Tina B Erning22
Cecilia C Arlstedt 36
Jean-Philipp E Delhomme42
David D Ownton58
Petra D Ufkova64
Gary Fe Rnández72
Richar D Gray90
Zoë More O’ferrall124
Hirosh I Tanabe108
Annabell E Verhoye184
Richard Pe Ter Winnett198
The art of the contemporary fashion illustrator can be seen as defying the times – an anachronism in this age of the digital photograph, instant internet communication and technology-driven creative processes. Even when computer software is used as a tool, the idea of forging a career as a fashion illustrator today seems highly unrealistic. Yet in spite of this, or possibly even because of this, from the Mediterranean to Scandinavia, from the UK to the USA, highly accomplished and highly successful fashion illustrators are working away.
After the Second World War it seemed as if fashion illustration would be relegated to becoming a historic craft. It was seen increasingly as either an oddity that broke the mould or a still much-needed filler for newspapers or advertisers that had smaller budgets and were unable to afford a costly shoot. In An Introduction to Fashion Illustration, published in 1980, Madeleine Ginsberg closes with the words: ‘The era of the fashion artist came to an end in 1939, for the post-war years have belonged to the artist–photographer, not the illustrator.’ But some thirty years after this bold statement was made, fashion illustration might be described as enjoying a renaissance, not just in Paris or London, but across the world.
Perhaps this is because capturing the ephemeral world of fashion creates a document of our society and the times in which we live. Often the seemingly inconsequential drawings and portraits of fashion illustrators tell us more about our values and lifestyle choices than the posed, edited and re-touched images of photo shoots. Fashion illustration is, by its very nature, of-the-moment. The characters in Jordi Labanda’s illustrations, for example, speak to us of the latest style fetishes, from the clothes that the figures wear through to their body language.
It is also true that we are currently rediscovering craft and technique and seeking to preserve skills – such as drawing from life at speed – that were in danger of disappearing. Fashion illustration is an art based simply on the skill of the hand and the eye. The delicacy of the line in an image by Cedric Rivrain, for instance, reminds us of this. The hand of the illustrator demonstrates both the timeless craft of illustration and the follies and fancies of the current mode. With his sharp observations and graphic lines, Piet Paris provides another fine example of this, confirming that fashion illustration is and always has been about a great deal more than a pretty drawing of a pretty dress.
The enduring art of illustrating fashion has been explored in many forms, from exhibitions to books. Many of these publications and showcases have been about artists of the past, however. While they demonstrate that the artists who stand the test of time are both those who use the recording of fashion as part of a larger picture and those who focus on the illustration of fashion as an end within itself, there is little available on today’s artists of tomorrow. This compendium seeks to fill that gap and celebrate fashion illustration’s renaissance.
Tellingly, it is at the height of our interest in multimedia and cross-media communication that our interest in fashion illustration has become much more widespread. From department stores to jewellers, all the major fashion businesses are investing in the art of the illustrator and realizing there are myriad styles for the drawn image, from polished technical effects that only the computer can achieve to traditional pencil or watercolour delicacy. Major fashion stores across the globe surprise us by using, say, Tanya Ling for their campaign as opposed to the glossy images of photographic studios.
Today, while fashion illustrators continue in their traditional role of recording and observing – communicating through line the essence of a season – they also have much broader horizons. These include advertising campaigns, of course, but also designs for accessories, such as bags, and even china plates – and this by illustrators as diverse as Julie Verhoeven, David Downton or Jeffrey Fulvimari. Moreover, as technology rides roughshod across craft in many domains, fashion illustration is reinventing itself through the application of technology, albeit in tandem with more traditional drawing skills. Indeed, Richard Haines’s swift handdrawn lines are posted on-line in a matter of minutes. Above all else, however, there remains the joy and wonder of watching an illustrator put drawing instrument to paper and capture, in a few brief seconds, the line and form of the model, the pose and the movement of the garments.