Fashion illustration. Try to Google it and see what happens. Amazing, right? Wonderful, wonderful fashion illustration.
The image featured above is from a book about Christian Dior, one of the greatest and most celebrated couturiers that ever lived. Dior had a great line, and did beautiful drawings, but over the years, he also developed a close working relationship with René Gruau, who’s the artist behind the featured image. The reason for this was that Gruau was an extremely talented illustrator, and when he put pen and colours to paper, something magical happened. His women are flirty, sensual, elegant, coquettish and sometimes shy – all things that Dior’s women were too. I saw Gruau’s exhibition in Somerset House in London. I tried not to cry.
Fashion illustration is a very personal thing, and I never met a passionate fashion designer, who didn’t feel strongly about his own illustrations. It’s not always that a designer loves his own illustration style, but it’s always something that transmits emotion. It’s a kind of relationship between you and the drawing on the paper. It doesn’t always come out well, or how you imagined it, and therefore it almost feels like a relationship between two people, or with something that has a will of its own. When you have drawn something, your soul is on the paper, and this explains the strong emotion. Your feeling and inspiration now have a shape.
Learning to draw is a long and ungrateful road in the beginning, but after hard work comes the reward, a wonderful fashion illustration to be really proud of. I remember the countless hours I spent drawing, doing it over and over and over again, and seeing how it slowly improved. I know for a fact that anybody with patience and desire can learn to draw. The most important thing is the passion. Then you can learn anything. I’ve met countless students, who told me, they would never learn to draw. After one year, they all had a decent drawing, and I’m happy not one gave up on the way, because at the end comes the reward.
Most of the time, people’s style stays the same from the very beginning. If you draw petite and fairy-looking women, you will continue to do so. If you draw strong and powerful girls with distinct features, it will stay the same. If you male fashion model comes out as a delicate 16-year-old school boy, he will not change majorly. What is also quite remarkable is that often people draw someone with some of the same features, as they have themselves. Curly hair, long legs, defined eyebrows, broad shoulders. We draw, what we know, combined with what we like.
I once went to a talk given by David Downton in the Fashion Illustration Gallery in London. I arrived early and sat at the first row. It was fantastic to listen to him, while looking at his unbelievable work, and I kept staring at his hand. That’s how passionate I feel about Fashion Illustration. In my opinion, he’s one of the best living Fashion Illustrators. Just an unbelievable line drawing.
One of the best compliments I’ve received in my life was, when I was 20 years old. I was doing my first internship with Burberry in London, and was actually Christopher Bailey’s first intern back in the days, when the show was still in Milano. The internship was in London, and I had prepared some work to show at my arrival. After all, this was Burberry. And after all, this was Christopher Bailey. I clearly remember how I showed him my work, and how he spontaneously exclaimed ‘Bette, your drawing is amazing’. I’ll never forget that.
Drawing is also fun, did I forget to say that? And here we’re back at something I believe fully in: doing something you love. It’s the best in the world, and it’s the whole reason for making The Fashion Crowd; to offer people a possibility to learn some of the things, which are everyday life in the fashion industry.