Australian-born, luxury illustrator Kerrie Hess is renowned for her ultra-glamourous artworks depicting a feminine fantasy world nearly every woman wishes she was living in! Filled with macaroons, couture gowns and Paris, Kerrie’s candy-hued world is the ultimate for any fashion-lover.
Kerrie has been commissioned to work for CHANEL, Printemps Paris, Kate Spade New York, Louis Vuitton, Collette Dinnigan and Net-a-Porter. Kerrie’s illustrations have also featured in Vogue, Tatler and Harper’s Bazaar. Fittingly, Kerrie has just designed a capsule collection of Ballet flats in collaboration with Melbourne-based label, Ballettonet.
Tell us a little about the work that you do?
I’m a fashion illustrator, artist and mother of one; based in Brisbane Australia. I have previously lived in London, Melbourne, Hong Kong and Paris, working as an artist for the past 16 years.
Describe your signature illustration style
I started out working with calligraphy pens, then about seven years ago I moved over to water colour paint and fell in love with the fluid and temperamental nature of painting with this medium. It’s my favourite style to work in. And as I have always been inspired by the fashion artists of the 1950’s I feel that watercolour suits this style. A few years ago I branched out into large scale canvases using oil and acrylic paint. I wanted to teach myself this new medium through trial and error. Along the way I fell in love with it so much that I converted my garage recently into a painting studio! My poor car now has to live outside in the car port.
What inspired you to work in fashion illustration and did you always want to be an artist?
To be honest when I started out, I didn’t really know of anyone doing this as their career, so it was definitely quite a few years in the beginning of finding my way. All I really wanted in the beginning was to be able to just pay my rent from painting and drawing. I certainly never saw a future of billboards in Paris, painting window’s for Harrods in London or my own range of shoes…
What are some of your career highlights so far?
The biggest one is definitely my solo exhibition in Paris at Le Meurice Hotel. I showed 17 pieces there in the ballroom that both Picasso and Dali have previously shown, so it was such an honour. Creating my own print shop has been a really wonderful experience. While it’s lovely to see my work in fashion windows and on beauty packaging, it’s even lovelier to see my work end up in people’s homes which is what my print shop is all about. These prints are very personal to me.
Tell us about some of the collaborations you are currently working on?
The most exciting one recently is my 8 piece collection of Ballet Flats, about to launch on June 10. I have been working as the designer of this collection with Ballettonet in Melbourne and our makers La Bacarina in Italy for a year and a half now, so it’s very exciting to see it all finally come together… There have been so many samples of Italian nappa and suede leather, velvets, metal hardware, lining and ribbon detailing to go through in the design process. I think I have also driven the Italian team crazy with countless swatches and adjustments but ultimately I had to feel 100% that this collection was chic, beautifully made, and comfortable being the designer of it.
I am also the ultimate person to test out the samples as my daily life is almost always in flats, running from school drop offs to clients meetings, back to the studio and then possibly an event. As I generally don’t keep up with fashion trends, my collection is based more on the Parisian woman’s wardrobe. Classics that go from day to evening that won’t date.
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What have been some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced in your career so far?
I think in the very beginning as an artist I was just grateful for every job that came my way, but now, juggling both work and my son, I have had to learn to say no a lot more. I also feel that at this point, I do only want to work on collaborations that I feel really fit in well with my work aesthetic and that will be an interesting process creatively.
How do you create a great a work/life balance, particularly when running a successful business and being a mum?
The million dollar question! Oh I wish I had the answer to this. I suppose for me, 95% of my focus is my son and then my work, and I probably let a proper social life and time to myself slide. But that’s something I am working on. I am a happier person when I can make time for pilates or catch up with friends. The key for me is that when I am working I am just focused on that, and when I am in the park with my son eating and ice-cream, I don’t check my emails or social media. I don’t want to dilute that time in any way. I don’t try and have it all, and definitely not all at the same time. Focusing on just one thing at a time, I think is the key to a calmer life when you’re juggling a lot of things.
What is one of your greatest defining career moments?
I think seeing 13 metre illustrated billboards for department store Printemps go up all over Paris recently was a magical moment. I used to visit Printemps often when I lived in Paris as I loved the windows and branding, so it was just wonderful to also be part of that. Painting the window’s for Harrods in London just a few months ago was also very special. As well as illustrating for Louis Vuitton and Elie Saab.
What is the best advice you’ve ever received?
Be nice to everyone you work with. It’s the same people on the way up as the way down. And ‘the harder you work, the luckier you will get.’ I definitely believe in this! I had no connections in fashion when I started out, I just had to make things happen for myself.
The one piece of advice you would tell you younger self:
“Think less, do more and ‘jump – you will build your wings on the way down.”
The Kerrie Hess X Ballettonet Collection of ballet flats will release worldwide on the 10th of June from www.ballettonet.co/kerriehess
Kerrie’s work is available at here