Pippa McManus illustrates the pursuit of glamour as art. The fashion insider seems approachable via Pippa's storytelling approach to the industry. We become engaged in visual banter and the individual becomes a real life canvas where fashion is seeking acceptance. Conformity and perfection become an investigative inquiry rather than an obsession.
NAME: Pippa McManus | HOME GROWN: Perth, Western Australia
DAY JOB: Fashion Illustrator | DREAM JOB: Fashion Illustrator
COFFEE OR TEA: Coffee | VINTAGE OR COUTURE: Couture | SUCCESS OR FAME: This is the only one I can't choose, I want it all! | SILVER OR GOLD: Gold | APPETIZER OR DESSERT: Appetizer | SUMMER OR WINTER: Winter | MILD OR SPICY: Spicy | NO REGRETS OR NO FEARS: No Fears | TRUTH OR DARE: Truth
Q & A.
JRL: As a fashion illustrator, one would assume that your sole focus would be on the fashion. But, you have a different approach. You actually capture the industry, more specifically the women who make up the industry. Are you suggesting that it is the individual's approach [her walk, her attitude, etc.] to fashion that's the inspiration? As opposed to fashion being solely responsible for individuality?
PM: That is an amazing compliment, I hope for nothing more than to capture the fashion industry as a whole. I started out solely trying to capture the line of a dress and the precise stitching and construction of an individual garment, but how boring! I find the clothes just as interesting as the face. A few years ago, my work started to shift focus onto the person wearing the clothes as much as the clothes themselves. I think maybe my work is a bit more fine-arty than it was previously. Like you say, more focus on the individual. I hope the viewer comes up with a story for each girl and I hope that every story is different.
JRL: There seems to be a current obsession with full figures and extreme curves, yet the women that you depict are the polar opposite. Do you feel that the svelte frame is a voice that has been silenced or are you simply showcasing what you see?
PM: An ongoing controversial topic in the fashion world. I occasionally cop a bit of flack for the way I depict my women. But what can I say, I'm a traditionalist. Fashion illustration has been based on a stretched and lengthened figure since forever. It's how I was taught to illustrate in college and what I'm comfortable with. It reflects the industry, which is my job in a nutshell. I regularly attend life drawing classes and love drawing real bodies from life, I have even taught such classes to fashion students. I believe in order to draw a stylized or distorted figure you must first learn how to draw an anatomically correct figure. The great thing about being a fashion illustrator is that I get to pick and choose from what the industry is currently obsessed with. I don't have to follow it all, case in point: minimalism, nothing bores me more! But I don't have to draw it.
JRL: The eyes of your subjects dominate your work. They are piercing, mysterious, daring; I appreciate that I can't say sexy, demure, or innocent. Was this a conscious decision, to avoid simple stereotypes and offer a hint of each woman's individual complexity?
PM: Thank you, I'm glad you think so! I do try to have a range of different girls though, sexy, demure, and innocent all included. And I do try to give them piercing, mysterious, and daring eyes. I think my girls can be all of these things wrapped into one; it's what the viewer sees. But the eyes are definitely my favorite thing to paint; perhaps what I'm feeling at the time is what comes through in the painting.
JRL: What elements outside of fashion inspire your work?
PM: I'm finding I'm a bit obsessed with video clips at the moment. I'm not sure why because I don't really listen to commercial radio at all. Actually that might be why. And that might link back to my obsession with youth culture; I think I definitely have a Peter Pan complex. But most of all I would say it's my friends who inspire me the most. The way they dress, the things we chat about involving both fashion and anything but fashion. They are all so individual and just hanging out with one of them for an hour will influence the next album I will download. Or I'll chase after some snippet of cultural info they have told me about.
JRL: If your self portrait could be translated into a runway show, what designers and/or models are featured? What songs or artists provide the music? Why?
PM: Good question! And a hard one! I suppose it would have to be a traditional design house that references past eras, maybe Miu Miu? The models would have to be a mix of my favorite pouty lipped kitten brigade: Frida Aasen, Daphne, Lindsey, Siri, Frida G. Girls I would love to look like and the more quirky girls that I love to draw. But I don't do it that often because the interesting looking girls don't sell as well as the VS type girls. Music would have to be 90's club anthems because that's my ultimate genre.
Images shown: Trippy Gypsy | Dahlias & Dior | Ginta Rose | Bianca Bae | L is for Lindsey
Image credits: All artwork created by and provided courtesy of Pippa McManus.