Karen Koh is the brains and beauty behind The Illustrienne – a playful, whimsical illustrator whose latest work can be found gracing the Fenwick AW17 Beauty Bags (that will be hitting shelves this week!) The former corporate fashion designer turned her hand to illustration after her babies were born, sketching eye-catching designs into the late hours of the night. We sat down with Karen to ask her all about how she got into illustration, her artistic (and Instagram) influences and what made this project have such a special place in her heart…
Tell us about the beauty bag illustrations and where you drew inspiration from?
I was inspired by Peter Lindbergh’s photographs of the New York City Ballet dancers, and illustrated my versions in black ink. When Fenwick asked me to work on their bags, I imagined a playful rendition of ballerinas backstage, wearing vivid jewel-tone colours getting ready for their performances.
What excited you most about this project?
It’s always been a dream of mine to design a beauty bag. Ever since high school, I've purchased beauty products solely for the purpose of getting that “must-have” goodie bag. But what made it even more exciting was that Fenwick contacted me just days before my baby’s due date. My daughter arrived the day after I completed the project, joining her two older brothers and completing our family. These bags will forever have a special place in my heart, knowing my daughter and I stayed up in the wee hours of the night getting them done together.
How did you get into illustration /discover it was your passion?
At the age of seven, I wanted to become a fashion designer. I illustrated my own fashion magazines filled with characters wearing my original designs. I received my undergraduate degree in Fine Arts at UCLA then moved to New York City to pursue fashion design at FIT and completed my design degree at Polimoda in Florence, Italy. Eventually I returned to the States and began working at Ralph Lauren. I’ve since left the corporate world and now work from home to spend more time with my little ones. Most of my illustrations are done at night while everyone is fast asleep - you could almost say I’m back where I started!