South China Morning Post: Hong Kong newspaper interview with me about Style Legends exhibit

Pheobe Philo
I was recently interviewed by HK’s newspaper about the Style Legends exhibit. A friend of a friend in HK is going to send the actual hard copy. I will post more illustrative portraits this week for you to see. Above is my portrait of Pheobe Philo. Here’s the article from South China Morning Post:

Illustrators depict a retrospective of fashion’s last half century in IFC exhibition

Helen Dalley
Sep 23, 2011

Two illustrators from opposite sides of the Atlantic are paying homage to the most influential fashion icons of the past 50 years in an exhibition entitled Style Legends at IFC Mall. Samantha Hahn, from New York, and Parisian Isaac Bonan are exhibiting a series of more than 30 portraits, from actresses Marilyn Monroe and Audrey Hepburn to pop divas Madonna and Lady Gaga and supermodels Kate Moss and Du Juan.

As part of the show, which runs until October 9, luxury fashion brands such as Bally, Escada and Roberto Cavalli will display their autumn-winter 2011 collections inside the mall.

Brooklyn-based Hahn, whose clientele includes Victoria’s Secret, Marie Claire and Barnes & Noble, loves the idea of this exhibition being held in a mall, “because as Warhol once said, department stores are like museums: everything inside is the product of design”.

“In the US, we don’t use our malls in this way, but I think it’s fantastic to show art in a public space. I see myself as a commercial illustrator, and the Hong Kong exhibition is a perfect melding of the fine art and commercial world.”

Accompanying the series of portraits will be an explanation of each icon’s background story, detailing how they worked and influenced fashion trends.

“Lady Gaga was probably the most difficult,” Hahn says. “The challenge was to capture her, as she’s such a chameleon; it took me three attempts before I was happy with it.”

Hahn’s collaboration with IFC came about after her illustrations of French icons Edith Piaf and Coco Chanel were seen on the pages of local publication Milk X magazine. For the exhibition, she created realistic watercolours of everyone from Elvis Presley to Marc Jacobs. Her work will be displayed alongside Bonan’s portraits, which include Hepburn, Madonna and Moss.

Making-of videos of Hahn and Bonan have been recorded, and visitors will be able to use a smart phone to scan Quick Response codes, to see how the two illustrators created their works.

Hahn’s homepage ( sums up her approach with a bright, splashy watercolour of a cute redhead pouring tea in high heels capturing a style similar to Brit fashion illustrator and celebrity portrait artist David Downton. She says watercolours are her first love.

“I experimented with oils for a while, and pen work, but I’d always go back to watercolours as that’s what feels natural to me. I like to work quickly but doing that with this medium can be surprising, as you don’t know how it will turn out. I like to use really inappropriate stuff like drawing paper when I’m painting, just to push it further,” she says.

Portrait work is relatively new for Hahn, and Milk X gave the illustrator her first shot at commercial portraits. Another commission, from Surface magazine’s design issue, saw her painting architects. “Many of them weren’t in the public eye, so I couldn’t go on their public persona; I had to do a lot of research instead.”

Other recent projects include vintage-inspired illustrations for hip fine art stationery company, Galison. US homeware store Anthropologie spotted her designs and now features some of her stationery in-store.

Unlike many artists, Hahn isn’t precious about her work. “Commercial illustration is about solving problems, creating something to fit a client’s needs – there may be some constraints you have to work around, but I just enjoy the process.”

Her work is decidedly feminine, from glossy bottles of her favourite Chanel nail polish colours to “how to” health and beauty illustrations. She refutes suggestions she is too girlish. “The kind of artwork I have at home is very pared down, and the way I dress is very functional. My work doesn’t reflect my persona.”

Her latest commission, however, a photo book for Elle published by Potter Style, has her very excited, and she describes it as a dream project.

“In the book, an astrologer recommends a different pair of shoes for each day, so I’m drawing 365 different shoes to accompany her recommendations,” she says.

The Style Legends art gallery, featuring the work of Samantha Hahn and Isaac Bonan, runs until October 9 at IFC.