If I can make something that feels a tiny bit unexpected, then that excites me.”
Our February collections, New (Master)Pieces and The Art of Personal Style, celebrate art in a bright, vivacious way. We hand-selected several artists and chatted with them about their art, love of color and personal style. Erin Jang is a design and illustrator based in NYC. She recently worked as the Design Director for The Color Factory in SF and NYC. We spoke with Erin about her creative process, use of color and wardrobe essentials.
BR: What role does color play in your art and designs?
I love to use color in my design and illustration work. Color can serve many different functions–it can demand attention, tell a story, give meaning, highlight what is important or create contrast or tension. Color can make you feel something, add joy or transform something ordinary into something surprising and delightful.
BR: Describe your creative process.
I start by learning and reading as much as I can about the project I’m working on because that research informs the design or illustration. Then, I spend a lot of time drawing, sketching and brainstorming ideas on paper until a few good concepts and possible directions become clear. One thing that has always been important to my creative process is the relationship between work, play and craft. It is in that mix of playful experimenting, trying unexpected things and making with my hands that the design of a project gets better.
BR: Do your artistic tastes, such as your love of bright color, translate into your wardrobe? If not, how would you say your artistic style and personal style differ?
While I love designing with intense color, I rarely wear large amounts of it. Most of my design work consists of simple, clean lines and graphic shapes, and I like my clothes to be minimalist and straightforward in that same way. I have a small wardrobe mostly consisting of basics in navy, black, gray and earth tones. I like mixing in bright color and unusual patterns in small doses, paired with those basics–like a pair of bright yellow socks, a neon red scarf, a pink wool hat or a pair of mint green brogues.
BR: Where do you find creative inspiration?
Inspiration is everywhere, but the best kind is found away from a screen. Just walking and biking around NYC, riding the subway, looking at all the different people, storefronts, signage and strange little moments around the city provides so much inspiration. I love the public library, finding books, learning about great artists, designers and makers of the past. And always, inspiration comes when I turn off my work brain and just play and make stuff with and for my kids. That process of playing, making and experimenting together always leads me to an idea, or an inspiration for a new project.
BR: Living a life with no boundaries is a huge part of our DNA at Banana Republic. How do you continue to push boundaries within your art?
I like this quote by Vico Magistretti: “Look at usual things with unusual eyes.” I think about this a lot when I begin a new project. How can this design/illustration/book/exhibit, etc. be approached differently? Looking at something with unusual eyes makes a design better, and if I can make something that feels a tiny bit unexpected, then that excites me. Collaborating with others who have a different perspective and field of expertise also keeps me growing creatively, as well as taking on projects that are out of my comfort zone.
BR: What’s your favorite color to work with and what is your favorite color to wear?
I don’t have one favorite color. But I do have an internal palette of colors I gravitate towards, in work and in wardrobe. I like to use a lot of black in my designs because it has such graphic impact, with some earth tones and super bright colors mixed in. This isn’t too far from the breakdown of color found in my closet.
BR: What is an item in your wardrobe you can’t live without and why?
A good pair of worn-in black jeans. I live in the city and am always on the go, biking to a meeting or the art store, running to my kid’s school bus, schlepping home giant rolls of paper or groceries. I like how dark-colored jeans can look pulled together enough for a meeting with clients, but comfortable enough to be chasing my two young boys around the playground.
BR: You have creative freedom when it comes to getting dressed for work. Do you find yourself exercising your creative muscle when you get dressed, or do you resort to uniform-style dressing?
I like dressing practically and comfortably. My work days can be very full, so having a simple wardrobe and a bit of a uniform helps me focus when I work. I feel the best wearing clothes that are easy, timeless and minimalist in design, with fabrics that are natural and soft.
BR: What is your proudest artistic moment so far?
I am honestly just so grateful to be able to do creative work for a living and to work on the kinds of projects that come my way. It’s not lost on me what a gift and privilege that is–so every day, I’m thankful.
Erin illustrates a creative life through her artwork and everyday style. See Erin’s work here, go behind the scenes with her on Instagram, then explore our February collections, New (Master)Pieces and The Art of Personal Style.