss her love for fashion, ‘In Bloom’ as well as her work and style inspirations. We also had a play around in her wardrobe shooting all of her favourite pieces…prepare to feast your eyes on her wonderful wardrobe!
Pippa with one of her most favourite pieces from ‘In Bloom’.
> How did your love for fashion illustration begin?
I think it probably began with a general love of fashion when I was very young. I started buying Vogue then moved onto more alternative magazines like i-D and The Face and with those came a different type of advertising, using a lot more ‘arty’ styles than the big high fashion magazines. My favourite ads were for Finlandia Vodka – they featured digitally drawn fashion girls by Jason Brooks dancing at clubs, DJing and lounging on super yachts, all wearing incredible clothing. I wanted to draw like that and be one of those girls immediately!
> Who are your favourite artists of all time? Have they had an influence on your work?
I don’t really have any! I feel so detached from the art world. I find it all a bit intimidating and intellectual. I feel much more at home in the fashion world, show me a famous painting from 100 years ago by an old master and chances are I wouldn’t be able to name it, the artist or the period it was created. Show me a catwalk or editorial photo and I would be able to tell you who designed it in what season and year and what that collection meant. I think it has something to do with me not wanting to absorb any other artists’ styles but with an item of clothing I can style it in a painting any way I want and it has a new lease of life.
> Your choice of subjects are always on-point. How do they inspire you?
Oh why thank you! Just lucky maybe! I cop a bit of flack for being quite 90′s so I’m freaking out about that current trend finishing up soon! I think I caught the gypsy trend when it was surfacing in various collections in high fashion and a year later, by the time my exhibition ‘GYPSET’ opened, it had started trickling down into fashion fashion so it was everywhere. I’m also quite obsessed with finding the next big thing when it comes to models, so I like to paint who I think will get the next Prada exclusive haha.
> Your work very much melds the two worlds of fashion and art together. How do you think the two influence each other?
I think they always have influenced each other beautifully, along with film and music. I’m not so good at the film and music thing, am still too immersed in the fashion world, but I love watching it all happen. They seem to all run on different ‘season’ which I suppose staggers the trends out a bit wider. It’s definitely my favourite part about fashion illustration – I get to paint a new thing every six months (fashion) and if I’m not over that thing, by then I can keep on it and not have to explain myself (art).
> Who are your favourite fashion designers?
All the crazy ones, they are always more fun to draw! Anyone who specialises in print, colour and shape. So I’m not a Celine kinda girl. I love Meadham Kirchoff, Simone Rocha, Rodarte and Miu Miu a lot at the moment. And Sophia Webster for shoes. And Mary Katrantzou forever. London Fashion Week is always the most outrageous, Milan has my heart with the Versaces and Pradas, and Paris always makes me sigh because its’ collections are SO beautiful. New York: you’re getting there.
Romance Was Born sequin top, Butler & Wilson earrings, Meadham Kirchoff x Topshop bag, Bec & Bridge Akubra.
Meadham Kirchoff x Topshop dress and bag, Opening Ceremony shoes.
> What and who are your six biggest style influences?
Oh gosh haha, you know what’s going to be first…
1. 90′s (to better define, my teenage years).
2. Mixing really cheap stuff with really expensive stuff.
3. Looking like a bit of a boy.
5. The Kids (youth culture).
6. My friends.
> Are there times when your personal style influences your work?
It might be more the other way round. I think I only pretty much draw what I want to wear. Sometimes it results in my buying what I have illustrated, but it’s mostly my way of having it without having to spend all of my money on it. From 9 till 5, six days a week I am an absolute slob! I live in dirty paint covered clothes, I even wear a headband! But, shhh don’t tell anyone! I tried wearing a silk scarf to cover my hair but it kept slipping off. Turns out fashion illustration is not that glamorous.
Vintage Christian Lacroix silk shirt, Sass and Bide raffia skirt, Piers Atkinson head-piece, Limecrime eyeshadow kit, Valentino shoes.
Bec & Bridge Akubra, Burberry pants, Poppy Lissiman bag.
Mink Pink knit, Mary Katranzou skirt, vintage YSL clutch, Stephen Venezia heels.
> What are your most treasured items in your wardrobe?
So many I realised today! I have a little 80′s YSL clutch I found in a vintage store in the Tulleries Gardens in Paris on my first trip there – it’s broken, but I still wear it. A very dear friend gave me a Christian Lacroix silk blouse that she used to wear in the 70′s. What is so special about it and what makes it such a beautiful person gift is that it has Lacroix’s fashion illustrations all over it; they are so beautiful. A crazy Meadham Kirchoff x Topshop heart shaped bag. It’s covered in sequins and trimmed with lace and actually goes with most of the things I wear. The newest addition to the collection would be my Moschino Barbie collection knitted jumper and skirt. I’m not really planning on wearing it for another 10 years though because Paris Hilton was photographed wearing it in the week after I got it…ruined. My engagement ring is pretty special to me too as it was my parent’s.
> If you could add any three fashion items to your wardrobe right now, what would they be?
I love this fantasy wardrobe game! I play it all the time…such an only child.
1. A beautiful navy blue Valentino dress that is currently in Elle boutique in Claremont. It’s the same shape as my wedding dress, but it has little navy bows all down the back.
2. Another dress. Christopher Kane Spring/Summer 2007 – any of them, but particularly the yellow fluro number with nude lace.
3. A vintage sapphire blue or emerald green velvet pant suit. I think Pucci do something similar every season now, but I’d prefer vintage.
Tata Naka dress, Meadham Kirchoff x Topshop fur stole.
Vintage Agnes B. dress, Mara Hoffman flats, UNIF sunglasses.
Moschino knit top and skirt, Poppy Lissiman clutch.
> What can we expect to see at your upcoming exhibition ‘In Bloom’?
Lots of flowers! I’m not sure if this has ever been done before too. It’s a collaboration with a florist (Fox & Rabbit), a stylist (Emma Bergmeier-Varian of Dropstitch), a photographer (Caitlin Worthington), a make-up artist (Rebecca Collins), a hairstylist (Melissa Cook) and gorgeous model Narcisa Music from Scene, and me as the fashion illustrator paints what the others cam up with. We had a really fun day shooting the looks around 8 months ago, so it’s been a long time in the making! We will have beautiful floral arrangements from Bec from Fox & Rabbit and also a unique lighting display from Micktric Events, so visually it will be more than just paintings and photographs on display. It will also be a bit of a feast with The Butcher Baker Stylist providing beautiful cheese boards and Bunkers supplying some of their beautiful wines.
> Your advice for any aspiring fashion illustrators…
Try not to look too much at other artists’ work. The more you follow someone else’s style, the more you will absorb it without realising. Be original and be confident! Also ask any other artists lots of questions, especially the Jacksons staff! They may point you towards something you have never heard of or tried before. Trust your gut – if you get a bad feeling about something, whether it be a direction you’re going in, a job you have been offered, or a client. Collaborate, seek out like minded people because wonderful things happen through collaborations. The best advice I ever received is, don’t take a job because you’re flattered by the offer.
> What’s next in the pipeline for you?
Hopefully some more interstate and overseas exhibitions. But, at the moment a bit of a holiday – three whole weeks! After that, I’m planning on doing a rebrand of Pippa McManus illustration. Instead of commissions I will be creating collections of work based on themes I’m obsessing over – that way I get to paint exactly what I want and I find when I do that, I progress more as an artist. Very much looking forward to 2015, because this year has been awesome – I want to do it all over again.
‘In Bloom’ launches tonight at MANY6160 and will be showing till December 14. There will be 10 original Pippa McManus paintings available, with 10 prints for each painting. Be sure to have a look at this unique exhibition!