By looking at Margot’s portfolio and client list, you would think this woman has been in business for ages. But Margot is everything but an old hand, she is an aspiring and young artist and designer living in London who is also the Creative Director of The Estethica Review, a publication focused on ethical fashion. She graduated in 2011 with a BA in Graphic Design from Central St. Martins, has already been commissioned by various top magazines, created exclusive in-store artwork for Urban Outfitters, made live fashion illustrations during London Fashion Week for Topshop, and designed an exclusive lid sticker for Kiehl’s to celebrate Earth Month while also producing an extensive personal portfolio. This list continues endlessly… but only for good reason. As if that isn’t enough, other ongoing projects include the Painted Truths series for Notion Magazine, AnOther Fashion Cartoon for Another Magazine and everythingissoamazing.com.
Did we mention she also DJs…?
Meeting Margot Bowman – artist, designer, creative director and a DJ too, goddammit! – was bound to be the equivalent of wanting to stick your fingers into a live socket. And she did not disappoint. This urban angel with her wild corkscrew curls and fierce creativity is off the starting blocks from the minute we met her. Considering her work ethic and tough schedule, I feel very honoured at getting the chance to talk to her about what makes Margot run.
Margot, tell me about your background…
I was born in London; my mum is a GP, my dad a shipping lawyer. I’ve always been artistic and was lucky to be diagnosed with dyslexia when I was 11. Because of my dyslexia, I’ve had to define new ways of making sense of the systems that most people take for granted. It also made me proud not to be like everyone else from an early age. Also, in those days you got lots of benefits, – grants and extra time at exams for instance!
You’re obviously very creative and a hard worker…
Yeah, I got my work ethic from my parents. I think everyone’s creative but most people are too scared to use it. My generation is generally very creative but you have to be able to block out your worries and anxiety in order to actually get it out there. Sites like Facebook are great but can also be a curse as you can get locked into constantly editing information about yourself and promoting your brand in a quite narcissistic way. The internet’s neutral – it’s what we bring to it. I don’t go on blogs as I don’t feel they’re that great for my creativity – I’m too busy making things.
Who do you admire as an artist?
Wolfgang Tillmans. His work is so beautiful but not in a conventional way, it’s very contemporary and poetic. There is nothing obvious about it – yet there is a strong communication. Two years ago I read an interview with him in Fantastic Man. Clear originality and uncertainty are important to him, I love his cultural voice.
Your background is a Graphics Foundation course at Camberwell College of Arts and a BA in Graphic Design at Central St. Martins, both very prestigious schools in London. Yet you seem very fashion orientated, how did the shift come about?
Fashion is very important to me, especially sustainable fashion (MB is the Creative Director of sustainable fashion magazine The Estethica Review). I always felt that fashion was looked down upon; most of the graphic designers at Camberwell and even my tutor at Central St. Martins thought fashion was bullshit. But to me it’s a great space to make my work in, fashion’s driving force is to constantly renew itself and fashion is also a great medium for non-verbal communication. If you don’t connect emotionally with people then what’s the point? When it’s powerful it can be amazing. Obviously not ALL fashion is like that; if it’s too business driven, it gets boring.
For me graphic design can’t stand on its own, it needs a medium. Some graphic design can be very hard, very posturing. Where traditional graphic design belittled me, made me feel like I didn’t know enough about typography for instance, fashion accepted me.
Do you worry there’s a dichotomy between your love of fashion and your support of sustainable fashion?
No, I think they can sit well together. Sustainable fashion is pushing lots of boundaries, let’s face it, the basic shape of a skirt is pretty constant, it’s what we do to it that is interesting. New textiles are being invented that are a way of literally wearing science. Sustainable fashion should not be about making a skirt from a Hessian sack and then wearing just that in order to have a clean conscience! It’s interesting to see that huge companies like H&M, which has 1,700 suppliers – that‘s a lot of workers depending on your spending choices for their livelihood – are now making finding their way in sustainable fashion. A lot of companies that were big money makers in the 90’s have had to become sustainable. You have to be part of the system to make it move forward in the right way. I don’t just want to be associated with sustainable fashion – my strength is my ability to multitask, I like to stay fresh and not be predictable.
Bowman lives in a bright, airy Peabody estate flat just round the corner from Redchurch Street in Hoxton. She shares it with 3 other creatives and despite the notoriously bijoux proportions of Peabody flats, her home appears spacious and very attractive. The décor is very Margot-centric, her artwork adds beautiful splashes of colour to a predominantly white background and there’s an M-shaped cushion she designed on the sofa. Her own room is super tidy (to our shame we’d expected an explosion of creative mess), probably helped by the fact that she works mostly from her studio. You feel this place is full of beauty and creativity. And also that Margot is clearly very focused in her way of working. Amongst other interesting-looking ephemera, she has some very vertiginous and very colourful shoes displayed on her shelves…
Where did your love of colour come from?
I guess my parents. My childhood home was very colourful; I remember a bright yellow kitchen with blue woodwork, that kind of thing. I just never questioned it; I thought everyone lived like that! Colour is (she pronounces this in a very drawn out way) won-der-ful, a natural way to communicate. It makes you feel something, a super-basic, non-verbal communication. It’s not comfortable for everyone but it is my strength.
Do you collect anything?
No. But I do have an eye out for interesting magazines. I used to collect vintage clothing, which I then couldn’t bring myself to get rid of even if I didn’t wear it. “Oh, but the patterns are so amazing! Oh, but it’s silk!” Till I read Aaron Rose’s Collage Culture, in which he examines the 21st Century’s identity crisis. His point is that you can’t sit around in a skirt from the 40’s, on a chair from the 60’s in a flat decorated in a 70’s style, with each of those things taken out of their context. It’s empty. You have to be of your time to be modern and you can’t do that if you’re wearing disconnected symbols from a past that you weren’t part of. Surrounding yourself with meaningless symbols makes you anchorless.
You’re from London – do you imagine living somewhere else in the future?
London’s such a great place to experiment and play for me. I have a life plan about moving to New Zealand at the end of my life! I want to check out Los Angeles… I love Copenhagen and Berlin, I did an Artist In Residence with Mother Drucker in Berlin last year, which was amazing. I like Glasgow, as well, it doesn’t feel too finished. Sometimes London feels too finished; generally we are so spoiled for choice here.
Where are your favourite places to go to in London?
Swimming at Hampstead Heath in the mixed pond is very chill… I love riding my bike, especially through Clerkenwell. My favourite restaurant is this somewhat stuffy, strict place in Marylebone called L’Entrecote. It’s a very traditional French brasserie, amazing food. There’s no menu, everyone has a green salad starter and then a steak, either medium or rare. When you spend all day making decisions, it’s a relief not to have to do that again in a restaurant!
What’s the one item in the flat you can’t live without and why?
This table… (a low, rough-hewn wooden table in front of the sofa) I’ve had it my whole life, it’s from my parent’s house, it’s a very sentimental piece of furniture and I love it! My flat mates think it’s a little too big for the room but I don’t care.
Artist, designer, creative director, DJ… If you could only do one, then which one would it be?
If I could only do one thing I wouldn’t be very good. Doing lots of things make my work better. You can very easily overload, if you run too fast you run out. The balance is very hard to achieve sometimes. My brain is my best asset and I have to protect it!
Interview: Anna Bang
Photography: Georgia Kuhn