The world of fashion is a tough one to crack and although those in the midst of it make it look easy, it requires long hours and plenty of dedication especially when it comes to landing sought after contracts, as Rotorua-born Kelly Thompson can attest. C A graduate of Massey University’s Bachelor of Design Degree (Hons), Kelly has an impressive and ever-expanding client-list which includes: Glassons NZ, Ruby Boutique, Juliette Hogan, The Australian Ballet, Covergirl, The London Sunday Times, Saatchi and Saatchi, and Mimco (to name but a few). And to add to what looks to be an impressive resume, this year Kelly won a Pride in Print Award in recognition of her illustration work. But the fun (and hard work) never stops–she’s also been leading Master classes for Nintendo,
Kelly Thompson: Projects
S: You’ve been hosting Master Classes for Nintendo– how did this come about?
KT: The Master Classes for Nintendo came through The Jacky Winter Group who represent me. The only relationship I had with gaming was from a previous gamer boyfriend, so I was surprised that they picked me, but as I have a lot of experience with public speaking it helped me get the gig. I was asked to be an ambassador for the New Art Academy game on the 3DSXL console, so it was “Kelly Thompson for Nintendo” which felt pretty good! The game is more of an educational tool that adopts traditional drawing techniques to teach you to draw. I had to learn the system and was then flown to Sydney to host classes with the console on a boat in Sydney Harbour (dreamy). Then there was a nationwide competition and 10 winners were flown to Melbourne to take part in a Master Class with me in my studio. Each winner received the console and the Art Academy game, and spent a night in Melbourne. It was a pretty fun job!
S: 2013 has been a great year for you in terms of recognition. Can you talk a bit more about the Pride in Print Award and do you feel that this helps to move your career forward?
KT: I won a Gold in the Pride in Print Awards which recognises quality printing techniques and product in industry. That felt pretty good, as I’m always ranting on about the paper I use for my prints and the quality of the inks, and all these details that many people don’t consider. That’s one of the reasons my prints don’t sell super cheap. I don’t just print them out on the home printer! I think winning awards just draws attention to the finer details of your craft that people may not always consider, it makes people appreciate the choices you make and the time you put into things.
S: Last time we talked you mentioned you were on a shortlist for an international pitch, and I think I read somewhere that you landed the job. Can you divulge or is it still top secret?
KT: Oh so close! I got it yes, it was pretty intense pitching against 5 other International artists, but I made it through and it launches in January. I’ve been working on it since 2011, (and) it’s the longest I’ve ever had to keep a job quiet, and it’s so hard. I can tell you that it’s for a Parisian fashion house who are launching a new fragrance. I designed the packaging, promo material and POS for all International use, so it is pretty exciting!
S: There aren’t many people doing fashion illustration in NZ. Did you find that there were any obstacles or did you always see that there was a niche for yourself?
KT: Oh, there are so many obstacles! People don’t want you until someone else wants you, so it has been a very long road to get to where I am, but I am really happy to have arrived at where I am now and it is nice to be one of NZ’s first recognised fashion illustrators.
S: How would you describe your illustration style?
KT: Considered, precise, refined and feminine…maybe not as gestural and emotive as I want!
Are there any industry professionals/ illustrators that you look up to?
KT: Oh many! Malika Favre, Craig and Karl, Vania Zouravliov, Richard Gray, Eirian Chapman, Coles Philliips, Ben Sanders…I could make the biggest list ever here!
S: I see you have an accessories range launching soon- what’s the theme/ concept? It sounds exciting!
KT: The accessories part has been moved back for a bit now, but in winter 2014 –all going to plan, I’m launching a small line of clothing with a heavy focus on print. I feel like I’ve ticked many of my goals and have spent a lot of this year re-evaluating my place, making new plans and thinking about what I want to do next…it is really important for me to keep pushing. I want to expand my work and my brand, as I feel like I have a lot more to offer than just girls on paper. My fans are not only interested in that, they’re interested in my style, my teachings, and my home and I want to be able to create products to involve them with these elements. There are a lot of expansion plans in the pipeline and I’m pitching ideas to people to try and take things to the next level. All very exciting (and) scary, but overall exciting and I’m looking forward to this next chapter.
S: How did the accessories and clothing line idea evolve?
KT: When I first moved to Melbourne I worked part time at a store that sold brands such as Givenchy, Balmain, Balenciaga etc. And there I met my now good friend Baden who is a talented pattern maker. For a long time I have been interested in textile print and also felt like I could never quite find what I wanted to wear ( well, in my budget anyway). I’ve been sketching outfits and making designs since I was a child, but never quite had the pattern making ability to bring them to life, then when Baden offered to make my wedding dress I learned that he was a very talented dress maker, and so I asked him if he would be interested in collaborating with me to make a range, he said yes!
S: What can we expect?
KT: Not much beige that’s for sure! The purpose of the clothing brand is to expand on my existing brand, but I also want to involve the many amazing talented creatives that I have met throughout my career, and during my time working at The Jacky Winter Group. There is going to be a huge emphasis on collaboration with a guest artist; either working on the campaign or working on the textiles for most collections. I also want the collections to be an extension of my style and the kinds of people I love. Our muse is confident and she loves colour– it’s going to be fun and playful, day-to-day wear for girls who like to dress up. We are using really high quality fabrics and printing processes, and everything is made in Aus or NZ with a big focus on finishing, so depending on whether you get a silk scarf or a coat, pieces will range from $150 – $800 ish. We are going to launch softly through my online store for collection #1, and then the following collections will be sold through boutiques and various online clothing stores.
S: You’re so prolific–how do you balance corporate work with your personal projects?
KT: I work a lot, people don’t really realise I pretty much work all the time, but I enjoy it and I do have two interns now. I am at the point that I say no to a lot of work if the price or project isnt right. Corporate work always comes first, as that’s where the money is, and launching new ventures I need as much of that as I can get! I always block out my corporate jobs in my calendar and then any personal work or private commissions squeeze into the gaps. Lately I haven’t really been doing a lot of new print releases or personal work as I’ve been focused on developing repeats and the clothing range. Baden and I have been meeting once or twice a week to get that done, so now I make sure I time my client work to fit around those days. I’m really interested in getting back into photography at the moment, so I am planning to block out one or two Fridays a month to do that. I just put everything in my calendar and wiggle things around all the time.
Kelly Thompson: Personal Style
Kelly is one gal who has a style that’s all her own, and being immersed in the world of art and fashion doesn’t dictate that she follows celebrity trends or fashion. With a penchant for playing with colour and texture, she leans towards very feminine clothing– skirts, dresses (very few trousers), with a combination of NZ designers and vintage pieces in her wardrobe. ‘I don’t really have one specific style direction, so everything is different and often doesn’t go together, but I like having options to suit my varying mood (and) I always like to spend my money on quality and high-end accessories, so every pay day you will find a new special accessory item.’
Kelly says that living in Melbourne has also opened her and her friends up to different style options, and if anything, Australian weather plays a major role in how people dress. ‘When I had my first summer here I thought, what the hell do I wear? Even on the warmest day in Wellington a jacket and tights may not be that far away — but here, no jacket, tights, or layering is required after November starts.’ She notes that skin exposure isn’t a big deal either–shorts are short, tops are cropped, and dresses are tight. ‘They’re much more body proud, and after a while you are too. Australia also encourages colour (so) white is worn instead of black and patterns are more available.’
Kelly Thompson: Facts and Favourites
Biggest Fashion Crime: Bumster white XX flare pants that were a little too low and sheer for safety. Dad must have hated that phase.
Currently Inspired By: Florida and the jungle. Although my personal work is on the back burner at the moment, so I’ve just left these thoughts to brew for a bit.
Favourite Melbourne Boutiques: I really like Green With Envy Boutique and Alice Euphemia. They have a good range of Australian and International designers. I also love Kleins Perfumery –they have the best selection of scents that you won’t find elsewhere, and the sales assistants–the man in particular, knows so much about fragrance types, notes and layering. They are very interesting people.
Listening To: I’m currently in a romantic relationship with Dead Mans Bones— Ryan Gosling’s Band (as if he needed another feather in his hat). I’m also letting Spotify make suggestions and discovering new people…along with occasional Spotify duds.
Most Prized Possession: My Engagement Ring — It was made in 1890 and originated from London. I love that it has history. It is a stunning Aquamarine surrounded by small diamonds, and no matter what angle you view it from it is beautiful and very elegant. I dislike how many modern engagement rings are all about the diamond and all look the same — so sparkly you can hardly see what’s going on. Prior to proposing, my husband tried to figure out what I like (so casual, playing it cool), and I said “I like special rings that you find hidden at the back of Grandma’s jewellery box”… he nailed it!
Images and artwork courtesy of Kelly Thompson.
Thanks for dropping by!