Mélanie Johnsson

Meet the artist

For a new WWF creation, Mélanie is drawing on our interconnected planet - and the unseen beauty of the blue whale.

 

The last time we got to catch up with Mélanie, her lockdown projects were stacked high, from launching a colourful design mag Spellbound to, of course, making a jaw-dropping print for Evermade's Rainbow of Hope edition. Just a few months down the line and the designer-surfer is still making waves with her radiant designs - and with a 30-day pattern project that we've been eating up on IG. As one of our favourite eco-conscious collaborators, we just had to team up with Mélanie once again on our new sustainable clothing range for WWF. It went swimmingly - literally. 

This time, Mélanie has created two T-shirts that take us under the sea to catch a glimpse of the endangered blue whale and marine turtle. True to form, her joyful designs are full of fun squiggles and gentle flow, but the artwork speaks to a deeper cause.

For Mélanie, the subject of preserving sea life has always been close to her heart: "The fact that we don’t get to see these species often makes it harder for a lot of people to think about the dangers they’re facing. That’s why I wanted to create these designs." With her roots on the shores of Margate having gifted the artist with a deep aquatic appreciation for all things natural, Mélanie has fittingly adorned her designs with the words Love & Care. The final garments - featured in full below - are tailor-made for sparking meaningful conversations.

Dive in as we get an insight into Mélanie's WWF project process, her Keith Harring obsession, and her 50-year prediction for our planet.

Talk us through the idea behind your WWF clothing design

For my collaboration with WWF and Evermade, I wanted to highlight the importance of sea life. I’ve loved blue whales and marine turtles for as long as I can remember and I decided to focus on these two species because they are particularly endangered. By weaving different elements like flowers, squiggles and sea shells into both my designs, I wanted to highlight the idea that everything on Earth is interconnected. We can breathe thanks to our Oceans and although we don’t see blue whales and marine turtles every day (if ever), they are here, graciously swimming in our seas, making our life more beautiful just by existing. The fact that we don’t get to see them often makes it harder for a lot of people to think about the dangers they’re facing and that’s why I wanted to create these designs... make them fun, joyful and striking to remind everyone that we need those beautiful creatures in our world.

When did your love for illustration first begin?

I can’t pinpoint a moment where my love for illustration began because I think it’s always been there. I grew up in a very creative environment and was lucky to be exposed to various artists and illustrators from very early on. I do remember the first time I saw Keith Haring’s paintings...I was very young and I remember loving how fun, joyful, quirky and colourful it all felt. Growing older, I realised how much depth and meaning his work actually carries and I fell in love with it even more. I love that artists and illustrators can create joyful work while being able to spread some important messages.

What’s your favourite thing about making a design meant to be worn?

I love the fact that a tee with an illustration on it can spark a conversation anytime you wear it. It’s amazing to know that my artworks will be walking around, ready to help people talk about things they care about. A piece of clothing like this is a very accessible way to wear art and show what you love.

How do you overcome a design mind blank? 

I go out kiteboarding or surfing! Being in the sea always resets my mind...and I usually feel refreshed and much more creative after spending time in the water. If there’s no wind or waves, I’ll go out for a beach walk with my dog and look at the horizon. We get the most beautiful sunsets where I live in the UK. Finally, if nothing else has worked, I’ll get a good night sleep and will usually know what to do about my creative block in the morning!

Who were you listening to whilst working on this project? 

I made this playlist at the beginning of the project...

 

Talk us through your creative process for this project

The creative process on this project was actually messier than usual, at least for me. It seemed  very important to me to create something I really loved but to also make sure the illustrations would resonate with people. I knew straight away I wanted  to raise awareness for sea life and our Oceans. I tried a LOT of things for this project, not sure how to express my vision on clothing. I wanted the designs  to feel modern, bold, exciting...but also accessible and fun. There was a lot of trial and errors. I didn’t make a lot of sketches because I needed to see my  designs come to life in colour straight away, especially against the colours of the clothing (which I’m really happy I could choose as well). I created a lot  of artworks and even got a little frustrated with myself at one point. But finally, I found a way of expressing myself that I loved and that I think fit this  collaboration perfectly. I’m really happy with the two final illustrations and I know I’ll be proud to wear these around town to spark some meaningful conversations!

Mélanie's T-shirt design sketches.

What about our natural world inspires you? 

Everything about the natural world inspires me. I’m obsessed with all things that have bright and bold colours: corals, tropical birds, flowers…

What’s your favourite way to get back to Nature? 

Get in the Ocean all year round (even when it’s freezing), go for a beach or a forest walk...Hike in the mountains when I go back to my family home in Corsica or freedive in its beautiful waters. Again, I’m lucky to live in a coastal town here in the UK so I get to enjoy the natural world everyday. I think it really helps to put things into perspective and understand how much we need to care for our Planet.

Imagine: you’re scrolling through David Attenborough episodes: Deserts, Deep Seas, Barrier Reefs, Forests, Ice Caps, Grasslands. Which do you pick to watch?

I’ll watch ALL of them (and I have). But I will always start with Deep Seas and Barrier Reefs, of course.

What do you dream our planet will look like in 50 years?

I’m trying to dream positively. We urgently need to make changes to preserve our Planet and I believe we’ll succeed. More and more people are being awoken to the issues Earth is facing and are changing their lifestyle accordingly. I’m dreaming that my children will roam on a very green, very healthy Planet and will scuba dive to see beautiful, colourful coral reefs, marine turtles, sharks, blue whales and all other amazing creatures.

What drew you to this sustainable clothing collection? 

Three letters...WWF! A dream collaboration for me.

Whale Unisex T-shirt by Mélanie Johnsson

Turtle Unisex T-shirt by Mélanie Johnsson

Mélanie's new WWF garments, alongside three other unique ranges, are available to purchase now! Plus, 10% of all sales will be passed onto WWF. 

Check out more of Mélanie's work here.

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