Photographer & Stylist Margaret Zhang On Life As A Creative & Living In NYC

From where she finds inspiration to her fave brunch spots!

margaret zhang
Image: Margaret Zhang

We’re just going to come right out and say it. Margaret Zhang is cool AF. She rocks pink hair like it’s no-one’s business, has an IG account which gives you a serious case of travel envy and a blazer collection that’s out of this world. One of Margaret’s latest projects involves directing a series of short films for sportswear giant Under Armour as part of their global “Will Finds a Way” campaign featuring NFL Seahawks Defensive Tackle, Jesse Williams and three-time Paralympic medalist, Madison de Rozario. Read on as we chat to Margaret about life as a creative, what she loves most about being an Aussie living in NYC and of course, her go-to styling tips.

Tell us about the short films you directed for Under Armour. It’s different to the usual fashion brands you shoot for! How did this come about?

Under Armour approached me for a slightly different perspective on the go-to aesthetic and narrative for elite sports or sports and lifestyle. It’s always such a pleasure to work with subjects of such substance that challenge your preconceived notions of what it takes to succeed from the first interview all the way through to final cut. In both Madison and Jesse’s instances, there’s a whole community behind them in their respective disciplines who are so invested in what they stand for and what they have achieved—you really want to be able to do them justice and communicate their grit as accurately as possible.

What do you love most about living in New York?

I love that the pace of the city makes me work really hard, and the constant cycle of interesting people you can encounter in the most ordinary places who can shift your world view on any manner of topic areas. I do also find that there’s this ongoing culture shock: having grown up in Australia in a very Chinese household, there are always things about New York and America more generally that shock and amuse me. It keeps you on your toes.

margaret zhang
Image: @margaret_zhang

Do you have any go-to coffee/brunch spots in NYC?

I cook at home most of the time, but I love the bento brunch at EN Brasserie, Hao Noodle on 6th Ave for really authentic Chinese food in a calm environment, the golden folded eggs at Banter, steamed eggs at Buvette, Shopsin’s for the most possible options, and The Odeon.

You’re a photographer, director, stylist and writer. What do you enjoy most about your work as a creative?

I think the collaborative process is the most illuminating for me—whatever role I’m taking on any particular project, learning from other players in the game as to their thought processes and backgrounds that inform their creative decisions.

How do you find balance with such a busy schedule and what would we find you doing in your down-time?

I do my best to maintain my constants as much as I can, as my work can vary dramatically day to day (particularly when I’m traveling). Gut health is super central to how I’m feeling overall, I like the normalcy of cooking as many of my meals as is feasible and I aim for 30 minutes of yoga just on my own at home as soon as I wake up. I am a podcast fiend – whenever I’m hands-free and don’t need to be thinking in words (editing photos, color-grading footage, subway commutes, working out, on the plane), I cycle through about 4 hours worth of podcasts a day.

margaret zhang
Image: @margaret__zhang

From where do you draw inspiration for your work?

I grew up playing classical piano and training seriously in ballet, so sound and movement really continue to inform all my creative processes now. They’re definitely the first thing I notice about other productions too.

Who do you follow on IG in the industry that inspires you?

I don’t spend much time on Instagram—I post, and leave. I love Ruba Abu-Nimah’s exceptional eye for curation. She always finds the most unlikely common ground between different aesthetics, time periods and subcultures.

Your job sees you travelling to some pretty amazing places. What is your favourite holiday destination and what’s next on your bucket list?

My favourite trip of all time was definitely Morocco a few years ago. It is such a dynamic country of huge contrasts city to city, and the most kind and fascinating people. I’m dying to get to Iceland at some point. I haven’t really seen Scandinavia generally, so that’s on the agenda for sure.

margaret zhang
Image: @margaret_zhang

If we looked inside your wardrobe right now, what would we find?

I’m on my 3rd month of being on the road, at the moment, so I’m not sure you’d want to see the state of my suitcase. It’s a lot of separates (man trousers, shirting, tees, a blazer, a leather jacket, and a range of shoe heights and jewellery to trick people into thinking I’m wearing something different).

Best styling tip that never fails you?

Be comfortable. You can’t hold yourself confidently if you’re fidgeting with things that aren’t quite the right size or fit or texture for you.

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