Illustrator and visual director Dallas Shaw is one of those rare people who knew what they wanted to do when they were younger and actually made it happen. From an early age, she was drawn to art — specifically drawing. Right out of college Shaw landed a job at Walt Disney Animation Studios and from there she honed her skills in illustration, though you can still see a bit of the Disney influence in her whimsical watercolor sketches.
When she left Disney, she went on to build her own business in the lifestyle industry. Today, Shaw is one of the most sought-after illustrators and visual directors in the business. Her ever-growing client list includes the likes of Chanel, Ralph Lauren, Carolina Herrera, Target and Estée Lauder. She’s also authored “The Way She Wears It,” a book of sketches and fashion prompts that inspire women to think outside of their fashion comfort zone.
Shaw will be the next speaker at the Arkansas Arts Center’s Art of Fashion lecture series on Aug. 9. Before she heads into town, Soirée chatted with Shaw about her flourishing career, memorable moments and her go-to fashion advice.
Tell us about your switch from working as an animator at Disney to working in the fashion world.
It wasn’t a crazy change because I had just gotten hired by the design group there and about a year later the company was focusing on 3D projects, which I didn’t have experience in (I was firm in 2D). However, it was perfect because that’s when I decided to use my illustration talents and training and take it right into the fashion industry. I just brought one right into the other.
How do you incorporate your art background in your daily life in the fashion industry?
It’s everything. I don’t try to incorporate it, it just happens because I think very visually. What is really great is I come at every project from an authentic storytelling standpoint because of my past projects, and it definitely changes the majority of projects I sign onto.
You wear so many hats — artist, project designer and style ambassador, to name a few. What parts of your job are the most fulfilling to you personally?
When I have a lot of trust from a company the projects always turn out strongest and we create something everyone is proud of. That’s always most fulfilling when your design heroes like what you’ve brought to the table. It also helps when the team is fun and creative because then the concept changes into something so much more authentic as we go.
In your book, “The Way She Wears It,” you give fashion prompts that help people hone in on their own personal style. What’s one of the easy fashion challenges you recommend for people looking to venture out of their typical style into something a little more fashion-forward?
It's so funny, the book is called "The Way She Wears It," and “she” isn’t me, it’s the reader! So now that people are realizing these are prompts for them, it’s gotten even better. Easiest challenge by far is wearing statement flats/mules/slides. Get brave, choose a designer you love in a fun color combo and you will change your regular everyday look into something completely different. I’m wearing rhinestone and faux fur on my mules today and it adds such a fun factor.
How has your own personal style evolved over the years?
Drastically, to say the least. I went from kind of no specific style, then to wearing a lot of black when I was in New York, then to what stylists told me I should wear, directly to what designers and companies hired me to wear. Then, I scrapped the whole damn thing and now I kind of just mix things together and dress however I feel that day. I have to illustrate for [cosmetics line] Fresh today, design some packaging and go pick up some feathers (don’t ask) so I have a muted babydoll dress on with a sweater tied around my waist a la Joey Lawrence, Gucci loafers with rhinestones and fur on them, a bandana from FAERIE around my neck and a backpack, because it was necessary for the day’s haul. It makes no sense, but I feel like me.
Where do you draw inspiration for your work?
I pin every morning for an hour. It’s my morning routine. Coffee, office, music, coconut incense and pinning for an hour before I hit the drawing board. Even if I’m in a hotel. I’m also a print magazine junkie. Really just in it for the visuals.
What’s been the best moment of your career so far?
Honestly, there have been so many “Is this happening?” moments from the book, to this travel project, to being featured in The New York Times. But the one that was so surreal for me was a project I did with Glossybox and Oscar de la Renta. I curated and illustrated a box and I was photographed for a magazine feature. They decided to photograph me in Oscar’s office. I was sitting in the window, wearing an Oscar gown that wasn’t even complete yet (they tied me in), and I’ll remember that moment for the rest of my life. It was a very how-did-I-get-so-lucky moment. I am still thankful to the sweet team there for seeing me as an artist and not a blogger, and I’ll never forget that project or photo because of what I was thinking when it was shot.
Your Instagram feed is so gorgeous. How do you go about choosing what you post?
You know what, thank you. Because I actually lost about 10k followers recently when I decided to only post in real time and only what I take and edit on my phone. I don’t think about what I post anymore, the scripted posts are and were beautiful but I’d rather people get to know me and my actual style there. Anyway, I appreciate it because it’s really just me on that channel.
What tips do you have for making the “perfect” Insta post?
Well, that depends on your goal. Timed, consistent and edited daily shots will get you followers and less engagement. Real time truer posts get you more engagement. Not sure there is a perfect post but I really hope to connect with more people there and maybe help in creative careers.
Who would you consider your style icon?
My grandfather, Leo D’Angelo. He’s unintentionally the strongest branded person in the entire world. You won’t catch him anywhere not in his signature bright suit and tie combos — probably mows the lawn in that gear. He even has his own fragrance in his suit shop. Genius, stylish man.
How do you want to see your career evolve in the coming years?
As much as people want to keep me in a traditional design lane, I am focusing on larger, more creative visual and design projects — and maybe even bringing those out of lifestyle and into other industries. I love collaboration. That’s when the magic happens.
"Art of Fashion: The Way She Wears It" with Dallas Shaw is set for Aug. 9 at 5:30 p.m. at the Arkansas Arts Center.