Tuesday, 11 September 2012

Masters of Fashion Illustration

Fashion illustration is often overlooked in a world where technology is ever pervasive. The immediacy of instant communication and photo sharing provokes a very fleeting attention span which affects the way we perceive and interpret what is around us. 

Fashion illustration by David Downton
Lily Cole by David Downton in Masters of Fashion Illustration 

It takes time to appreciate a drawing with its subtleties and innuendos, expressed through precise lines and splashes of colour. As fashion illustrator David Downton said in his talk at the V&A, "people have to fill in the gaps".  

Today it is a rare occasion to see fashion illustrations in magazines but throughout their history, there were many memorable artists whose dazzling work contributed to their role as a talent platform far beyond today's window display attitude. 

"Before the rise of photography it was artists who interpreted the work of great designers. Essentially they invented fashion illustration as an art form." David Downton

James Bond movie posters
James Bond movie posters (Barbican exhibition

When he was a teenager, David Downton enjoyed copying movie posters at home and he was able to draw for a living but fashion only entered his life aged 36, when he was asked to go to Paris haute couture shows. The first show he saw was by Versace the year before the designer died. 

This marked the beginning of a journey which has made him one of today's leading fashion artists, following the footsteps of the fashion illustrators he had studied in the past. Masters of Illustration guides us through the greatest "image makers who have managed to put a stamp on a time". 

Fashion illustration by René Gruau
Fashion illustration by René Gruau (source: christies.com) 

In his opinion, René Gruau was the greatest fashion artist of all but he is not on the book due to publishing constraints. However there are a number of beautiful monographs on him listed on page 217.

"What interests me is the combination of people and clothes." David Downton

After the highest moments of fashion illustration, we're graced with David Downton's own work, elegant images capturing glamour with precision and energy. Fashion is so intertwined with his work that even his portraits are highly stylised and convey the strength of a distinct personality.  

Dita Von Teese by David Downton
Dita Von Teese by David Downton in Masters of Fashion Illustration 

These two elements are present in any iconic fashion image you can think of, it's all about extraordinary style mixed with a bold attitude. He called his work a varnished truth, truthful but polished. I find it not only eye-catching but terribly inspiring!

Masters of Fashion Illustration by David Downton
Book cover

Masters of Illustration
by David Downton
(£19.95, Laurence King Publishing)

Other related blog posts:
Manolo Blahnik: a Fairy Tale
Period Style: Art Deco
New Editorial Voice

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