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Women in business

Fashion, Lifestyle

Girlboss Q&A: Megan Hess, Illustrator

2nd August, 2018

She’s worked with a roll call of the world’s most renowned luxury brands including Dior, Louis Vuitton, Chanel and Tiffany & Co but Megan Hess admits that in the beginning she had no idea that her love of drawing could one day become a successful business and career. Starting out studying graphic design and working as an art director for advertising agencies in London, she continued illustrating on the side until her first big break which involved a 3am phone call from Sex and the City author Candace Bushnell’s publisher in 2006 asking her to illustrate the author’s next book, One Fifth Avenue. Since then Megan has released several of her own books including the recent children’s book Claris the Chicest Mouse in Paris. Here I chat to Megan about doing Skype phone calls in her pyjamas, moving on from drawing pizza toppings to high end fashion and the one thing that keeps her organised.

What inspired you to become an illustrator?

I always knew that I wanted to draw for a living but when I was growing up I had no idea that a fashion illustrator was an actual job! It was just always the thing I loved to do. I still feel incredibly lucky to do what I love what I do as a profession.

How did you get your start?

I studied graphic design because it felt like a ‘real’ job in the art world, but really always wanted to be an illustrator – I just never knew back then that it was a possible career choice! After working as an Art Director in ad agencies for several years I packed everything up and moved to London. It was in London that I worked in a million different creative jobs and in my final job there realised that I had a burning desire to be an artist. At this time I’d became the art director for Liberty department store. Whist I loved art-directing fashion I loved illustrating it more. I started to do very small illustrations for Liberty and from this art directors saw my work and little commissions began to follow. After about a year I found myself with non-stop work. I wasn’t earning a fortune but I’d never been happier and I knew I was going to do this forever.

As my clients got bigger and better I was able to be a little more selective and just work on briefs that I knew had a great creative opportunity. Then in 2006 I got a call in the middle of the night from Candace Bushnell’s publisher asking if I would illustrate her next novel ‘One Fifth Avenue’. This was when things took off at rapid speed for me. Her book became a New York Times bestseller and I met with Candace and she asked me to illustrate all her previous books including the cover of ‘Sex and The City’. Once ‘Sex and the City’ was released I was contacted by TIME and Vanity Fair magazine in New York to create portraits for them.. Following this, I began illustrating for Tiffany & Co, Chanel, Dior, Cartier, Italian Vogue, Bergdorf Goodman, Prada, Fendi, Harrods….. Ironically, at the  same time as my work finally took off I had my first baby! Its funny, I always tell people that I haven’t really slept since 2006!!

What’s the biggest business challenge you’ve faced and how did you overcome it?

Managing it all! In the very beginning the struggle was to find great projects to work on. I had no clients and I wasn’t yet a mother so the initial challenge was to get things moving. Then once my work took off after Sex and The City I had the opposite problem – I had lots of great projects and brands coming to me to collaborate and I also had just had a baby so it was quite overwhelming. Today I still find the biggest challenge juggling it all. I can now only take on about 20 per cent of the jobs that come to me each year so I have to be very careful about what projects are the best fit –I’ve learnt that its better to do a smaller amount of jobs at 100 per cent then lots of jobs at 50 per cent. At the end of the day I try to base this decision on what projects will have the best creative outcome–some projects have huge budgets and others are tiny but I always choose to work on projects that will fulfil me creatively.

What’s been the biggest turning point in your career? Why?

I think the biggest turning point for me was realising that absolutely anything is possible–it was my mindset. It wasn’t a big life changing event that happened and brought me to this realisation, it was just moment in time where it became very clear to me. It changed my outlook from ‘I wonder what will happen to me?’ to ‘I wonder what I will decide to do’. Once my mindset changed I noticed everything changing. Theres nothing more powerful than a positive outlook.

Who or what is your biggest inspiration?

Everything! I love just getting out of my own little world and seeing how other people dress, live and create. I’m an observer and I love all the little details that make people interesting. I also think travel has a huge influence on me and provides endless inspiration.

How do you start each day?

On weekdays I’m up early. I switch on my coffee machine and drink a quick espresso, I do hair and make up in about five mins and I dress professionally from the waist up. This is so I can do any Skype calls on my computer to clients overseas (I keep my pyjama pants on the bottom because they can’t see that bit!). After the calls I’m getting my kids breakfast and ready for school. Then once they’ve been dropped to school I walk to my studio (it’s just metres up the street from my home) I walk in and greet the lovely girls that I work with, I switch on the music, light a candle and I’m ready to draw!

What drives you?

I live to create. All my passion and purpose in life comes from being with my husband and children but my drive comes from my love of creating. Sometime my heart races with a fresh piece of white paper in front of me…What could I draw? What could I create? I love the process of bringing something to life.

What’s one thing you’ve achieved that you’re incredibly proud of?

Getting paid to do what I love for a living and being a mother. I see that as a huge luxury to be able to do both and it’s something that I’m very grateful for every day. I’ve also been able to donate many pieces of my work for charities and causes all over the world and in some small way I feel proud that one of my drawings may have helped someone in need.

What are some tools – whether it be a gadget, an app, a favourite site – that help you manage all your various projects?

I love my  iPad and I’m always on Instagram BUT my biggest organisational app is my actual team! I work with a very talented team who are much more organised than me and they keep me focused and on time for all our projects!

What do you think has been the key to your success?

I’ve always believed that ability will only get you so far and attitude is everything. I think that in the very beginning (before Sex and the City) I gave 100 per cent to every single illustration job that came my way. Most of the projects that came to me in the very beginning were NOT inspiring–for example I was asked to illustrate a 375-page horse manual that on completion was cancelled! After six months of work I received a tiny ‘kill fee’ and really felt like giving up on my dream of becoming a fashion illustrator. Another soul destroying job that almost made me give up was a pizza toppings illustration for a pizza company. I remember very clearly the day I finished drawing that–I turned off the light in my studio at the end of the day and thought to myself….I think its time to give up. That very night at 3am in the morning is when I received the call from Candace Bushnell’s publisher and my life would be changed forever. In short, I think never giving up is the biggest lesson I’ve learnt. My favourite quote that relates: ‘Those who failed, didn’t realise how close they were to success before they gave up!’

Where do you hope to take your career in the future?

I never put one specific goal out there but my dream is always the same–if I can continue to create and draw for a living I will be the luckiest girl on the planet!

What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learnt in your career?

That you never regret taking the high road. Over the years there have been many tricky moments and times where I’ve felt very frustrated or disappointed on a project but I’ve always taken the high road and put being professional above anything else. I’ve looked back and always felt so proud and grateful that I handled things that way.

What’s your working style? Ie where do you love to work? What’s your most productive time of day?

I do the majority of my drawing at my desk in my studio. I really love my workspace. I’ve always loved to create a space that’s inspiring to work in. My current studio is filled with all my artwork and all the little things that are inspiring to me.

I think there’s two different times when I’m most creative. The first is when I’m actually in the process of drawing a concept that I’m excited about. It’s almost like time stands still and I’m just very immersed in the process. The other time that I’m really creative is when I step away from my work. It might be when I’m travelling or on holidays, I think stepping back gives you that much needed perspective to be more creative.

What’s one motto you live by?

Enjoy the journey as much as getting to the destination. Sometimes I think we spend so much time getting to the next thing that forget to stop and enjoy the process of getting there.

What’s the biggest tip you can give to other women out there trying to cultivate a successful business or career?

Decide what is the one thing that would make you excited to spring out of bed on a Monday morning and do for a career. Write down a plan and strategy to make that dream happen and start on it TODAY. You don’t need to suddenly quit your current job or dramatically change your life but taking the first step is always the hardest, so decide to do it today. Never, ever give up on that dream. If its something that you love then you will enjoy the process regardless of the outcome.

Fashion, Lifestyle

Girlboss Q&A: Hermione Underwood, Founder of Atelier Romy and Espie Roche

23rd May, 2018

Being a true girlboss often requires a little multitasking. In Hermione Underwood’s case it’s a bonafide juggling act. Being at the helm of four business endeavours, that include handbag label Espie Roche and jewellery brand Atelier Romy, Hermione manages to make it look oh-so easy. After leaving her beloved Sydney behind to relocate to London, the entrepreneur has flourished in her new home and says it has been the major turning point in her career. Here Hermione chats to me about learning to be a little fish in a big pond, ignoring the doubters and why she thinks a positive attitude is everything.

You currently juggle your brand consultancy, your style and travel blog, Atelier Romy and Espie Roche. How do you manage all four?

I find the busier I am, the more I get done. It just requires some fairly strategic time management and planning. Despite the fact there are multiple businesses, a lot of what I do crosses over so it is manageable.

What’s the biggest business challenge you’ve faced and how did you overcome it?

Pushing forth when people told me I was crazy… and then pushing forth when I momentarily thought they might be right!! More specifically, I would say raising capital investment for my fashion ventures and securing the entrepreneur visa in the UK have been recent highlights.

What’s been the biggest turning point in your career and why?

Moving to London was definitely the turning point for me. I wanted a challenge and boy-oh-boy did I get it. I went from being comfortable and supported to being a tiny fish in a big pond, having to build my network from scratch with limited resources whilst pursuing much bigger career goals. Four years later, the gamble is paying off and find it exciting to be working in a big international city on these businesses.

Who or what is your biggest inspiration?

I’m inspired by people who execute their vision. Those that quietly chip away to see success. Two Aussie friends, Alyce Tran of The Daily Edited and Justin Hemmes of Merivale come to mind… they both have the Midas touch.

How do you start each day?

Usually checking my whatsapp and emails and racing off to a meeting…!

What drives you?

At the end of the day, I just want to do good work that I’m proud of, be challenged and always be learning. I thrive seeing vision come to fruition. I feel very fortunate that my work rarely feels like work because I’ve turned my passions for travel, brands and fashion into businesses.

What are some tools – whether it be a gadget, an app, a favourite site – that help you manage all your various businesses and projects?

I actually run my businesses on whatsapp—it’s obviously immediate and allows my business partners and I to share and easily access documents, references, passwords, designs—you name it—all in one place at any time.

I also use Planoly and UNUM which are Instagram planning and scheduling apps.

What do you think has been the key to your success?

Success is an interesting word. I don’t feel as if I’ve made a success of myself just yet but I would say that I now have the foundations I dreamt of because of hard work, not taking no for an answer and putting my fears to the side.

Where do you hope to take your businesses in future?

I’d like to see my brands Atelier Romy and Espie Roche grow internationally, continue to develop their unique aesthetics and collections and continue learning about the digital/social space to bring them to life online. Recently I’ve acquired a really wonderful group of international clients which I’m helping to infiltrate into the UK and Australian markets which is really exciting for me.

What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learnt in your career?

Positive attitude is everything and as my grandfather used to say, ‘the harder I worked, the luckier I became’.

What’s your working style? 

I try to have at least 1 meeting free day each week. This allows me to focus on real work. I’m also most productive in the morning so I try to ensure meetings are in the afternoon to give me that time to catch up on Australian clients who have emailed overnight, and to get the most important tasks done before the day begins.

Every day is different for me. If I’m not shooting or travelling, I’ll usually work at Chess Club in Mayfair or at one of the Soho Houses.

What’s your number one social media tip for someone starting a business?

Have a clear vision and aesthetic, know your audience and unwaveringly stick to it. I also think it’s important to not take it too seriously and to let your personality shine through.

What’s the best piece of advice you can give to anyone starting a business?

You are going to be faced with countless hurdles and have your decision tested repeatedly so make sure you are truly passionate about whatever it is you are pursuing.

Fashion, Lifestyle

Girlboss Q&A: Tash Sefton

18th April, 2018

She’s one half of the hugely successful fashion blog, They All Hate Us. She founded an art business, Sefton Segedin with her sister, Hayley that produces beautiful paintings, prints and a capsule ceramic collection that will be released later this year and now Tash Sefton has a new business venture to add to her already busy schedule. Where Did Your Style Go is Tash’s new styling consultancy that’s helping men and women discover their unique style, and look and feel their best.

Juggling three businesses is no small feat however Tash manages to juggle it all, along with being a mum-of-two and make it look effortless. So, who better to share her secrets to success and achieving your goals than the woman herself. Here Tash chats style, staying motivated and her biggest tip for anyone wanting to get their own start up off the ground…

What was the catalyst for starting Where did your style go?

I am in an unique position to share knowledge I have gathered throughout my career. Where Did Your Style Go, is a consulting business aimed at assisting women and men look and feel their best. I get contacted on a daily basis through my social media and even stopped in the street with people desperate to ask me questions about fashion and style. Social media can be such an intimidating place for some and I have always found it difficult to answer people in detail through this platform. This lead to the idea of creating a place anyone can read my ‘real’ advice and implement it into their lives. To me, simple advice is the best advice, especially in the fashion world with so much information out there.

Having witnessed all facets of the industry and experienced insecurities personally, I have found that small changes can make a big impact on people’s perception of themselves, both internally and externally. It has also been important to create this next phase in my career. After years of gathering industry and personal knowledge about what works, what doesn’t and why—it is now time for me to share this. I am exploding with knowledge! I started in this industry because of my obsession and love of fashion—it’s never been about the bling or selfies but the journey of why I yearn to find the perfect item and treasure it.

What do you enjoy about helping others find their style?

What’s really interesting is I can help people with a simple things I take for granted knowing. And these simple things can be a major life change. Why is it so important to present well and feel good about ourselves? The impact of having a defined personal style goes far beyond making a good first impression. Great style is about approaching each day with confidence and the ability to feel, with conviction, beautiful in what we are wearing. Believe it or not, the right wardrobe can make a massive difference to your self-esteem.

What’s the biggest business challenge you’ve faced and how did you overcome it?

When I had my second child and left my ‘real job’ to start my own business was very daunting. You go from security to the unknown and I had to re train myself to not work in an office full of people. The quietness was hard to get used to. And teaching yourself to set goals while working from your lounge room is actually pretty hard. You have to learn how to do everything from warehouse, IT, accounts etc while still looking like you know what you are doing!

Stylish and successful, Tash is helping others tap into their own unique style

Who or what is your biggest inspiration?

My parents. My mum and dad have their own very successful business and I remember sweeping the floors in the office when I was a kid. As my parents were always working, I knew no different and my drive comes from them. I like that my children see me working as they can see for themselves the sacrifices you need to make…and that money doesn’t grow on trees.

You have so many projects on the go at the same time–how do you juggle it all?

I am very good at juggling. As I worked for a very large company and managing a huge team working on many projects globally at one time was just what I did. I would travel overseas for three months of the year and learnt how to do it all because that’s what was expected of me. So now, doing what I do is actually much calmer…as I am the boss I need to report to! Also with technology you can work wherever and whenever and no one needs to know you are home with the kids or in your sweat pants.

How do you stay motivated?

I am motivated because I love it. I believe what drives you needs to come from within.

What do you think has been the key to your success?

I have remained me. I haven’t let ego take over, and I am surrounded by great friends and a very supportive family. Plus I have a true love of fashion. Everything I do is based around this—it’s never been about me, but about my passion.

Where do you hope to take your businesses in future?

My new business is all about a new philosophy I have. It’s about teaching and not preaching. There is so much NOISE at the moment, and it’s sometimes just too much. I am excited to share my knowledge with people who really want to learn.

SHOP my handbag guide – READ how they speak a universal language – link in the bio

A post shared by WhereDidYourStyleGo (@wheredidyourstylego) on

What’s your approach when it comes to juggling your family and business? How do you make it work?

My children come everywhere with me—they are around my work. They can sit next to me doing homework, while I am working. We spend lots of time at home just being together.

What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learnt in your career?

Cash flow! Hahaha so boring but so important.

What’s the best piece of advice you can give to anyone starting a business?

Keep working and start on the side. It takes to pressure out of it ‘being a success’ immediately. Learn from your employer before you take the leap alone. Just don’t tell them! Ha!

Who would you love for me to feature in my Girlboss series?

Fashion profile: Briella Brown, founder of Your Closet

17th October, 2016


At just 17, Briella Brown founded online designer dress hire business Your Closet after being invited to three formals in one year and not being able to afford to buy a new gown for each event. The business premise is simple: browse the site and find a designer dress you’d like to wear then have it shipped to you between 1-2 business days. After wearing it simply pop it in the pre-supplied postal satchel to return it and Your Closet will look after the dry cleaning. The rental price starts from as little as $90 so it’s a fraction of the cost of buying a brand new dress. Your Closet is ideal for weddings, the races or even a girls’ night out so you can be guaranteed to look your best without having to spend a small fortune. Here I speak to Brown about founding her business, her favourite pieces and growing her business…

Why did you start Your Closet?
I started Your Closet from a personal desire for the ability to rent my dream dress for a formal I was attending at the time. It didn’t make much sense to spend so much money on a dress which would only be worn once and the idea evolved from there. Since initial conception Your Closet has grown to be a lot more than a cost effective solution but rather a more convenient option for women who would rather have flexible wardrobe options, super fast delivery and easy returns.

What is most challenging about working for yourself?
As the business is still in its early stages, it requires many hours which I love doing. I have found it tricky establishing a work-life balance but am slowly learning to strike more of a balance.


Where do you see the business in three years?
In three years renting for all occasions will be a normal process, I think Your Closet will be a wardrobe staple for all events when you want to look your best – whether that be renting a Camilla and Marc blazer for a job interview or a whimsical Thurley gown for a bridesmaid dress. We are also looking to improve our shipping making it even faster, we currently offer a three-hour shipping window within Sydney but are exploring how we can get this under the hour within Sydney and Melbourne. With an estimated 10,000 dresses available in the next three years we will well and truly be an endless closet option for Australian women.

Which seasonal trends are you most excited about for the next spring/summer season?
I’m really excited for lace this season! We have some incredible, bright lacy midis [dresses] arriving soon in particular a bright yellow sheer lace dress by Thurley. This was recently worn by Isabel Lucas and we have already received so many requests to rent. Lace has evolved from a fine, intricate material to a more bold and often floral material in bright colours. Another trend I am really happy about is the rise of the off-the-shoulder style, which will be featured in collections by Nicholas, Thurley and Camilla and Marc. It is so flattering to all body shapes and is something a little bit different.


Nicholas red lace dress

What are your best styling tips for the races?
There has been a big trend in terms of millinery away from the traditional fascinator and towards more fashion-forward crowns. We recently released a collection of incredible laser-cut leather crowns by Danica Erard and leather floral crowns by Natalie Bicicki – these are really easy to pair with our current dress range. Fascinators can be a little more involved whereas a chic dress paired with a unique crown will always be in style come race day. I think the Spring Carnival is a time to have fun with fashion and is one of the best times each year to get dressed up. The only must is comfy shoes as race days are often very long and the no-shoes look isn’t the best.


Your Closet has headwear available for renting

What is your favourite piece from your collection?
My favourite piece is always changing with all of our new dresses constantly arriving each week however my dream item is definitely the ‘Saki Drape Jumpsuit’ by Camilla and Marc. It has a spotted velvety top, palazzo pants and best of all pockets. This will look uber cool come race day, as it’s different and a little funky – definitely a crowd pleaser!


Camilla and Marc Saki Drap Jumpsuit

Why did you decide to expand your business?
Most of our growth has naturally evolved through customer feedback. An example of this has been a request for a more inclusive dress size range which is why we now stock sizes six through to 18. Customers want more of a one-stop shop, so this has prompted diversification into accessories. The business has been growing faster than I ever thought possible which has been really exciting as my vision is coming to life to develop a curated collection from Australia’s premier designers available in a convenient and smart way and revolutionise the way women approach their wardrobe.

What advice would you give to someone else considering starting their own business?
I’m still learning a lot myself but I would say just got for it! It sounds cliche but I think if you have an innovative idea then you need to give it a go otherwise you will be wondering ‘what if’ and with Wix and other website building platforms it can be really cost effective to set up a [site] and see how customers respond without spending a lot of time and money.

Who do you look up to?
Three women I look up to are Julie Stevanja from Stylerunner, Emily Weiss from Glossier and Alyce Tran from The Daily Edited. Julie has built such an incredible business and had the foresight to see the trend toward athleisure wear and Emily has built an incredible community who swoon over her [beauty] products – she had a waitlist, 60,ooo people strong for for her iconic ‘Boy Brow’ once it sold out. Alyce has an amazing social media presence and I love her flatlays – they are a work of art!

What is the most rewarding part about being the founder of Your Closet?
The most rewarding part is hearing feedback from our customers who have had a really wonderful experience. I love opening our return parcels and finding little handwritten notes saying how amazing they felt and all of the compliments they received.