Wild Minded caught up with sass & bide lead artist, Nathan Dunn, to find out what it’s like to work as an artist for a major fashion label, talk advice for artists wanting to be recognised by brands, and booking international work through social media.
Tell us about your career as a designer / artist…
I have always drawn and been into art ever since I was young but my design career only really started in my late 20s. I studied graphic design as a mature age student and got my first job in the music industry, designing artwork for music gigs at the Beach Road Hotel. I then got into advertising, working on some big national and international brands for a few years before realising that the commercial world wasn’t for me. I did my first solo show during this time down in Hobart in Tassie, which reminded me of my passion for painting and drawing. After freelancing for a while I got into the fashion industry, which has lead me to where I am now.
As the lead artist for a major fashion label you must be challenged with constantly coming up with new creative ideas, what’s your approach for keeping things fresh and unique?
It’s pretty crazy that I am working at sass & bide now. I never would have thought that I would have ended up as lead artist for one of Australia’s leading fashion labels. I guess this keeps me in check. As a designer I don’t think your mind ever switches off. You are always looking and thinking and taking note of what you are seeing or whats happening around you. I’m constantly finding inspiration in art, fashion, the natural world or the everyday, which helps me stay current.
You’ve recently worked on a collaboration between sass & bide x Stand Hatters. What’s the process like, as an artist, working between 2 brands?
Working on the sass & bide x Strand Hatters collab was really exciting. sass & bide were approached by The Iconic to do 2 one-off hat designs to be exclusively sold online. It was a great process to be part of. I was given free reign to really go for it. I also worked with my creative director Therese Rawsthorne on the bespoke designs, so for me it was awesome to get back to basics and paint and embellish a hat by hand.
You’re designing now for release in a years time. Where do you look for inspiration? How do you know what’s going to work and what isn’t?
It’s funny designing something now that isn’t released for another years time. You think to yourself “What is current? Whats on trend now?”, then you realise that you cant do that because by the time your work is released its over. I guess I always just follow my instincts. I have an amazingly talented team around me so that helps to inspire me. When all else fails, I look to art for inspiration. Depending on the brief for the season, there is always an artist, current or classic, whose body of work can inspire and help to create.
How much time do you get between projects?
Not much time really. It’s a pretty constant flow these days. With sass & bide we have a creative development stage which allows us to visit galleries and have days of print development. I guess this is my down time.
You’ve somehow found time to work on personal projects as well! Can you tell us about your collaboration wth Disrupt Sports?
It’s a little hush hush but I’m currently working on a side project with Disrupt Sports designing artwork for surf & skateboards. It’s amazing really…. Another thing I’ve always wanted to do but never thought would happen. They contacted me via Instagram, asking if I would like to be a featured artist and I was like “Hell Yeah!” I’m still finalising artworks at the moment but they will hopefully be out soon, so stay tuned.
How often do you get approached for new commercial work through Instagram?
Actually, Instagram (@thedunn) has been my main source of freelance work/projects. I get private messages from labels around the globe, such as in the UK and Middle East, asking me to collaborate and work with them. It’s amazing that I can showcase my work though Instagram and it is so well received. It’s such a great channel to build your business and name.
Do you put a lot of time into maintaining your Instagram profile?
Yes! It can be difficult and very time consuming actually. I was posting daily for a while with new work during new seasons but it has died off a little. We are about to release Resort 17 at sass & bide so I feel it’s going to get a little crazy again posting sneak peaks, behind the scenes, working on artwork and PR shots of my work. It’s worth it in the end!
What advice would you give other designers and artists wanting to build their profiles and get recognised by brands?
It’s just about finding your niche and staying true to who you are as a designer. Do what you love. I’m working pretty much all the time these days, but I love what I do, so it’s ok. I think hard work and and developing your skills and portfolio will always help but you have to love what you’re doing. It’s something that when you wake up you are thinking about and get excited for. I know it sounds like a cliche and I’m pretty sure I heard other designers speak like that when I was starting out but it’s true. Do what you love and the work will come!
To see more of Nathan’s work go to his Instagram page @thedunn