Pippa McManus has emerged as one of Australia’s best-known fashion illustrators after a decade of professional work in the industry. McManus began studying fine arts in Perth in 2000 before transitioning into fashion and textile design. She soon discovered she felt at home with a foot in both art and fashion, and began to carve out a niche in fashion illustration. By 2005, McManus began participating in group shows and promoting her work through social media.
It was a community project with Perth artist Stormie Mills that led to a series of collaborations with other notable artists and designers from Australia and the rest of the world. After Mills selected McManus and her business partner Leon Krasenstein to be a part of his group exhibition at L.A’s Scion Gallery in 2007, McManus caught the eye of Perth fashion designer Aurelio Costarella. Their collaboration saw McManus illustrate the invites for Costarella’s New York Fashion Week show.
But McManus’ first big break came when she was asked to illustrate the 2009 campaign of luxury jeweller Linney’s. Her work for the Perth pearl company led to commissions from a string of Australia’s top fashion and lifestyle brands, including Ellery, Urban Walkabout, Dusk and Manning Cartell. McManus was also commissioned to create a series of in-store murals for the likes of Zara Bryson, Chick & Kent, Zomp and Rummage.
McManus’ strong ties to the fashion world mean she regularly attends Sydney’s Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week and the L’Oreal Melbourne Fashion Festival, and is a permanent fixture on the Perth Fashion Festival schedule. Her 2012 entry into an international illustration competition held by London-based designer Mary Katrantzou beat more than 130 other entries to win McManus tickets to the designer’s Spring/Summer 2013 London Fashion Week show.
Since 2012, McManus has sold out four solo shows of her work: ‘A is For Arizona’, an A–Z of her favourite models; ‘Best Western’, a print exhibition in conjunction with Perth Fashion Festival; and 'With Flowers In Their Hair’ and ‘Sleeping Beauties’, two shows at her residency at 140William. These shows have led to a consistent flow of private commission requests both nationally and internationally. Scoop Magazine asked McManus to blend her illustration techniques with fashion photography for a cover and feature editorial in 2013. She continued her commercial magazine work, landing a two-year contract illustrating teen publication Girlfriend’s monthly star sign feature, Girstrology. This led to a string of art book features including the cover of Somer Flaherty Tejwani’s guide The Art of Fashion Illustration,which features techniques and inspiration from leading fashion artists. Taschen also chose McManus’ work for a six-page feature in the book, Illustration Now! Fashion.
McManus’ strong social media presence has attracted the attention of Australia’s leading fashion brands. She has been asked to curate the Instagram accounts of one of Australia’s top make-up brands, Becca, with a series of 10 illustrations released over 10 days. Perth’s premier shoe boutique Zomp also asked the artist to create nine illustrations of her favourite looks from its Spring/Summer 2015 season.
McManus held her first national solo show, ‘Gypset’, at Friends Of Leon gallery in Sydney’s Surry Hills in September 2014, after eight months of research and painting. The show featured 20 highly intricate, bohemian-themed fashion illustrations, which referenced traditional Moroccan, Spanish and Indian costumes. The work sold out a week before the show opened. Additional pieces created for the show also sold out on the night, totalling 30 works sold in all.
Three months later McManus’ year-long collaboration with photographer Caitlin Worthington, stylist Emma Bergmeier-Varian, florist Fox & Rabbit, make-up artist Rebecca Collins and hair stylist Melissa Cook was realised in the form of, a group exhibition. ‘In Bloom’ opened to sell-out success at Fremantle’s Many building. The collaboration featured 10 illustrations and eight photographic prints of model Narcisa Music sporting incredible floral crowns and dreamy fashion and accessories.
This year has presented a diverse array of creative projects. McManus is no longer producing private commissions or commercial work, and has instead been able to contribute pieces to two nominated charities, StyleAid and Cord. McManus’ donated works have been auctioned to help raise money for the important work of these organisations.
McManus is now focusing solely on her fine art, and recently partnered with Perth’s Little Wing Collective to participate in two ‘Photobomb’ events where selected artists illustrate over a photographic print. The project allowed McManus the opportunity to blend two art forms, and she used an artist talk at Little Wing’s Corner Gallery to reflect on her passion for such experimentation and her career highlights. In May, McManus launched her first online exhibition ‘Teen Queens’, an online catalogue of 20 pieces of work available to an exclusive client list. The artworks were based on images of royal women and combined elements of wicca and religion.
The rest of the year holds some exciting projects, including a group exhibition in October at Friends of Leon gallery that will place McManus alongside 25 of the world’s best figurative female artists. ‘In Bloom Two’ is also scheduled to open in December at a handpicked styled space in Perth CBD’s EnEx building. Studio 281 Gallery has also come onboard to represent McManus and regularly show her work.
McManus has been invited to exhibit at her favourite international gallery, Modern Eden Gallery, in San Francisco in September 2016. Her work will be part of the group show ‘Femme to Femme: The Feminine in Contemporary Art’, curated by Beautiful Bizarre magazine’s Danijela Krha.