We sat down to chat to the artist Kelly Anna about her collaboration with GANT to celebrate its spring/summer collection, which saw her piece ‘Mother and I’ take over the window of its London Regent Street flagship store. Kelly is one of the most celebrated British artists working today and has an aesthetic that can't be ignored, focusing on bright colors, female silhouettes and motion. ‘I'm an artist and designer and I work on everything from popcorn packets to trainers and have worked for myself for five years,’ says Kelly in her conversation with Courier's lifestyle editor Bre Graham at the ‘Mother and I’ launch event. Here are some highlights from their conversation.
You started your artistic career as a live fashion illustrator – as we're sitting in the GANT flagship store, I wonder how fashion still influences your work today?‘When I started out in fashion illustration, it was such a different time. It was old-school fashion illustration. I'd sketch the catwalks, and it was there that I realized how much I loved the print side of fashion. Then, over the past few years, I really got interested in print design and apparel. I then moved into footwear and did the artwork for couture shoes. I did that for a few years and then decided that I didn't want to work for someone else.’
When you approach a collaboration with a brand like GANT, where do you start?‘I'd never really worked in this style before, this sort of seventies bohemian style that influenced the SS22 collection. I looked at the print GANT had chosen and picked some colors on it. Then I set my style to fit within my print world. Before I start sketching out, I always immerse myself in the concept and the theme of the collection, too, and that's how “Mother and I” started. This was also a 3D piece, so it reminded me of working on footwear because it was so multi-dimensional. It felt a bit like that because I designed the artwork first and then we made it fit within the space of the Regent Street window. It was a really nice process to work on something that was 3D and in the confined space of a window display. The GANT team were such a dream to work with and we all just wanted to create something amazing.’
‘I've got more confident and understood my own style more, especially through doing collaborations with other brands.’
Your work is so recognizable – how have you built your own unique aesthetic?‘Throughout the past five years, I've got more confident and understood my own style more, especially through doing collaborations with other brands. I've started to really understand what I like and I think I've learnt that by working on different projects.’
How do you keep a sense of curiosity when looking for inspiration?‘As an artist, you take on what you're going through in life and I'm sensitive to what's around me, and that comes back into all of my artwork. I've just become a mother and that alone has been really intense in the way it's influenced how I create work. I also think that the sporting world I grew up in has a huge effect on my work. That's what I was naturally drawn to, the movement and energy around sport and dance. Being a mother is who I am at the moment – I think it's good to be proud of it and create work about things that inspire me.’
‘Being a mother is who I am at the moment – I think it's good to be proud of it and create work about things that inspire me.’
The powerful female figure in ‘Mother and I’ is such an iconic element that is echoed throughout much of your work – what draws you to it?‘It's so weird because, when I started, the female empowerment movement was really starting to come about and when people asked me about the confidence in my work, I wasn't sure what they meant. I was raised by a very strong Italian mother and she is just generally so strong and I learnt from that. When people ask me about confidence in my work, I think that's where it comes from, it just feels so natural to me. I started to learn that it's a real thing to be strong and powerful and think it needs to be pushed even more.’