twenty eleven redemption

adoring,best of,blogging,illustration,London — Danielle on December 28, 2011 at 6:13 pm

This has been an incredible year, full of adversity and transcendence.

What follows is a redux, final fashion‘s finest for the year. Thanks so much to everyone who visits, reads, comments, emails and reaches out. Friends and colleagues, you inspire me. You are all wonderful. Thank you.


My favourite blog posts

Paper dolls

  • Vionnet – both back and front views. Braless, just the way Vionnet liked it.
  • Agyness Deyn – the first of a model series, I have a wishlist.
  • Anna Dello Russo – for the Hudson’s Bay Company. She is such a perfect fashion phoenix, delightful to draw.
  • Pink Martini Collection – my first completely hand-rendered, watercolour paper doll.

Incredible encounters

Fashion weeks and events

Extraordinary projects

Print appearances


London life

This was a year that started hard for me and then turned around in the second half. While I didn’t tick every box, I feel like I got the gist if not the gamut of my 2011 goals.

I’m looking forward to 2012. How about you?

click click – 22-12-11

click click — Danielle on December 22, 2011 at 6:31 pm

Welcome to click click, the sporadic review of what I find worth clicking on the internet.

I love these photographs of teddy girls by Ken Russell. I particularly enjoy the duality of these two photos – a vivacious girl in a quartet of girls, and then again surrounded by Teddy Boys, in a scene of bomb wreckage. BONUS: teddy boys grow up.

Karma kisses under the mistletoe for all my teds –

  • the dexterous diva – Jo throws me a few questions about being creative and calls out for more – why not tell Jo about your schtick?
  • Thinking In Shapes“I post about vintage-inspired style and clothing construction.”
  • Rebecca Howden“Books, gender, fashion, culture, life”
  • f514 – this is a wonderful fashion blog by a Montreal makeup artist, I adore her enthusiasm, honesty and ambition.

drawing – London skyline from my flat

drawing,London — Danielle on December 21, 2011 at 11:29 am

Landscapes and architectural drawings – not something I do often. This is my second stab this year at a London skyline, this time tracing a photo I took from the front door of my flat this summer. The slavishness to photo reference means that this time the rendering is a proportional one. I quite love the view from my flat – you can see a half-dozen major East London landmarks very clearly, and of course the ever-changing sky.

four feminine elements

thinking — Danielle on December 19, 2011 at 5:39 pm

Of all the conventions of chick lit, my favourite by far is the quartet of queens – feminine foursomes. Like a deck of cards, each character has her suit. From Little Women to Mean Girls, from The Robber Bride to Sex and the City, this elemental formation of four recurs again and again.

Raised a skeptic, this has become my favourite kind of claptrap. I like the simplicity of the symbolism, the way it orders chaos neatly into quarters, and the way it provides a shorthand for describing essential personalities. Of course I identify with one even as I aspire to be all four. What about you?

The Queen of Diamonds is the female fire element. She is creative, combative, explosive. Beyond bright. A live wire. Fierce passions that rise and subside like lightning strikes. Intense ideas that burn bright and burn out. She signifies second chances, she loves a makeover, she lives to gamble, she deals in both delight and destruction.

The Queen of Spades is the female air element. She is an intimidating intellect. She articulates and manipulates. Her power is invisible, scentless, impossible to touch, yet it is a fantastic force. She has an untouchable quality – she’s analytical, dispassionate.  She is an authority in contrariness and control.

The Queen of Clubs is the female earth element. She is practical verging on prosaic. She is a nurturer, a manager, someone who makes things happen, someone who takes care. She is deeply sensual, super sexy, comfortable in her own body, feet firmly on the ground. She bestows abundance and obstinance.

The Queen of Hearts is the female water element. She is empathetic, emotional. Her romanticism is both refreshing and ridiculous. She takes the shape of her vessel, and easily escapes a tight grasp. She reflects those around her. She envelopes and evaporates, deserts and drowns. She deals in both despair and divinity.

click click – 14-12-11

click click — Danielle on December 14, 2011 at 4:50 pm

Welcome to click click, the sporadic review of what I find worth clicking on the internet.

While Occupy was occupying the media, I joked on Twitter that I was anticipating a “police state chic” Meisel editorial for Vogue Italia. Then I found out it happened five years ago. Hat Tip to The Grumpy Owl.

karma kickbacks to internet kindred…

  • FashionSchools – a recent interview I did on the subject of finding your role in fashion.
  • Joanne Faith“More than being ‘just a fashion blog’, she also loves to talk blogging, Auckland, and living a beautiful life.”
  • Dana Constance Thomas“The intuitive mind is a sacred gift and the rational mind is a faithful servant. We have created a society that honors the servant and has forgotten the gift.”
  • I Want You To Know“Anything is possible, so expect a mix of musings.”
  • Natalie Brooke Designs“WLFD (We Love Fashion Design) is my Personal Directory of  artists in the Fashion Industry who inspire me.”

how to hire a fashion illustrator – third edition

illustration,thinking — Danielle on December 8, 2011 at 5:53 pm

I have been illustrating fashion full-time now for five years. Every once in a while I like to revisit the subject of how to hire a fashion illustrator. I often work with fashion designers, more than editorial clients, so as a guide this reflects that, though much of this information will be useful to any type of client for any type of creative work.

“I need a fashion illustrator to draw my ideas!”

Cool! Wait, do you really? I get a lot of inquiries from people who want to be fashion designers and assume the first step is to hire someone to draw their ideas professionally. The truth is, a lot of established fashion designers do what they do with the roughest sketches you can imagine. Illustration is not a necessity, and in the early stages of a business it can be yet another liability. Hiring an illustrator before you’ve done anything else is a red flag that you don’t know what you’re doing and won’t be a reliable client.

I always refer these types of inquiries to Fashion-Incubator and Kathleen Fasanella’s book The Entrepreneur’s Guide to Sewn Product Manufacturing. This is required reading for any wannabe fashion designer. Often fresh designers don’t really understand the scope of what they’re attempting to accomplish – this textbook lays it all out in plain language.

Ok, so you’ve read the book and you’re on your way. When do you need a fashion illustrator to draw your ideas? Here’s a few common scenarios:

  1. You are making a persuasive business presentation or creating a sales document like a line sheet. Whether you’re selling to an investor or a buyer, if you’re in fashion you know that great images sell. Sometimes those images need to be illustrations.
  2. You are communicating very specific design ideas to patternmakers, sample makers, and production. Sometimes language barriers and oceanic distances are involved, so very accurate, precise drawings are required to reduce the number of iterations involved in developing a finished design. This can save you money in the long run.
  3. Your products require instructions for the consumer. Drawings have a simplicity and clarity that works well for instructional use, often better than photography and easier to reproduce, especially in black and white.
  4. You want to use illustrations in your branding. Again, great imagery sells. So if it suits your brand, the right type of illustrations can lift your website, printed materials, and PR content to the next level.

How do you find the right fashion illustrator?

Look at their portfolio! When hiring a creative, a lot of people rely on their social network – they look for a friend of a friend who is an illustrator or a photographer or whatever. This is a terrible way to get the results you want – creativity isn’t a commodity. Two different illustrators working to the same brief can produce completely different  illustrations. You want to make sure that the illustrator you’re hiring has the ability to nail your vision. So checking out their portfolio is critical. Here’s what to look for.

  1. You love their style. Their past work will be a good indication of their future work – so check out as many examples as you can. If you like certain images, bookmark them to refer the illustrator to later when you present the brief. Sometimes potential clients will send examples of work by other illustrators for reference material – my feeling as an illustrator when presented with this is “why didn’t you just hire that illustrator?” Being asked to imitate the work of another illustrator can feel borderline insulting/unethical. That doesn’t mean you should never use illustrations as reference, but if you do please make it clear that you understand the illustrator will interpret that material through the lens of their own style.
  2. Their skills suit your project. If you’re looking for a technical fashion illustrator, you need to be working with someone who understands how clothing is constructed. If you’re doing children’s wear, you want to be working with someone who demonstrates flair at illustrating children. If you need an illustration that will be used as a logo, find an illustrator who understands the practical principles of graphic design. And so on.

So you’ve found the illustrator – or maybe several – you might want to work with. How do you approach a fashion illustrator with your project brief?

You do you have a project brief, right? A great project brief is a short document that has the following information:

  1. A brief but detailed description of the scope of the project. What type of drawings do you need, and how many of them? What are they of? Do they need to be in colour or just line art? Front views only or back views too? Including a couple examples of reference images can be really helpful – the illustrator needs to know if the content they’re rendering is simple or complex.
  2. An explanation of where and how the illustrations will be used. This will give the illustrator a sense of how visible or important the project is, which will help them accurately assess the value of the project.
  3. A due date or timeline. When do you need the finished work by? Remember that rush jobs are very expensive – the more lead time you can offer, the better the rate will be.

This is the basic information an illustrator needs in order to develop an estimate. How much does a fashion illustration cost? It depends on these factors. So knowing that…

“Budget is totally an issue! How can I get the best deal?”

  1. Let the illustrator set the schedule. As freelancers, our schedules vary wildly. If you give us the ability to fit your project in between other priorities, we can be more flexible with the rates.
  2. Rethink the scope of the project. It would be great if you could afford 10 illustrations, but maybe you can get by with one. Perhaps you don’t need back views of every style. Perhaps line art is sufficient and you can forget about colour (cheaper to print, too).
  3. Work with emerging talent. Working with students or recent graduates can be tricky as they won’t necessarily have a good sense of what they can do best and how long it takes. However, if you can give a promising young person a modestly paid opportunity you will benefit in good karma – and often excellent work – at a fraction of the price of a more experienced professional.

You’ve hired a fashion illustrator – awesome! What can you do as a client to help the project run smoothly?

  1. Take the time to assemble and organize all your reference material. This is especially important for designer clients – create a folder for the project and subfolders for each specific style. Include as much information as you can to get your ideas across, both written and visual. Make sure your file names and your style numbers are all in order – it will make communicating about your project much simpler.
  2. Respond clearly to correspondence. Good email hygiene goes a long way. When the illustrator gives you a rough sketch to review, take enough time to compile all your comments into one email, and understand that the project can’t move forward until you send them. Try not to send constant, ongoing updates or changes, especially by IM or other social networks. Keep all of the project-related correspondence in one place, keep it concise, and use appropriate subject lines.
  3. Limit revisions. There is a statute of limitations on revisions before the illustrator starts adding them to the invoice. The first two points go a long way to reducing the amount of correspondence and iteration it takes to reach the finished work. The essence is all about knowing exactly what you want and communicating that clearly, sooner rather than later. Being aware of this saves you time and money, not only on illustration but in all aspects of life.
  4. Pay promptly. A conscientious client makes an illustrator want to go the extra mile. If you pay the agreed amount at the agreed time, you’re a model client that the illustrator would want to work with again – and the work you receive will reflect that good will.

Any questions, is there anything I missed? Are you an illustrator yourself, do you have any comments to add?

drawing – To Write Love On Her Arms

drawing — Danielle on December 6, 2011 at 10:40 am

Earlier this year, a young fashion designer named Lisa Hoang invited me to create a t-shirt design to fundraise for To Write Love on Her Arms. After reflecting on some of the people in my life who have struggled with feelings of hopelessness, I volunteered this illustration.


click click – 05-12-11

click click — Danielle on December 5, 2011 at 4:12 pm

Welcome to click click, the sporadic review of what I find worth clicking on the internet.

Lists, To-dos and Illustrated Inventories of Great Artists gives glimpses into the way great minds work in between all the mundanities of every day life. This wonderful graphic packing list was created by Adolf Konrad on Dec. 16 1973.

the insider issue

thinking — Danielle on December 1, 2011 at 6:07 pm

In fashion, insider status is coveted by those who lack it and flaunted by those who have it. In a business that makes a shrine to exclusion, the idea of being omitted from a list or unseated at a fashion show is on a par with being excommunicated.

As someone who had the chance to walk inside the establishment, albeit in a second-tier fashion city, I subscribed to the insider glossy – being inside was good for business. I attended all different types of fashion events, took home bags of free swag, met more and more insiders, until I became a recognized feature on the scene in that city. Initially, the novelty of insider status delighted me – then I was pleased because I found I was gaining some recognition for my work and even some clients.

Everything was great. But weirdly, after just two years of this, I was beginning to recognize diminishing returns. I began to notice that I wasn’t meeting as many new people, simply because most of the same people were in attendance at these things. After I had established a core group of friends, events became less about exploring the unknown and began to become less exciting, more routine. How terrible to be jaded to generosity and special treatment so quickly.

The other thing that I began to be frustrated with was how this new layer of social obligation was obscuring the original objective of blogging. I was doing a lot of posts just because I felt I should. I felt my will-to-blog ebb and saw my traffic flatline. Last year, I gradually tried to take myself out of the loop, but it wasn’t until I moved to London that I truly got back “outside”.

Arriving in a new city where I was a bonafide outsider, I consciously decided not to ingratiate myself with the local PR companies and not to attend fashion events in a “professional” capacity. I quickly discovered that the intramural blogging league that had become so firmly established in Toronto also existed in London, and I didn’t want to risk being a part of it. I had come to see insider status as more of a liability than an advantage. On twitter, you can see it all go down in real time – fashion bloggers posting in lockstep following an event, the content being dictated by publicists instead of celebrating the individual creativity of the bloggers. Insider blogging has begun to resemble the rather faded, rote status of most printed fashion publications. I call it mid-level blogging. Being inside is toxic to creativity.

The most interesting stuff in fashion blogging (and fashion generally) is happening at the edges – the top tier and the off-the-radar zones are where it is at. Looking at professionals I admire like Cathy Horyn, Tommy Ton, Dries Van Noten, Tilda Swinton – these are insiders who know how to behave like outsiders – and their work is outstanding as a result. I love finding fresh, creative bloggers who haven’t yet been exposed to the insider treatment – their work is guileless, uncontrived, often uneven in quality – but far more fascinating than the middle-of-the-packers.

This past year in London I got my blogger swagger back. I rediscovered the reasons why I started blogging in the first place and I upped my game. I zagged where everyone else zigged – not many fashion bloggers write long posts, so I write longer posts. I endeavour to include as much original material as I can in every post, writing or illustration. Before I post anything, I ask myself two questions. Is it universal? The best way to bust the blogger bubble is to be relevant regardless of location. Is it atemporal? Will this post be interesting if you read it six seconds after it’s posted, what about six months, what about six years later? I consciously try to eliminate as many exclusions as I can. Because my social life is more varied than ever before and the stimuli I seek out are unique to my own proclivities, I am constantly discovering inspiration in unexpected places. I find my life more interesting now – and my blog reflects that.

The response to the changes I’ve made has been wonderful – but even if I didn’t notice any growth at all, it would have still been worthwhile because I love Final Fashion more than ever. I am finally writing the blog I’ve always wanted to read – because I am an outsider again.

wordpress | barecity | final fashion | © Danielle Meder