We chat with fashion illustrator Pippa McManus about her klutzy moments, sharing an outfit with Paris Hilton and what the Perth fashion scene is really like.

She’s one of the most in-demand fashion illustrators in the country, lending her whimsical drawings to a Linneys campaign, the Perth Fashion Festival, exhibitions around the country, and even the Scoop cover a few editions back. But that doesn’t stop Pippa McManus from getting charcoal in her hair and spilling drinks in people’s bags.
We talk to the most down-to-earth girl in fashion about her klutzy moments, sharing an outfit with Paris Hilton, and what the Perth fashion scene is really like.

Hey Pippa, how’s your day going so far?
Good, I just finished a piece from my latest exhibition so I’m kicking back. It’s a collaboration between Caitlin Worthington, the photographer, and Emma Bergmeier, the stylist and hair and makeup artist.

Are you freelancing full-time at the moment?
I’m sort of walking the tightrope between having exhibitions and creating collections and then doing commercial work. I do illustrations every month for
Girlfriend magazine for their star sign section too, it’s really fun. I’m a Pisces girl. What are you?

I’m a Libran. 
Ah, a Libran. Very balanced.

(Snorts) That’s what they say! Do you feel like you match yours? Pisces are creative, right?
Yeah, definitely typical Pisces. We see the world through rose-coloured glasses.

If you’re freelancing all the time, do you get to wear your pyjamas to work?
Well, I used to. And I found that wasn’t working for me. I read this thing about people that do work from home that get dressed up and put shoes on – that’s my main thing, if I wear shoes at home, even if I just wear scrappy Cons or something, I tend to work. If I’m barefoot then I kind of kick around.

I’d be so tempted to wear trackies all the time.
Well, I kind of do. In winter, I just wear leggings and big woolly old jumpers. But I usually have a pair of jeans and a denim shirt to work in; that’s what I’m wearing now, and I’ve just been painting so it’s covered in paint. You can hardly see denim (laughs).

So that’s the uniform, paint-splattered denim? Maybe not as glamorous as someone might think.
Not at all. I’m really unglamorous. My hair’s always filthy and filled with charcoal, it’s not a good look! That’s why I love going out to events and getting dressed up, it’s the absolute opposite of what I wear all day.

Have you always been interested in fashion?
Yeah, forever. My mum used to drag me along to Aherns fashion parades and things like that. Then I started reading her magazines and buying my own. I’m definitely more fashion-based than art-based, I think. I find the art world a little bit scary and a bit hard to break into.

I reckon the fashion industry seems a little intimidating too. Although my friend Renee was just telling me before – 
No! No! Don’t bring that up!

– that you accidentally spilled your drink in her bag at an event! And I thought, ‘That sounds exactly like something I’d do.’
I’m still bright red right now, it was mortifying to me. Especially in a small place in an intimate gig – oh, I just feel so awful!

I would’ve pegged a fashion illustrator as having delicate motor skills! Are klutzy moments usual for you?
I’m pretty much known for it, like having a pint on the dance floor slip out of my hand and everyone looks down because their shoes are wet. Actually I did spill a drink on the Box magazine girls as well; I had something around my neck and it swung and hit a bottle. It went all over their suede shoes. Maybe I should stop drinking…

Do you find that it’s hard to keep it real in the fashion world?
There is a lot of talk that goes on, a lot of bitchiness. But they’re kind of like my family, which is good for an only child.

Is there anything you can tell us about the Perth fashion world that people might not know?
There is but I’d probably get into a lot of trouble! That’s when I would make the enemies.

When you were a little kid, did you ever have something that you would draw
over and over? You know, like some kids always draw eyes…

Yeah, eyes actually – and still eyes. When I talk on the phone I always doodle them. I think it must mean something – something psychological, like soul-searching. I think the eyes are my favourite part of doing a painting, too.

Where do you find your inspiration?
I’m pretty addicted to Pinterest and I follow a lot of models’ blogs. It’s hard because I don’t just draw from a photo; I mix one girl’s head with someone else’s hair, and then chuck a top on her from a different show, and really mix it up. Recently, I started getting into cultural costumes, too. But if I’m looking for something, it gets typed into the search bar in Pinterest.

Pinterest is the best, but I’ve made some of my boards secret because they’re
a bit embarrassing. Do you have any secret boards?

So many! I created one today for something to wear to opening night. I went
to Zimmerman’s page and pretty much pinned everything – hundreds of them! It’s
all a bit out of my budget though.

Do you spend a lot of time planning what you’re going to wear to these things?
I think it’s always good to look artistic, which sounds pretty wanky but I don’t really want to blend in. I want to chat to people, if someone buys my pieces I want to know why they liked it. I think it’s good to be identifiable in the crowd. I think the last one I went to in Perth I wore a big cherry-blossom headpiece with tassels hanging off it – so it was like ‘Oh yep, that’s the artist’.

That sounds awesome. Do you have a favourite outfit you’ve worn?
Ooh, that’s so hard. I’m so obsessed with clothes. I bought a Moschino outfit in Italy last month and wore it to my exhibition in Sydney. It was so fun to wear, it was crazy and very me. And then, when I got back to Perth, someone showed me a picture of Paris Hilton wearing it. I can never wear it again! It’s gone to the vintage archives now, will have to be stored for ten years.


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