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Natasha Lillipore Draws Emojis for Topshop at Nordstrom and Paints Murals for Rihanna

Once you get your hands on a straight-off-the-runway piece from Topshop’s London Fashion Week show, and then once you get ready to post it on Instagram, you might think about tagging the illustrations’ Orange County-based creator when you get there.

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Portrait of the emoji artist as a total babe; image courtesy @Lillipore

Natasha Lillipore—a crush-worthy, cool artist and Rihanna collaborator—answered our questions about these new digital buddies (for iPhone and Android) and her real life.

THE THREAD: How did the project with Topshop x Nordstrom come about?

Natasha Lillipore: Nordstrom emailed me, inquiring about commissioning me for some illustrations. They asked if I would be interested in working together, and when they told me that I would be creating emojis for Topshop at Nordstrom, I was ecstatic. When I got the initial email, it was actually on my birthday, and I thought someone was trolling me [haha]. Once I realized it was legit and I had just agreed to work for them, I was overwhelmed with both excitement and terror. Basically, I knew I couldn’t drop the ball on this one!

The team at Nordstrom sent me different things like mood boards and tons of images of the collection, so having a feel for the clothing helped a lot when it came to creating the illustrations. The vibe was sophisticated but still fun and playful.

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What did you enjoy the most about the project?

I really loved working with the team at Nordstrom. The girls that I corresponded with were really lovely, and they let me have a lot of freedom with the illustrations. The whole process was really great, but I think seeing people use the final product is the best part.

What’s your favorite old-school emoji to use, and what’s your fave from your new collection?

I love the mushroom and the rose! I think my favorites from our emoji pack are any of the girl faces. 

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Other than the garments themselves, what inspired your illustrations? 

I’ve always been inspired by animation and illustration work from the ’70s, so I definitely tried to incorporate a bit of that feel into the girl emojis. To be honest, though, I didn’t really look for much outside inspiration while working on this project. The team at Nordstrom and I came up with a list of emojis that we thought would be fun to include. Everything on the list was so great that I started drawing sketches immediately because I was so inspired by the idea of actually turning these images into emoji illustrations.

What advice would you give to artists and designers looking to get into fashion collaborations? What do you think it was about your work that made you stand out and get selected for this cool job?

Do as much art as you can! I think it’s helpful to create work that depicts fashion, but more than anything I feel that developing your own style is key. It’s something that can take a while to figure out, but when you have a style that is unique to yourself, brands really seem to like that (in my experience, at least). I think they liked my work because my digital illustrations are feminine, usually pretty simple but also bold and eye-catching. 

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What other sorts of projects are in the mix for you right now? We heard something about a live mural collab for a Rihanna show?!  

Yeah!! I just painted a mural with three really great artists for Rihanna’s Fenty Puma pop-up shop in L.A. Secret Walls hosted and organized that part of the event, and I painted alongside Frankzilla, Upendo and Tuesday Bassen. The event was entertainment for the opening night of her pop-up shop, but our mural will also be part of a beauty bar that’s part of her pop-up.

Other than that I’ve been working on a lot of personal and fun commission projects. I’m doing some animation work for a few bands, which is new for me, but I really enjoy it so far. Plus I’m getting ready to release a new collection of clothing and accessories which include my illustrations, and I’ve also been working on a coloring book! Hopefully I’ll have that finished before the holidays. 

What’s next for you—what cool projects are coming up this fall?

My big fall project is focusing on publishing my coloring book as well as starting another pack of emojis for Topshop x Nordstrom. I’d like to spend more time painting as well. Painting on a large scale is something that I would like to focus on more this fall, and I would really love to work toward having a solo exhibit eventually. That’s more of a long-term goal, but definitely a priority of mine.

What do you listen to while you work? Podcasts, music, TV shows? Send us your playlist!

I’ve been listening to a lot of funk, disco and French pop music. My taste in music is really eclectic, but I don’t really listen to current music. I’ve always loved different genres from the ’50s through the ’80s. 

Here’s a quick YouTube playlist I made, including some of my favorite tracks.

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—Laura Cassidy

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