It’s been a big week for acclaimed fashion illustrator Megan Hess in the Middle East. Not only has she been announced among the 160 esteemed authors flying in for the Emirates Airline Festival of Literature 2019 but she’s also unveiled her AW18 campaign for The Galleria Al Maryah Island, Abu Dhabi. “I’m very much looking forward to going back to The Galleria,” Megan tells Grazia of her first stop when she returns to the UAE in March. “What I think is so unique and so lovely about The Galleria is the fact that there is such an incredible mix of both fashion and dining – and I think that’s what changes the experience of shopping.” First, a word about her new book, Iconic: Masters of Italian Fashion
Your new book Iconic explores the creations of Versace, Dolce & Gabbana, Fendi, Valentino, Pucci, Prada, Miu Miu, Missoni, Gucci and Armani. What is it about these designers that makes them iconic in your eyes?
When I was creating the book, narrowing it down to 10 Italian designers was actually very difficult, but I chose the 10 that I felt were the most iconic to me and the most different to each other. These brands have been going on for over a 100 years or longer, and there is something about what they started in the beginning, and that they’ve kept throughout the years; and in some cases through having different head designers at the helm of each brand, they’ve maintained something that has made them iconic.
Do you believe fashion designers in the Middle East have what it takes to be iconic?
Absolutely, I think the only tricky thing about being iconic is that you need to have quite a history. So I think what we will notice now, is that the designers in the Middle East are really forging ahead. Many of them, I think will become very iconic. And I think it will be the ones that really has a strong sense of signature style. They’re the brands that will become iconic.
Did you draw on the research for Iconic to create The Galleria campaign? How did these projects inform one another?
Yes, in a way I guess you can relate them strongly. My book Iconic is very much a collection of incredible designers coming together from Italy. When I think of The Galleria, it’s a collection of designers from around the world in one place and each designer is completely different, and yet when they are housed together it creates this incredible world of luxury because you have such different designers. Each design, reference for each season, comes from a different place. So you end up with an everchanging eclectic mix of beautiful luxury fashion.
As you spend more time with us in the Middle East, are you basing your characters in the campaign on real-life women you’ve met in the Middle East?
Absolutely! I think no matter where I work or what projects I work on, the most important is to draw inspiration from what’s real, from what the real beauty is that you see. One of the key things that I always notice in the Middle East is that there’s such diversity in terms of fashion. I think Middle Eastern women are very brave with the fashion that they wear, they understand luxury very well, they understand designers very well, and they’re not afraid to really mix designers, to wear pieces that are very strong and very bold. As an illustrator that’s the most enjoyable subject matter to draw – beautiful fashion and I think a confidence, in a sense of strength with that. And again, one of the biggest things that I noticed in the Middle East, is that the women are so beautiful. Every time I arrive in here, I think to myself, “Oh my goodness, the women are so beautiful,” and I think that is something that I love to capture as well.
We love the Megan Hess girl squad, do you deliberately set out to send a message of female solidarity and unity through your work?
Yes, absolutely. I always wanted my illustrations to project strength within women. I’ve never captured women in any capacity where they look frail or weak, or unconfident. And that’s something that’s very important to me. I love fashion, I love a sense of elegance, but at the same time I like all my characters in my work to look strong , and have a sense of purpose, a sense of confidence;, I always feel that within the Middle East as well. So that’s something that regardless, of where of the project is, it’s something that I like to capture.