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LabNotes – Mulberry Monster

Observations on recent projects:

Emma Houlston was commissioned by fashion brand Mulberry to create a hairy monster character which ended up all over their London Fashion Week catwalk show for Autumn 2012.

What was the brief?

To create a furry bunch of illustrated monsters for Mulberry as part of their theme for Autumn/ Winter 2012 (which have featured some shaggy coats and animal prints as part of their collection on the catwalk at London Fashion Week).

Have you worked with this orgnisation before?
I’d already done some smaller, internal illustrations for Mulberry. This time around they had initially commissioned me to do an illustration for their London Fashion Week tote bag, but whilst in the midst of starting that project, the designer I was working with saw some illustrated monsters on my website (some personal work) and subsequently threw me in the mix to pitch for the whole seasons illustrations.

It was wonderful to win the job and get the chance to be involved in such a great body of work with a great English brand like Mulberry.

How did you arrive at the idea and what materials did you use?

When we initially sat down to discuss the job in Mulberry HQ, the team explained how the illustrations would be the starting point of a whole magical process, with the monsters appearing in all sorts of contexts; becoming giant models for fashion week, appearing on bags, cushions, labels and all sorts of wonderful things. I had to bear this all in mind when creating the illustrations and we all felt that they should be very hairy but not too scary.

I usually draw in pen (this occasion being no exception) and I have a very hand rendered style which suited the look for this job.

The Mulberry season of bags and clothes was inspired by Maurice Sendak’s Where The Wild Thing Are and to get myself absorbed into the mood of the season, I revisited the book, watched the film by Spike Jonze and dived back into some of other classic British children’s books of the same era with a similar theme such as David McGee’s Not Now Bernard and Judith Kerr’s The Tiger Who Came To Tea. I’ve also got a nice collection of nature books at hand and I think all of the monsters are quite possibly the distant cousins of a yak.

Drafts or challenges?

As always, with the illustration jobs I tend to do, there was a challenge with a tight deadline at each stage of the project. Due to the variety of applications and formats in which the illustrations appear, I had the added challenge of converting all the hand rendering into vectors too.

What is the one thing you are happiest about in the work?

I love working in a collaborative sense and I had the pleasure of seeing Mulberry take the illustrations I’d created and run with them in an awesome variety of applications and scale. At their London Fashion Week show at Claridges I was blown away to see it all in one space and I can’t wait till the monsters hit the shops in the Autumn this year!

See more of Emma’s work here

Emma with her carved creation. Photograph by Carlo Draisci

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