In 2016 British fashion photographer and SHOWstudio director, Nick Knight observed that, “We are so used to seeing heavily edited visuals that the true tradition of an artist with pen, ink or paint and paper can make a startling impact. Illustration in today’s world is incredibly powerful.”
Between his prediction that there would be a rise of and return to fashion illustration and at least three years and three New York Times articles later (links below), it’s clear from a glance at social media that fashion illustration is more important now than ever before.
New York Fashion Week runs this week and next (Men’s is February 5th – 8th, and Women’s is February 8th – 16th) and nothing says true style in a fast-fashion-world like handcrafted art. While hand-stitched buttonholes, rolled silk hems, and individualized custom fit are regular hallmarks of haute couture, the price point reflected by such craftsmanship suggests that such artistry is a luxury simply out of the reach or realm of appreciation for most people.
However Knight makes a different case with fashion illustration: “When you see a painting or a drawing you also get an opinion, a sense of someone’s emotional response and feeling to a garment as well as its relationship with the contours of the body.” As artists raise the visual and conversational bar on social media in illustrating high fashion brands, the runways of New York, London and the world are more accessible than ever before.
As early as 2015, Qianna Smith, the then-director of social media for Saks, pointed out that while illustration is a promotional tactic that retailers have always relied upon, platforms like Instagram have also enabled a more dynamic relationship between producer and consumer. “You can see the work of someone come to life. It brings that interactivity,” a strategy for long-term success among both fashion conglomerates and smaller companies as retail traffic increases in the online marketplace.
Illustrators appeal to brands since along with the artistic talent, they also have cultivated strong personal style and often come with a loyal community of followers. Suddenly the online conversation has move away from the personal blogger’s, “me, me, me” to artists who “aren’t focusing on themselves but instead are spotlighting runway shows or editorial from Vogue.” It is their individual talents, and that raises public awareness.
Even, as the New York Times put it in fall, 2017, “in an age when photos of fashion collections on and off the catwalk are abundantly – and instantly- available on social media” by expanding the digital dialogue with hand-drawn expression, high fashion is now appreciated by a far-reaching audience especially because of the hand-drawn element. Knight explains that “a good fashion illustrator will show you what they feel about a garment, not just what it looks like.” Inspired by what they see, fashion illustrators enable us to take ownership of fashion at its root concept- drawing board inspiration.
That stroke of a pen that can become anything– a gown, a suit, a new design, product, or something else the world hasn’t seen yet- that is something to which we can all relate.
Let our team at Drawing Booth help craft a fashion experience that inspires you!
New York Times Sources:
- Seeing Fashion with a Sketchpad and Markers (June 2015)
- Fashion Returns to the Drawing Board (September 2016)
- Fashion Shows Drawn By Hand (January 2017)