Written by: Brenda Pomponio
I am so pleased to have had the pleasure of interviewing Megan McKean for this interview. I have a long standing #girlcrush on all that Megan does with her travels and colour business McKean Studio and find such inspiration and pure joy when I see any of her colourful creations pop up on my Insta feed or see her books out and about in real life. Her penchant for colour mixed with her incredible tenacity to completely turn the “souvenir” ideal upside down has made her a standout creative in my book!
Enjoy this chat with Megan McKean
How did McKean Studio start?
McKean Studio started from a passion-project I was working on after coming home from a trip to the US. I wanted to create some souvenirs for myself to remind me of my time overseas, but I wanted them to be wearable, and more graphic in nature. I worked on some illustrations and turned them into silk scarves, and they were a hit from the get-go. It quickly snowballed into more items and more projects inspired by my time travelling.
Your souvenir designs are very unique – are you always looking for ways to design things differently?
Yes! I’m always looking for ways to subvert the commonly accepted notion that souvenirs are kitschy or tacking… Australian souvenirs, in particular, have such a bad reputation, so I’m always trying to find a way to celebrate the cities and countries our pieces are inspired by. I try to keep a playful element in all of my work because travel is such a joy for me (and for most people travelling!).
Colour must play a big role in your design. Why is this and what is your favourite colour?
Colour plays a huge role in all of my work, and choosing a colour palette for a new project is my favourite part of the job every time! I often joke that the best thing I got from university was a $20k degree in colour — and I guess it’s kind of true! I love mixing the different tones together and finding the best colours that represent a place or feeling. I try to not play favourites with colours, but I’m always a sucker for pink. It’s hard to not develop palette-habits though, working for myself means I often go back to similar combinations for different projects. I also have a bad habit of ruling out colours (purple is my least favoured colour and I’ll do anything to avoid it!) which I’m always working on getting around.
Back in stock, baby! ✨ All of our Melbourne pieces are available again in the online store, after a stressful/wonderful sell out of ‘Hello, Melbourne!’ in just 5 weeks from its original print run! The second edition is here, and in all good bookstores now – and our Silk Souvenir Scarves, Pins, Mini Cities and City Bangles are all back too! #hellomelbournebymeganmckean
Best travel destination?
That is a harder question to answer than picking a favourite colour!
I love the US and have been so fortunate to travel there multiple times now, and every time there’s something new that totally surprises me. Each state is so different, so it’s can sometimes be like travelling whole countries when you go between different cities. California has such a great energy (and is very Aussie friendly) and Palm Springs is honestly a city like no other. Several years ago my husband and I drove Route 66 (from California to Illinois) and it’s one of my most treasured travel memories. We also adore Sweden… such a beautiful country. Stockholm is a gorgeous city, and the seemingly never-ending access to warm kanelbullar definitely helps the charm factor!
Your trip to Palms Springs looks absolutely amazing. What can you tell me about how design and architecture play a role in your inspiration for new ideas.
We’ve been so lucky to visit Palm Springs on multiple occasions, and have been blown away at how we’re embraced in the city. It’s lovely to visit now with many friends in town, and the locals are lovely! Travelling to Palm Springs during Modernism Week is an experience in itself, with all of the extra access to the most incredible architecture and design history. I’m hugely inspired by travel (not just because our work is souvenir related!) but because of the way it makes you get out of your routine and try new things, and the constant exposure to new surroundings. Palm Springs is home to so much amazing design and architecture; on our most recent visit, we were able to tour the home of Raymond Loewy (famed French-American industrial designer) which was designed in conjunction with noted Swiss architect Albert Frey. Standing by the pool (which is half inside the lounge room, mind you!) where Loewy might have dreamed up the Shell logo, or the Coke bottle shape… I mean, if that doesn’t inspire you, what will?
Mid-century architecture has such a strong focus on being part of the environment; lots of glass, and light, and simple designs that best fit with the surroundings. Being in these sorts of spaces is a great inspiration to bring to my own designs, focussing on a simple but well-refined design that still has a playful component.
Three things you can’t travel without?
Headphones, a camera, and a big scarf!