V&A Connects is a series of interactive evening events organised by and for professionals working in the creative industries. British illustrator, Jessica May Underwood, recently hosted one of the sessions with SHOWstudio editor, Lou Stoppard.
Tell us about your relationship with the V&A
The Victoria and Albert Museum has been my primary source of reference artistically throughout my career, and the opportunity to speak with the directors of the museum was a very interesting and rewarding time for me.
Have you worked or met with Lou Stoppard before?
I’d never met Lou before I approached her for the project. I was very set on an intellectual and analytical take on the subject of fashion illustration and Lou’s approach was excellent – the discussion navigated perfectly.
Do you enjoy speaking publicly?
Yes, I feel very strongly about how my work is articulated. V&A Connects is a brilliant platform to speak about the cultural relevance and historical context of design and illustration. I find that the more you read around a subject and discuss it, the more you continue to learn.
What aspects appealed to you most about speaking at the V&A in particular?
The grandeur of the museum and its collections couldn’t have been more of a beautiful backdrop for the talk. The Manfred and Lydia Gorvy Lecture Theatre was built in the same year as the Great Exhibition – this was one of the catalysts for the aesthetic movement which we addressed in the talk. The stage was embellished with floral friezes and Romantic paintings which gave the talk a memorable setting.
You spoke a lot about your historical love and respect for fashion and detailing, what piece of fashion do you covet most?
I admire anything well constructed from the 1920s and 30s – men’s uniform, military wear, silk dresses, corsetry, furnishings – everything in that period was made for durability and function. It was a very beautiful time.
Your route to today was the main topic of the discussion – what was your personal, professional tipping point?
My biggest achievement was the Harrods window campaign of Spring 2015. It’s something I will always be very proud of.
If you could choose one memory of your career to be immortalised, which collaboration, drawing or project would it be?
My hand-drawn Alexander McQueen skull has appeared on scarfs in many different motifs and colours – I still see it today.
Who has pushed you to reach where you are today?
There have been many influential people who have imparted advice and direction – too many to list! Someone told me recently, “Take talent, add one more person, two makes three and pretty soon three makes 8”.
If you could interview yourself, what would you ask Jessica May Underwood?
Great question! I would ask myself where my drawings come from because I have no idea!