Margaret Zhang on the secrets to creative success

The Australian style icon stars in our Hunger 15 editorial Paradise Lost, showcasing Bulgari's Wild Pop high jewellery.

This is the age of the multi-tasker. And right now, no one epitomises this quite as fabulously as Margaret Zhang. Photographer, model, stylist, director, writer, musician – the Australian-born style star is carving a path that’s all her own.

Putting her unique stamp on fashion image and film, Margaret’s discerning eye and meticulously curated Instagram have led to collaborations with the likes of Chanel, Louis Vuitton, Gucci and now, Bulgari.

In the majestic grounds of the Villa Medici in Rome, we caught up with her to create an opulent editorial showcasing the dreamy Wild Pop collection – and asked her to let us in on some of the secrets to her creative success.

ALL CLOTHING Louis Vuitton

Hi Margaret, what’s inspiring to you right now?

I’ve spent most of this year writing two films, which is much longer form than I would usually work on. The maximum I would usually be writing for articles and essays sits at around 1500 words (the digital attention span of media today struggles to digest even that) so chipping away at 25,000-word monsters has actually been so refreshing and shifted my perspective on a lot of my previous methodology.


You juggle so many different roles – as a photographer, a creative director and digital strategist – how do you each of these fit together for you?

I definitely feel that each feeds the others, and helps me grow more substantially (and much more quickly) than I would have otherwise. I always say that if you’re truly creative, that can apply to such a range of disciplines. Understanding both the image-making and the commercial and legal mechanics is a huge advantage that I’m so grateful to be able to utilize.


‘There’s No Space Left in C# Minor’ is your first narrative short film, how was your experience of directing and creating it as compared to the fashion films you have worked on before?

Fundamentally, branded motion work really allows you a safety net of separation, because there are so many opinions involved that go into that commercial process. This really was a passion project, but the shooting process itself didn’t feel vastly different, aside from vulnerable moments of performance in front of crew who necessarily didn’t see the full picture and probably didn’t really know what was going on. However, in post-production it became really daunting. Baring yourself in such a deeply personal way is a difficult hurdle. The closer I got to a real audience watching my work, the more difficult the editing process became. Before my first director’s cut screening in LA, I barely slept for days. But in the end, nobody can judge your true self. As a creative, external opinion is just something that you just have to let go of, and go with your gut.


Can we expect to see a feature length film from you in the future?

Yes – I’m working on my first feature at the moment, and writing a second, so hopefully you’ll be able to watch my labours of love on screens soon!


Who are some of the artists who have influenced your approach to creativity?

My background is music (classical piano and composition) and dance (primarily classical ballet and contemporary), so sound and movement primarily inform the way I view creative processes. My favourite composers who had such a gift for stirring emotional and visceral reactions, and truly conjuring scenes in the eyes of the listener would have to be Granados, Albéniz, Berlioz, Debussy, Mendelssohn, Brahms, Shostakovich, and Chopin. From a performance standpoint, I reference great choreographers (Balanchine, Annabelle Lopez Ochoa, Natalia Makarova, Ninette de Valois) and the most emotive and sensual dancers (Svetlana Zakharova and Arthur Mitchell)


What do you see as the future of Instagram and social media generally?

I think the Internet really blasted the linear evolution of culture wide open. Social media and self-publishing has really created enough space for everybody – any kind of community, subculture, aesthetic – to co-exist. For that reason, I don’t think social media platforms will disappear any time soon.


Who are some of your must follows on Insta?

I don’t spend a lot of time browsing Instagram (I usually post something and get on with my day), but I do love me some @breadfaceblog. Thank me later.


You’re one of Bulgari’s campaign faces, how has that experience been for you?

Bulgari has so much heritage and craftsmanship in its work, so it’s really interesting to see how the brand continues to evolve and educate younger generations about their history. What I love about brands that come from family-centric cultures is how much that family mentality translates to the way in which they work on projects. It’s a very collaborative environment.


How would you describe your personal style?

Man-tailored, oversized, with a bit of a feminine kick. At the moment, it’s my pink hair. I’m a notorious onion-dresser too: fall and winter are my ideal seasons to be able to layer interesting textures without sweltering.


What are your 3 beauty essentials?

Tata Harper’s resurfacing cleanser and mask hack, Augustinus Bader cream for when I’m traveling a lot, and Sodashi’s brightening clay mask. And drink a lot of water.


Are there any skills you haven’t acquired yet that you would like to?

I am genuinely fascinated with CGI. I think I’ve watched every single special features video on any film I’ve seen with super interesting special effects, so I’d love to work on a film where I can be involved in that process in some way. Virtual and augmented reality content creation is also really interesting to me. Given that we’re so used to consuming visual content in such a formulaic way, I’m dying to get my head and hands around building storylines in that space.


What advice do you have for other young creatives who want to venture into fashion and digital?

It’s so important to consistently self-educate: whether that means taking short courses to learn new skills, taking internships to learn practical applications of abstract principles, going to exhibitions and live shoes, and reading extensively – and not just in your immediate field either. Understanding global and local economies or sustainability policies or mergers and acquisitions of parent companies, for instance, can really inform the way you approach your creative discipline as a means of commenting on the world in which you operate. It’ll also really help you build out your visual signature and online voice to communicate with an audience you respect, and work with the people you’ve always dreamed of collaborating with.


Take a closer look at Bulgari’s Wild Pop high jewellery collection on the Bulgari website and browse the full editorial in the gallery below.

All jewelleryBulgari Wild Pop Collection
PhotographyLuìs Monteiro
Fashion editorAnna Hughes-Chamberlain
HairDaniela Del Priore for Roberto D'Antonio
Make upGiovanni Pirri
NailsFrancesco Napolano
ModelMargaret Zhang at IMG
Photographic assistantKarl Axon
Fashion AssistantUmar Sarwar