Artist and self-proclaimed ‘professional doodler’, Hattie Stewart, and entertainment marketing agency, ITB, unveil the key to balancing brand and artist and extending brand DNA East Londoner Hattie Stewart is fast becoming one of London’s most iconic young illustrators. Hailing from a family of artistic talents, her signature artworks, created with brightly coloured Posca pens, have been featured by some of the world’s coolest brands and designers, including Luella, Marc by Marc Jacobs, House of Holland, Apple and MAC Cosmetics.
Hattie has risen to fame by ‘doodle-bombing’ some of the world’s biggest stars on magazine covers from Vogue to Playboy. Her uniquely playful pieces have been featured in exhibitions in London, Los Angeles and Miami. Tomorrow, she launches her latest exhibition at the KK Outlet in London’s Hoxton Square.
Working with her to grow her brand, Director of Representation at entertainment marketing agency ITB, Chenelle Croll, sits down with Hattie and LBB to discuss the delicate balance of brand and artist and the burgeoning opportunities to extend brand DNA – AND how you can draw all over it.
LBB> Hattie, what is your background and how did you get into illustration?
Hattie Stewart> I was born and raised in Colchester in Essex and I studied illustration at Kingston University. My sister is a fashion designer. I wasn’t sure where I wanted to go but my mum really encouraged me draw because it was something I always loved. Both of my uncles on my mum’s side were also amazing illustrators. One of them used to draw cartoon characters and he was a big inspiration for me. I used to help him paint cartoon murals for schools when I went to visit him in Sheffield. He taught me how to change things up, be free and exploratory in the way I was interpreting what I was drawing. Ever since I went down the illustration route at Kingston, I haven’t looked back and it’s not going too bad so far!
LBB> So when did you first start working with brands? Had you been exhibiting as an artist first?
HS> It was kind of straight off the bat. Whilst I was at Uni I was working on my zines and doing little things for my friends here and there. I was lucky because at the time my sister had just graduated from Westminster and had gone straight in to work for Luella. She brought me in one day during my first year of Uni to do some illustrations for the brand on Halloween, and that started it all rolling. Over the course of about six years, I gradually started to do more and more with brands through the connections I made at Luella, eventually meeting Henry Holland.
LBB> It must have been an amazing feeling to be working with such high-profile designers from a young age?
HS> Oh completely. You know, it happened really organically, so I feel very lucky. Having the opportunity to develop those working relationships so young was great. I’m still awed by the people I am working with, every time we meet!
Chenelle Croll, ITB > Do you feel that working directly with designers early on has given you more confidence? It’s a big deal even to the most experienced in the fashion world!
HS> It’s definitely been an invaluable experience to work with these people. When you’re young and starting out, you’re still finding your voice and style. You worry that what you’re doing isn’t good enough. At this stage, having worked with so many amazing people I feel more comfortable and confident in what I am producing - but I still get nervous when meeting top designers. I want them to love what I do, as much as I love what they do. So, I still feel that pressure in a way. But as soon as I’m there and sat down and we’re having a jab, and a laugh, and a joke, I’m not nervous and I know that, working together, we can create something great.
Pages from Hattie's sticker book
LBB> So Chenelle, how and when exactly did Hattie’s partnership with ITB come about?
CC> I represent the accessories designer, Katie Hillier. I’ve worked with her for years and years and when I got married in 2012, she commissioned a print for me from Hattie. So, I actually already had her print that I love in my living room. When I came back from maternity leave earlier this year, we were searching for new artistic talent. Ruby, on our team, suggested Hattie Stewart and knowing her work I jumped on the chance meet her. So, Katie Hillier then introduced us and we loved her from the moment we met her.
HS> I’m going to get really emotional! [Laughter]
CC> In terms of what ITB were looking for, we have so many different kinds of divisions across representation, such as licensing and VIP, so when we’re looking at an artist like Hattie, we think about how we can work with the artist across all of those networks - because otherwise we’re just another booking agency that represents artists. What we really want to do is take someone that has these multiple layers to them and really help them build their own DNA - their own brand.
LBB> Hattie’s style is super cool and so versatile. Why do you think it works so well for so many brands – and particularly at this time?
HS> I think my style itself is playing on years of loving very specific things. In some ways, I think the nostalgia that I feel comes through in my work and lots of different people can relate to it. It’s cartoon-based, it’s bright, it’s colourful, it’s unthreatening, it’s fun, it’s playful, but it’s cheeky and I think that translates itself. I noticed when I am drawing over the magazine covers especially, that it doesn’t matter if you love or hate the cover star, you can still enjoy the illustration because it’s either the homage or the satire. You can either love it or hate it and it still works.
CC> You can’t not like the doodlebombs. They all have such a playful sense of humour without being offensive. Going back to nostalgia, everyone has doodled, whether on the phone or in school or whilst you’re waiting for something. Hattie applies this in such a unique way and I think a lot of people can connect to the work. I would also say that Hattie’s work is relevant to a lot of different people and more importantly a lot of different age groups – which always appeals to brands.
LBB> When looking at Hattie’s work for brands, I found it has a beautiful balance between her style and personality and the brand ideals. It very much seems like a partnership where you create something entirely new together, as opposed to completing a transactional commission. Do you both think it is important for brands to work with artists in a partnership this way?
CC> For the brand, definitely. I think it goes back to not diluting their own brand DNA. Most brands have worked really hard to define who they are. By creating strategic partnerships, they can grow that; extending the category they exist in and reach new audiences, without having to re-define themselves. If you are working with an artist like Hattie, who has her own strong aesthetic, you will gain so much more by collaborating on something new than you would from a commission to your own design. That way, the art won’t just become sucked into your own aesthetic. Everyone is looking for something new and a partnership is the way to do it. It works off of the DNA that people know about a brand and adds something to it.
LBB> So Hattie, how do you maintain a balance between your commercial and personal work and how are ITB helping you manage that?
HS> As an artist the dream is always to be spending as much time in the studio drawing as possible, but there’s a lot of work that goes on behind the scenes to push yourself forward as an artist both personally and commercially. When I met Chenelle, we got on so well and I could tell she had understood and listened to what I wanted to do and where I want to be as an artist and individually. I was so excited by the ideas she brought me. Finessing a balance between commercial and personal is the key. I’m young enough that I have enough energy to put into each, but it’s getting to a point where I need to pull back and make more room for them both. That way I can start to move into more collaborative projects that enable me to have more longevity.
CC> Part of our remit at ITB for Hattie is certainly longevity. A balance for artists between commercial and personal work is so important. Commercial work pays the bills, but the right commercial work will also raise your profile. However, if you only did commercial work and didn’t make time for personal, you can become pigeonholed as an artist. There are certain partnerships we’re working on in the moment that will help to grow the Hattie Stewart brand. It’s amazing just how a little bit of strategic thinking can free up your schedule to be so much more flexible.
LBB> So Hattie, your latest exhibition; tell us what we have to look forward to! How can we go and see it?
HS> So we’re holding it at the KK Outlet in Hoxton. I love that place. The launch night is 2nd November. I’m going to be launching my sticker book, as well as exhibiting my covers chronologically, to show how they have evolved. This will also include some key pieces from my last exhibition as well as some interactive exhibits. There’s going to be lots people can play with, including a giant wall of stickers!
CC> Fun for all ages! [Laughter]
HS> Yeah, there is going to be lots of fun stuff there. Including me! [Laughter]
Pages from Hattie's sticker book