The Melbourne studio where Megan Hess works her magic is impossibly stylish; a luxe, light-filled space reminiscent of a dreamy Paris apartment. Elegant white cabinets sit atop plush textured rugs, a golden bar cart is filled with fine china, and chic coffee table books are stacked just so.
Seconds into my tour of the lavish suite, which Hess renovated from a drab financial services office (“all cubicles and brown carpet”), she politely interrupts me to turn the music down. Nineties hip-hop is blasting over the radio, which feels amusingly at odds with the serene environment.
“We’ve got R&B Fridays on,” she says with a laugh. “We don’t even secretly love it—we love it. During the week we’re usually listening to Hôtel Costes or something calm, but we’ve got Missy Elliott blaring [today].” The workspace of the venerable creative, conveniently situated “literally steps” from her home in the bayside suburb of Port Melbourne, feels a lot like you’ve stumbled into one of her sketches. Her unmistakable style riffs on lithe, fashionable ladies in black-and-white worlds, where the streets are embellished with charming buildings decked out in designer awnings. Large-scale prints of her work line the walls of the office—the artist has lent her talents to commissions for Dior, Prada, Valentino et al., and her bespoke illustrations also hang in upscale houses and hotels around the globe. Hess’ latest collaboration with Georg Jensen, though, is one of her most cherished yet.
The artist has teamed up with the jewellery brand, a key partner of the Ovarian Cancer Research Foundation (OCRF), to help increase awareness of ovarian cancer and raise funds for the development of effective early screening. Hess cites the cancer’s sobering statistics as the reason for her involvement with the campaign: “What really struck me is the fact that not only does a woman die of ovarian cancer every 10 hours, but we have absolutely no way of detecting it [early],” she says.
In support of the foundation, Georg Jensen has designed an exclusive jewellery piece, the Offspring Heart pendant, with a percentage of its sales assisting research into early detection methods for the life-threatening illness. Hess has created two signature sketches heroing the design to further bring attention to the cause. “I [draw] a lot of beautiful fashion things, and when you illustrate something that you know is directly going to raise money and hopefully help someone somewhere, it makes it all the more special when you’re drawing it,” she explains.
When working on a project, Hess surrounds herself with beautiful objects that help set the tone for her fanciful creations (a Chanel snow globe, a gift from the brand, takes pride of place in her office, and she stores her stationery in a miniature Louis Vuitton trunk). “I tend to pick up a lot of strange, interesting things when I travel,” she muses. “I’ve got a little gold peacock I found in an antique store in Paris, and if I find vintage gold buttons or lids I often keep them [for] flat-lays on my desk.” (If you’re wondering, Hess manages her own Instagram account, where she shares a pastel-pretty window into her professional life with her 358,000 followers.)
A stone bust replica of Michelangelo’s David mounted on the meeting table stands out among the more delicate souvenirs. “I found it at an old furniture store in Melbourne,” she shares. “I was driving home and he was in the back seat and I remember thinking, ‘Oh my god, Megan, where are you even going to put that?’ But I’ve always gone with the theory that if you really love something, you will find a way to make it work. So David sits on the table and sometimes we put a scarf on him, or pearls at Christmas.”
When it comes to personal style, Hess’ aesthetic is somewhat reminiscent of her characters: think polished with a Parisian influence. “I’m drawn to a vintage ladylike look,” she says. “I love white, I love long dresses, a dramatic collar and sleeve...[or] for something that’s a bit more ’70s tailored, I really love Bally suits and handbags.” Thanks to those expert flat-lays, Hess’ social media acolytes would be familiar with her stellar accessories closet. “Shoes and bags are my weakness,” she confesses. “I’ve tried over time to never buy anything too similar and build up a collection—everything from a really embellished and detailed Dolce & Gabbana [piece] to something like a very sleek YSL bag.”
It’s not all Victorian dresses and heels, though. As mother to Gwyn, 12, and Will, 8, her off-duty look befits the practicalities of parenthood (“People are often surprised to find I wear a lot of black”). As the conversation turns to balancing home life with her business, I ask how Hess feels about the world her daughter is coming of age in now that attitudes towards gender equality are firmly shifting. “I’ve been absolutely blown away by what she’s working on,” she says. “The awareness of where women are at now has become something girls are being taught in schools...it feels like a lot of the things we silently just dealt with as women are being talked about. [So] I feel really hopeful.” It seems fitting, then, that Hess is bringing hope to more women through her latest project, too.
Purchase the Georg Jensen Offspring Heart pendant (shown in Hess’ sketches) in sterling silver, $195, or 18kt gold, $995, in stores or from georgjensen.com.au. See the sketches on display at Georg Jensen Chadstone and Chatswood Chase for the month of August.