Drawn in: The Return of Fashion Illustration

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LAST FEBRUARY During New York Fashion Week, acclaimed illustrator Bil Donovan got a call from New York magazine asking him to document the behind-the-scenes action. So, during Carolina Herrera’s shows at Thom Browne, in the midst of frenzied TV crews, photographers and Snapchatters, the gentleman artist pulled out his ink pots and got to work. When Mr. Donovan asked the editor why he was hired, she replied, “Because anyone can take a photo. “”

Anybody can take a photo (and thanks to filters and apps, a pretty professional photo). But not everyone can draw or paint one. Perhaps this is why, in the high tech age, illustration – which celebrates the personal, the intimate and the eccentric – has a time, appearing on beauty packaging, in the form of prints. on blouses and bags, and all over Instagram as the latest form of fashion. reporting.

Attend a fancy dinner, like the one jewelry designer Susan Foster recently hosted in New York City, and the placeholder could be your portrait as rendered by New York illustrator Justin Teodoro. Walk into Manhattan’s Bergdorf Goodman department store, and Estée Lauder’s creative director and illustrator Donald Robertson might be “art bombarding” the place, which is Donald-ese for “painting on stuff.” “. And by “stuff” he means anything you can buy that he personalizes while you watch. Over the past year, he’s also staged these events at Rebecca Minkoff’s new Los Angeles store and New York City pop-up store, Story. If you want to see Mr. Robertson in action, he’ll be back in Bergdorf from December 3-6, working on site and selling a gift collection that includes painted skateboards. The prolific Mr. Robertson is perhaps the most fashionable illustrator, helped in part by Beyoncé who posted a selfie on her website, holding a Clare V clutch with the Donald treatment, while wearing an Alice & Olivia blouse with a print he also drew.

“Illustration is a great way to telegraph the heat,” said Happy Menocal, the Brooklyn-based artist known for creating whimsical watercolor stationery and dinner menus for posh hostesses like Aerin Lauder and photographer Claiborne Swanson Frank.

Pencil, pen and ink were the original visual aids of the fashion industry. In the 1920s, Carl “Eric” Erickson sketched the current events from the Mainbocher and Chanel workshops, and produced 48 Vogue covers. Frenchman René Gruau helped inaugurate the New Look at Christian Dior.

And don’t forget Andy Warhol, the kid who arrived in New York City in 1949 and went to work designing hats and shoes for Harper’s Bazaar and creating Christmas cards for Tiffany & Co. Ultimately, the camera prevailed. Many consider Vogue’s first color photographic cover in 1932 to be the beginning of the end of the painted page. In the 1970s, photography reigned supreme. But if technology has killed illustration, it has also helped revive it. Social media, Mr Robertson said, has taken his work viral. “It’s like the 1930s,” he said. “I get blankets.”

The illustration also spills over into the interiors. Cassandra Gray, founder of beauty website Violet Gray, tasked Mr. Robertson with covering her baby’s room with 9-foot giraffes. Tory Burch asked New York artist Kelly Beeman to create a series of watercolors to hang in its pop-up Tory Sport store. Ms. Menocal is perhaps the funniest of all: she just painted the murals for El Tucán, a new cabaret in Miami. “It’s inspired by the El Tropicana from the 1940s,” she said. “Guys in white tuxedos, group of twelve pieces. “

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