Out of the blue

The Courier-Mail - QWeekend - - UPFRONT - Mercedes-Benz Fashion Fes­ti­val Bris­bane, Au­gust 24-29. www.mbff.com.au

The phone call that launched a Bris­bane fashion artist's in­ter­na­tional ca­reer

There re­ally are only so many times a girl can draw a piece of pep­per­oni. Or mush­rooms. Or meatballs. In fact, pizza top­pings of any kind. As­pir­ing fashion il­lus­tra­tor Me­gan Hess had not en­vi­sioned her ca­reer com­ing to this. Dispir­ited E\ WKH ¿IWK UHTXHVW WR UH-VNHWFK SHSSHURQL VOLFHV RQ D PHDW-ORYHUV¶ SL]]D IRU D KRPH GHOLYHU\ PHQX, +HVV ± ZKR¶G ORYHG GUDZLQJ DOO KHU OLIH

and ex­celled in art at Lour­des Hill Col­lege, +DZWKRUQH, LQ %ULVEDQH¶V HDVW ± KDG UHDFKHG KHU OLPLW. $OWKRXJK VKH¶G KDG VRPH JRRG MREV VLQFH leav­ing school in 1992 – for Ital­ian Vogue and Elle 8. ± VKH¶G DOVR GUDZQ VH[ SRVLWLRQV IRU Cos­mopoli­tan magazine and spent months ODERXULQJ RQ D 350-SDJH KRUVH-FDUH PDQXDO, RQO\ IRU WKH SURMHFW WR EH FDQQHG. 'UDZLQJ SL]]D top­pings over and over again, how­ever, was the last straw. On that night in early 2008, Hess went


give it away and pur­sue a dif­fer­ent ca­reer path. $ 3DP WHOHSKRQH FDOO FKDQJHG DOO WKDW. ³, MXPSHG out of bed and an­swered the phone, think­ing some­one must have died,” she re­calls. “It was an Amer­i­can woman say­ing she rep­re­sented a New York Times EHVW-VHOOLQJ DXWKRU ZKR KDG VHHQ RQH RI my il­lus­tra­tions in Ital­ian Vogue and wanted me to do the cover of her next novel. She said the DXWKRU ZDV YHU\ ZHOO NQRZQ DQG ,¶G KDYH WR VLJQ D FRQ¿GHQWLDOLW\ DJUHHPHQW. ,W ZDV WKH PLGGOH RI WKH QLJKW « , GLGQ¶W NQRZ LI LW ZDV D GUHDP. , WKRXJKW PD\EH LW ZDV -DFNLH &ROOLQV. , MXVW VDLG \HV.´ The next morn­ing, Hess emailed back the

FRQ¿GHQWLDOLW\ DJUHHPHQW. ,W ZDV RQO\ WKHQ VKH was in­formed the work would be for Sex and the City DXWKRU &DQGDFH %XVKQHOO¶V QH[W ERRN, One Fifth Av­enue. At the time, Bush­nell was at the height of her fame. Sex and the City, the movie, was soon to be re­leased and NBC tele­vi­sion se­ries Lip­stick Jun­gle, based on her novel, was screen­ing. “My whole spirit was lifted,” Hess

VD\V. ³,¶G ¿QDOO\ JRW D ZHOO-SD\LQJ, H[FLWLQJ MRE. The horse man­ual was for­got­ten.”

Hess, who was liv­ing in Mel­bourne at the time, sub­mit­ted the cover art­work and Bush­nell loved it so much she com­mis­sioned her to de­sign a sig­na­ture look for her pre­vi­ous books. The pub­lisher wanted new de­signs for each lan­guage ver­sion – 25 dif­fer­ent cov­ers in all. “At that point, ev­ery­thing changed,” Hess says. “I went to New York when One Fifth Av­enue had come out and

LW ZDV RQ ELOOERDUGV LQ 7LPHV 6TXDUH, LW ZDV RQ buses, on top of taxis.” In a giddy week in New York, Hess was of­fered work by Tif­fany & Co,

Chanel, Dior, Van­ity Fair and Time magazine. “It was my dream come true. I said yes to them all.”

Tak­ing in­spi­ra­tion from fashion icons such as Au­drey Hep­burn, Sophia Loren and Grace Kelly, Hess has also worked for high-end clients Valentino, Ba­len­ci­aga, Cartier, Yves Saint Lau­rent, Fendi, Mon­tblanc, Ladurée, Rolex, Bul­gari, Henri Ben­del and the Hô­tel Ritz Paris. She cre­ated a façade for Tif­fany and Co's Fifth Av­enue store in

0DQKDWWDQ DQG LOOXVWUDWHG D ERRN IRU 86 ¿UVW ODG\ Michelle Obama, a “mod­ern-day style guide” ti­tled What Would Michelle Do? Her work has fea­tured on a three-storey ex­te­rior wall of Bloom­ing­dale's in Dubai and on the win­dows of New York lux­ury goods de­part­ment store Bergdorf Good­man.

Hess has an on­line store with a range of scarves, cush­ions, sta­tionery, lim­ited-edi­tion

SULQWV DQG ODVW \HDU UHOHDVHG KHU ¿UVW ERRN, Fashion House, with draw­ings of the home in­te­ri­ors of Coco Chanel, Tom Ford and El­iz­a­beth Tay­lor, among oth­ers. Her next book, The Dress: 100 Iconic Moments in Fashion, is due in Oc­to­ber and Hess says it's a “cel­e­bra­tion of all the dresses that have made my heart sing”.

For all her achieve­ments, one of her proud­est com­mis­sions is for this month's Mercedes-Benz Fashion Fes­ti­val Bris­bane. The 39-year-old mother of two has de­signed a trio of mod­els in shades of pink as the key pro­mo­tional image for the fes­ti­val, now in its eighth year. “Grow­ing up in Bris­bane, as­pir­ing to be a fashion il­lus­tra­tor and watch­ing the RAQ [Re­tail As­so­ci­a­tion of Queens­land] Fashion De­sign Awards on TV, I never dreamed I would ever go to the [fashion] fes­ti­val, let alone draw the hero il­lus­tra­tion for it,” Hess says. “I have been in­cred­i­bly proud to do it.” ME­GAN HESS GREW UP IN CA­PAL­ABA AND Bel­mont Heights, in Bris­bane's south-east, the mid­dle child of Bill, a phar­ma­cist, and Jan, who worked in the phar­macy and later cu­rated the Com­mis­sariat Store Mu­seum in Bris­bane. Her sis­ter Ker­rie, 35, who lives in Bris­bane, is also an il­lus­tra­tor, though Hess says they “keep their work pretty sep­a­rate”. Ker­rie has worked for fashion houses such as Chanel and Louis Vuit­ton and writ­ten and il­lus­trated two books aimed at teenagers – Girl Se­crets and Girls Only – and a style book, Shoe­string Chic. Brother Thomas, 40, is a pae­di­atric ra­di­ol­o­gist at the Royal Chil­dren's and the Mater Chil­dren's hos­pi­tals in Bris­bane.

In pri­mary school at St An­thony's, Alexan­dra Hills, also in Bris­bane's south-east, Hess would draw sim­ple car­i­ca­tures of her class­mates and her teacher would com­ment to her mother that the draw­ings were ba­sic yet some­how man­aged to cap­ture the per­son­al­ity of the sub­ject. “I re­mem­ber get­ting a re­ally good re­ac­tion to the car­i­ca­tures and feel­ing good about them,” she says. “They were prob­a­bly ter­ri­ble, but the kids loved them.”

At 12, she dis­cov­ered the work of Rus­sian­born French artist Ro­main de Tirtoff, aka Erté, in a sec­ond­hand book store. “I found a print by Erté and did a bit of re­search on him and dis­cov­ered the world of this amaz­ing il­lus­tra­tor … it was when all mag­a­zines were il­lus­trated. He was a big star.”

Hess did high-school work ex­pe­ri­ence with a Bris­bane fashion de­signer but soon re­alised her pas­sion was in draw­ing the de­signs, not sewing them. “At [Lour­des Hill Col­lege], art was re­ally re­spected – it was not seen as a bludge or a joke les­son. My art teacher, Mrs [Marita] Ar­tuso, re­ally en­cour­aged me. She told me there were lots of jobs I could do with draw­ing.”

But Hess was not con­vinced and af­ter grad­u­at­ing, she en­rolled in a Bach­e­lor of Graphic

'HVLJQ DW *ULI¿WK 8QLYHUVLW\. ³*UDSKLF GHVLJQ was never re­ally what I wanted to do but I thought I should do some­thing where I would ac­tu­ally get paid. I al­ways had these fears [about art] that I would be in a dark stu­dio paint­ing all day, starv­ing, with 100 cats. Graphic de­sign sounded like some­thing I could make a liv­ing from.”

To­wards the end of her de­gree, Hess com­pleted a 12-week ad­ver­tis­ing course and was sub­se­quently of­fered a plum role as art direc­tor with lead­ing Bris­bane agency Mojo. “I was 21 and prob­a­bly too young,” she re­calls. “It was an eye-opener to an in­dus­try that at that time was

¿OOHG ZLWK ÀDPER\DQW SHRSOH, ELJ HJRV DQG D ORW of money spent on ac­counts. It was ter­ri­fy­ing, but I learnt a lot from it.”

Hess re­alised ad­ver­tis­ing was not for her af­ter two-and-a-half years, and moved to Lon­don. Her boyfriend, ar­chi­tect Craig Yel­land, whom she met

at Bris­bane's Mary Street Night­club when she was 19, fol­lowed her. Af­ter six months work­ing in re­tail, Hess reg­is­tered with a recruitment agency to try her hand at some­thing creative. She was sent to a host of jobs, from styling pop stars at Tower Records to win­dow dis­plays for re­tail chain Laura Ash­ley. Then came a job as art direc­tor of Lib­erty de­part­ment store on Re­gent St. “I would of­ten book mod­els, makeup artists or pho­tog­ra­phers,” Hess

VD\V. ³2QH GD\ , ZDV DVNHG WR ¿QG DQ LOOXVWUDWRU to draw the store's next sig­na­ture fur­ni­ture pieces. I of­fered to do it my­self and told them that if they

GLGQ¶W OLNH LW, ,¶G ¿QG VRPHRQH HOVH. 6R , GLG DQG they thought it was great, and they used it in the store's spring fur­ni­ture cat­a­logue. At that point, I de­cided that was what I wanted to do.”

Hess was later con­tacted by Elle UK to do a full-page fashion il­lus­tra­tion. “When the magazine came out, I think I bought ev­ery copy from the news­stand. I was so ex­cited, I can't even tell you.” By the time she and Yel­land re­turned to Bris­bane to get mar­ried in 2001, Hess had enough work to il­lus­trate full-time. FOR THE PAST FIVE YEARS, HESS AND YEL­LAND have lived in a spec­tac­u­lar four-bed­room apart­ment in the roof of an 18th cen­tury church in Port Mel­bourne. Yel­land, 40, grew up in Cherm­side, in Bris­bane's north, and at­tended Craigslea State High School. He is now a direc­tor of Mel­bourne-based prac­tice Plus Ar­chi­tec­ture,

ZKLFK UHFHQWO\ RSHQHG DQ RI¿FH LQ %ULVEDQH. 7KH cou­ple has two chil­dren, Gwyn, 8, and Will, 4.

Their home, all white and black and de­signer-beau­ti­ful, seems an in­con­gru­ous play­ground for young chil­dren. “Craig and I look at the pho­tos of our home and wish we lived there as well,” Hess laughs. “The truth is that for any pho­tos any magazine has ever taken of our place, they have come in and re­moved half of our stuff. If only it was so sparse and tidy.”

Hess in­sists the home is “bul­let­proof”. “Be­cause Craig is an ar­chi­tect, it's re­ally childfriendly,” she says. “The whole place is de­signed around black and white be­cause if you put black and white to­gether, white never looks dirty.”

That didn't stop a run-in with a rogue Thomas the Tank En­gine toy that landed her in hos­pi­tal. “Will came into our room and told me he'd had a night­mare, so I let him in our bed to give him a cud­dle and calm him down,” Hess says.

“Later, as I was car­ry­ing him back to his bed­room, I stood on Thomas the Tank En­gine. , IHOO FRPSOHWHO\ EDFNZDUGV RQ WKH ÀRRU ZKLOH VWLOO KROGLQJ P\ VRQ. $W ¿UVW , WKRXJKW ,¶G EURNHQ my back, it was so painful. In the end, I'd torn two mus­cles but I was hor­i­zon­tal for four days. I couldn't move.”

Hess de­scribes her life as “full on”. She

XQGHUWDNHV IRXU RU ¿YH RYHUVHDV WULSV D \HDU, ZLWK most of her clients based in the US and Europe.

“I try to com­plete any trip in as short an amount of time as pos­si­ble, just be­cause I've got kids,” she says.

“Craig is in­cred­i­ble. It's very much a team ef­fort. He al­ways looks ten years older when I get back. But he's amaz­ing. He's down with ev­ery­thing.”

For all her suc­cess, Hess will never for­get the night Can­dace Bush­nell saved her. “I went from strug­gling to pay the rent to liv­ing very com­fort­ably,” she says. “If I hadn't got that call, ev­ery­thing could have gone on a com­pletely dif­fer­ent path. I'm very grate­ful to her, and she has be­come a men­tor to me ever since.

“Draw­ing is the only thing I've been good at, and luck­ily it's worked out.”

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