As one of Australia’s most beloved stylists, a mother of three, a published author, the brains behind The School, and dozens more creative projects, one word that might come to mind to describe Megan Morton is busy.
Yet while certainly a creative powerhouse, Megan refuses to buy into the hype of busy as a badge of honour. ‘There is a lot of white noise around being everything and having everything, and we can all be really hard on ourselves’ Megan says. ‘But I don’t think any of us can have it all, I really don’t, and I don’t think it’s something to really want anyway. I think we can have bits of it all at different times.’
Megan has a thirst for knowledge, and does an incredible job of imparting it – even a glimpse of Megan’s daily routine feels like you’re being let in on some kind of universal secret to life.
To nourish her creativity, Megan alternates being an early bird and a night owl. ‘Your body can go up and down in ebbs and flows. If you’ve got a plan for this, such as a month of really early starts and a month of really late nights, you get to touch both sides.’
From strolls at her local Redleaf Beach, to lucky dip activities with the family, Megan teaches us how to instil simple moments of stillness and fun into the everyday, to help keep focussed on the good stuff. ‘Your body doesn’t know if it’s being paid a lot or a little – it only knows work exhaustion. Especially in 2016, with information overload and major FOMO every time you open your phone’ Megan explains. ‘For me, it’s about prioritising, and conserving your energies.’
I get up either really, really, early and retire early, or I swap out for a schedule of late starts and late nights. Styling is a job that requires more than to-do lists and straightforward production – that’s just the backup mandatory stuff. What it really requires is magic, imagination and sheer creativity. This is the stuff that you can’t really schedule in or add to a to-do list, which is why I try to be flexible in how I plan my days.
Because I work freelance, and every day can be different, I do have to have a sense of habit and routine though. I can’t be too on the edge out there, because it just feeds this sort of glutton button in me that makes everything wild and woolly. So one thing I have is my coffee from the same Jasper Conran coffee cup every morning – if it isn’t washed and ready I think ‘oh shit, what is going to happen?‘
When I’m doing early mornings, I go to Redleaf Beach with my coffee – where the real work is done.
As a person who deals in the manufactured and the overtly deliberate, I try to schedule equal time in the natural world. Styling is about creating beautiful energies for your client or brief, so there is a lot of smoke and mirrors. I like to get grounded in the natural environment. This can sometimes look like an entire day sitting at the beach! Or having this stolen morning moment.
As I don’t cook well, (and it has got nothing to do with my unrenovated kitchen!) to temper out any lurking mother’s guilt, I make ridiculously large breakfasts. I want the kids to be full as googs, and tackle the day on a QLD trucker’s full stomach! All in the one Le Creuset pan – but so many fried things!
I have what I call my second breakfast at a cafe. I really found my freelance feet in the camaraderie of the early morning world at Fratelli Paradiso. I used to drive out of my way to go there and soak up the ‘you can do this’ vibe. I often have a meeting or a catch up here, and savour the timeless elegance, perfect coffees, beautiful milky brioche tops and exceptional staff. As I leave, I plot when to come back for dinner or lunch. It’s my all-time favourite place to feed in Sydney.
Some days are booked in the studio, other days are spent sourcing and I’ll do my rounds to four or five shops, it’s very social. I believe in styling every other day, even if we aren’t formally booked on a job. Doing it daily or every other day builds up your styling muscle. It is never wasted and it is never just faffing.
Good image making is also the most potent wordless marketing. With this in mind, as a person who loves words, I balance out my beauty-chasing with reading to fuel my other passion, writing. This is why alternating between different morning start times is ideal for me – shooting and styling is a morning job, but sourcing and writing is an evening one, so you can see how exhaustion can set in unless you have a plan.
We might have a work lunch in the studio and then a big WIP meeting, where we set everybody up for the week. It’s really short because a lot of time can be wasted in meetings. We actually run a small business that appears big – it’s just me, my husband Giles and our stylist producer Katie full-time. So I need to have people who are gifted and multi-talented – no one in the office does one thing only.
A typical day can be hard to define. Styling really is the business of infinite pleasure. Everywhere you go, every roadside, every place you travel, every shop, whatever it is, there is material for your art. Once you are tuned in you are never able to not see and that’s why I find it such a 24/7 job – it’s quite a lovely long process, like slow cooking.
If I’m on the early starts, I try to finish and pick up my youngest from class. The highlight of my week is going to sit and watch her violin class.
My other two kids are 16 and 17, so I try and be home for them to just keep it all going at night, or if I’m working late my husband will be home so four out of five afternoons someone is able to be home with the kids. A lot of people ask ‘how can you work with your husband?’ and I say, how could I not? Though we do split the office down the middle with a piece of sticky tape like in The Brady Bunch!
It’s really daggy, but because our children are quite spaced out in age and it can be a challenging dynamic, we write down all the amazing places we want to go or unusual things we want to do on pieces of paper and put them all in a beautiful vase. Growing up I always loved those random things we did, so the whole week is about who is going to pull something fun out of the vase. It’s a way to keep our little family glued together.
‘I want to tell everyone who is a working parent that you’ve just got to take it when you can get it. Family time for us is limited, but potent. If you can just instil a tiny bit of fun, I think you can get through a lot of the other noise.’
If I am doing the late starts, I will write well into the night. I also think if you stay up at night, you will have access to the world’s most beautiful writers, and I tend to resonate with the night owls and get myself into writing love panic at night.
I love reading and keep books I love near. My mum was an English teacher and I was dyslexic, so reading for me is really a feeling of ‘I can do this’ as well as pure reward. It’s gorgeous to read at night when the whole place is asleep.
It’s also a bit like the Einstein ‘combinatory play’, which is the act of opening up one mental channel by dabbling in another. I live by this, snippets of dabbling to keep it all working.
‘I think there is this idea that we save our best selves for when we are on holiday – our best clothes, our best moods, and we are going to do all the amazing things we are always wanting to do. It’s better to have a bit of who you want to be, and how you want life to be, every day. It’s hard, but it’s not impossible. Listen to your holiday self and somehow make that part of every weekend, every month and every year.’