Marle Women is created to celebrate our philosophy of designing pieces for women of all ages and stages of their lives. Each feature profiles a woman we admire and we hope each interview inspires you the same way in which these women inspire us.
For this interview, we spoke to Ōtepoti artist and designer, Meg Gallagher who, over the past decade, has built a prominent reputation as a creative. Having worked for some of the most recognisable names in the fashion industry and more recently, returning to painting as her chosen medium, Meg explains the feeling she gets from creating and how painting has allowed her to come home to herself.
Meg tells us about refining and evolving her personal style, what inspires her and what she’s currently working on.
Please share a little bit more about yourself, your upbringing and any defining moments that lead you to where you are today.
I was raised on a farm in Ōtepoti’s peninsula but I was a terrible ‘farm girl’. I would draw horses all day but was too scared to actually ride them. Instead of helping outside with the sheep I preferred being inside baking or creating. My mum had this cast iron Singer sewing machine that looked like it should be in a museum and I spent years at that machine. As a teenager, I started making all of my friends “going out tops” - a lot of tight halter tops were created at that farm! I would paint and draw all the time but I loved the feeling that creating clothes for others gave me. I would say this phase definitely shaped my decision to focus more on fashion than a traditional art path originally. In what’s become a full circle, that same farm fuels so much of my inspiration in my art career now.
You’ve had an inspiring career trajectory, working as a fashion designer for well known brands as well as building your personal brand as an artist. How do these roles both fulfil your creativity and where do you feel most at home?
After straddling the two worlds for a while now I realise both disciplines feed each other and keep my mind fresh because I’m never focusing on just one line of inspiration. I do however feel most at home when I’m painting because that’s when I am purely expressing ‘me’, opposed to the fashion world where I am bringing to life a brand's particular aesthetic.
Your paintings are made from a unique and interesting application, an inimitable technique that is recognisably yours. Was this something you set out to do or did it happen quite naturally?
It all developed in this kind of beautiful fated way. After tiring of painting on regular canvas, I started painting on an old roll of denim I had laying around. I worked for years as a denim designer so I knew how to use bleach and dyes to manipulate the denim through many wash cycles. The depth of colour and movement I could create with this technique gave my work an energy that I felt excited by (and still do). It's calming to know that I would never have created my unique painting style without my past in fashion. Knowing this allows me to relish in my daily art process today and trust that it will take me where I need to be in the future.
What do you hope people see, feel and think when they view your pieces?
I just hope to spark something personal within the viewer, I love hearing the feelings or memories that people connect to my pieces. It's an absolute honour.
At Marle, we start our design process first with the natural fibres we use and from there, we form our design brief and draw what the garment might end up like. Talk us through your process.
Whether I’m creating a garment or a painting I move through the same rituals - first I pull together a mood board to bring to life what's swirling around in my head. Then I choose the fabric I’m working with, then the colours and lines take shape. I’m definitely more free and chaotic when creating art but there is always a controlled voice in my head that helps me to edit and refine along the way. I learned through my time in fashion that letting go of ideas is just as important as persevering with some.
You have an upcoming exhibition at Brunswick Street Gallery in Melbourne, tell us about the inspiration for this collection?
Feelings!! The good ones, the bad ones and the happy sad ones. It's a reflection of my personal journey with grief. I asked my community to send photos that evoked strong emotions and I used these images to inspire the body of my work.
You recently moved back to Ōtepoti after several years in Sydney. How has the change been for you and what do you love most about being back in your hometown?
I love that it's impossible to have an inflated ego here. Not only do my three brothers keep me in line but the community doesn’t celebrate ego-energy, instead they celebrate the work you do which keeps me focused on creating and thinking less about how I am perceived doing it. I guess I’m using the tall poppy syndrome to my advantage.
How would you describe your personal style and how has this evolved over the years?
In the past I’ve definitely fallen into the trap of dressing like whatever brand I’ve worked for at the time but essentially, I’ve always preferred to dress more casual than not - even though I did go through a strong high heel stage in Sydney ( probably guilty of a Devil Wears Prada complex ). These days the more relaxed I dress the more confident I feel.
Marle is designed to add effortless ease to a woman’s wardrobe, how does Marle support you through your days? How does wearing Marle make you feel?
Oh that's easy! I feel like a WOMAN in Marle, not a girl trying to wear a trend but instead a woman choosing to wear a piece that makes her feel like herself.
What is your most treasured object and why?
I’m not normally a sentimental person with objects BUT the Sarah and Sebastian jewellery that my friends gifted me collectively gave me something to hold onto when I was at my absolute lowest when I lost my daughter Sloane.
Favourite home cooked meal?
Apple crumble with custard and ice cream.
Favourite thing to wear?
A pair of my mum’s old “farm jeans” - they are the best vintage Levis that she has repaired to perfection.
Your non-negotiable daily rituals?
I’m absolutely addicted to going to classes at the Barre Base studio. I have finally allowed myself to put my body and mind first in the day and then everything else can follow.
Spring/Summer or Autumn/Winter?
Spring / Summer because everyone is a little bit nicer in the sun.
Shop Meg's Look
Photography by Emily Cannan