click click – 18-06-12

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

These fashion shots from 1972 were found on The 70’s Fashion Found Archive which directed me to the massive treasure box of vintage fashion imagery collected by dovima_is_devine_II.

Karma rama llama…

  • stitch mode – “imagine someone who never stops talking”
  • olive yew!“Petite Simple Jewelry”
  • icon m.“Marta (18) loves sketching&drawing and does it all the time. big fan of art, fashion, interior design and spaghetti.”
  • evelyn rowland – “I’m an urban sketcher”

drawing – red carpet sketches at the Scottish Fashion Awards

Thanks to my lovely friend Gail McInnes, I once again had the opportunity to attend the Scottish Fashion Awards in Glasgow. This is one of the best fashion events I’ve ever had the pleasure to attend – Scottish fashion people are friendly and smiling, and they dress up with infectious enthusiasm. I was thrilled to chat briefly with three of my favourite fashion notables at dinner – Alexa Chung, Colin McDowell and Christopher Kane. You can check out Gail’s coverage of the event on – plus I want to give a shout out to a dear fashion blog friend, Jonathan Pryce, who was honoured as Photographer of the Year.

While I wasn’t there in an official capacity, I still took the opportunity to practice live sketching the red carpet arrivals as the attendees were in full regalia. This time I experimented with water-based markers. Above are sketches of Millie of Made In Chelsea fame (yes, I admit to watching that show), and male supermodel David Gandy. Below left is Model of the Year nominee Tara Nowy, and on the lower right is Jade Ewan of the pop group Sugababes. Thanks to Stephanie and Emma who helped me identify these subjects.

thoughts on contemporary fashion illustration

Whenever I attend a fashion illustration exhibition, or otherwise find myself in the company of fashion illustration enthusiasts, I hear variations on this sentiment: “fashion illustration is having a moment“! My inner reaction is always: is it, really? What does this mean, exactly?

A moment.

To me, “having a moment” in the context of fashion means that for a period of time, fashion shines the spotlight on your particular specialty, attention shines on the work across all media, rates inflate, and superstars emerge – that is, names become recognizable even to outsiders. Photographers had a moment in the 1950s and 1960s. Designers had their big moment in the 1970s and 1980s. Models had their moment in the 1990s. Currently, bloggers and fashion editors are both having their moment. Outside of these “moments”, the practitioners of their respective crafts carry on doing their thing, and a few outliers will make a name for themselves on an individual basis, but for the most part careerists receive relatively modest levels of scrutiny and interest.

I think fashion illustrators had their moment in the 1940s. That was when Bérard and Gruau were superstars – their artwork was featured on magazine covers, and their work even influenced designers rather than the other way around. At that time, fashion illustration was everywhere – mail-order catalogues, advertising, home sewing patterns – a lot of hands were needed to create all those drawings. When I was in school, I voluntarily studied fashion illustration texts from the 1940s, in which it was clear that fashion illustration was treated as a common, appropriate profession for young ladies to occupy themselves with between graduation and marriage. Fashion illustration paid, sometimes quite well, as Elizabeth Hawes documented in Fashion is Spinach.

So, no, I don’t think fashion illustration is having a moment right now, or will anytime in the near future. That’s just wishful thinking. The current state of fashion illustration is a tiny niche on the periphery of fashion’s consciousness. Even within the industry, the names of fashion illustrators aren’t well known. When you tell people outside of the fashion industry that you are a fashion illustrator, the reactions are always quizzical. Which is fine – you can’t make a moment, even if a moment can make you. Just know that if you pursue a fashion illustration career now, your chances of become rich and famous doing it are virtually nil. Even fashion illustrators at the top of their game right now live in middle-class, relative obscurity.

A career.

Despite reduced circumstances, fashion illustration still carries on. There are about half a dozen well-known, respected fashion illustrators with names that are recognized, at least within the industry. For some reason, most of them live in London. Beyond that, there is a small cohort of full-time working fashion illustrators struggling to make a name for themselves (I include myself among this number), and a much broader population of amateur, and part-time fashion illustrators who often combine their work with other professions. There are also the more general illustrators who also occasionally do fashion work.

Fashion illustration is currently making the media/technology shift along with the rest of the creative world. Along with illustration as a whole, fashion artists are increasingly creating careers online. Personality has always been an essential component of creating a name for yourself, and the up-and-coming cohort of the future-famous (moment withstanding) tend to also be bloggers – most notably Danny Roberts, Kathryn Elise, and of course Garance Dore. As the internet has become the starting point, the role of the agent or editor as the mediator in launching an illustrator’s career is waning.

There are two main ways to build a career as a fashion illustrator. You can create an original body of work and sell it as originals and prints, either through galleries or online. This type of career is more on the “art” end of the spectrum. Or you can assemble an online portfolio, based on which freelance clients will hire you, as I do. This is more aligned with the “commercial” side of the business. Or you can do both. There is a third, more obscure stream you can sail down too – but I’ll get to that at the end of this (long) post.

A trend.

One thing I find fascinating and unique about modern editorial and commercial fashion illustration is its susceptibility to micro-trends. Illustration is very rarely used in major fashion magazines now, and for some reason when it is it seems that certain styles tend to be ubiquitous for short periods of time. In the late 1990s as computers were just beginning to be used as a tool, vector spot illustrations were suddenly everywhere. Though Jason Brooks actually works in Photoshop (example above), he has become the most well-known example of this slick style. When editors became tired of the digital look, there was a reactionary shift back to classic painterly effects, notably David Downton and Stina Persson.

This lovely 2004 ad campaign for Choice by Calvin Klein was illustrated by the multitalented Charles Anastase. Anastase used photo-realistic pencil rendering, done so tightly that every hair was articulated. This was a major campaign and I remember seeing and remarking upon it at the time because fashion illustrations are so rarely on billboards. It would have been great if it had inspired more brands to commission illustrated campaigns – but instead it inspired a host of photo-realistic pencil-rendering fashion illustrators. This has become the most common style of fashion illustration, and now in 2012 it is dangerously near saturation.

It is very difficult to differentiate the styles of illustrators who use this technique unless they combine it with some other element (like Richard Kilroy‘s linear effects). There are also copyright and ownership issues when the illustrations are based on fashion photography, not to mention the identity of the models. In a way, the proclivity for this style of shifting analog illustration towards photography mirrors photography’s own migration towards illustration with digital dependency on photoshop. Perhaps it indicates a future category of imagemakers, the photostrators? Still, my heart goes out to the illustrators whose careers are based on this style, which is not likely to keep fashionable favour forever.

Never mind the medium, no fashion illustrator is immune to the ends of trends. The main thing that differentiates fashion illustration from any other type of illustration is its currency. A fashion illustration’s essential quality must always reflect the attitudes and tastes of its time – as a result fashion illustration dates very quickly and fashion illustration careers are rarely long ones unless the illustrator is remarkably adaptable, like the great Antonio.

An idea.

The other aspect of fashion illustration that differentiates it from the rest of the illustration industry is that it also plays a vital, creative role in design development. As an illustrator who also creates ideation sketches, design drawings and technical flats for designer clients, I have a very personal interest in fashion illustration that is used for practical purposes. To me, these are often the most fascinating types of fashion illustration, and I find it poignant that such a huge swath of drawn material is not for public consumption. It bothers me that when fashion illustration is discussed, its hidden industrial role is so often ignored.

This is why fashion illustration will never be eclipsed by photography. Sketching plays a secret, significant role in fashion: the genesis of an idea.

click click – 05-06-12

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

The photography of Kiyana Hayeri shows how young Iranian women’s lives are sharply divided between private permissiveness and public propriety.

  • To Pay or Not to Pay – the source of so much delusion among the middle of the fashion blog pack is the online brand budget bubble which is currently under review for deflation. For those of us that just aren’t celebrity fashion blogger material (get real) peep my philosophy. RELATED: a week in the working life of a pro fashion blogger.
  • Will you wear the ‘blogger’ trend? – what happens when fashion bloggers wear every trend at once? They become a meta-trend!
  • Why I Hate Beauty – the bad news is, beauty is relative, and our society is on a media-fuelled beauty-binge. Found via 22/8 (who says she found it from me, but I don’t remember seeing it before).
  • 5 Life Lessons – a sweet & condensed post where Gala shares the best bits of her philosophy.
  • Cartoon Showdown – Gilray vs. Crumb – a fascinating pair of essays, accompanied by maddeningly low-res images, about two keen interpreters of their respective ages. I’m more into Gilray – he bridges satire, caricature, politics and fashion with brilliant viciousness.

Karma cream on your internet berries…

cashing in on fashion blogging

I have been a committed, or addicted, fashion blogger for over six years now with the archives to prove it. There is no point in downplaying or denying it – I love this blog and I put a lot of heart, and time, into it. I never did unpaid internships to get into fashion – instead all my free time and priceless hopes I pinned on this URL.

So here we are. Perhaps indirectly, I’ve become a fashion illustrator. I am fulfilling a childhood fantasy. I absolutely adore what I do, and I feel like I still have a long way to go, lots of things to make and say and do.

Great, right? It is. Here’s the thing about a blog-based creative career – it is a capricious occupation. Don’t be fooled by the edited facade we throw out there; it’s just glamour. Sometimes things get sticky. Projects get cancelled. Payments are delayed. You have a quiet week. A quiet month. Times when opening your email feels like scratching a lottery ticket.

So, how about the blog then, what can it do to pull some weight? I’ve tried a few things – my experiments with sponsorship are on the public record. My early efforts integrated quite a bit with the content of the blog, and after I tried it, I didn’t feel like it was the right direction. I wanted Final Fashion to be universal and as free as possible from obligations. I wanted to treat the blog more like art.

A while ago, I had the opportunity to sell a post. I rarely respond to these opportunities, but I had an illustration project cancel that week so I was thinking about money. It turned out that the client was high profile, the rate they offered was excellent and the content they wanted me to post was pretty cute. This time, I treated it like a fashion ad in a magazine, or a commercial on a TV show. Disconnected from the rest of my content.

I bought another week in London, thanks to the goldmine of fashion blogging. After just six years of mostly-unpaid labour. If Vogue can sell off bits of itself, why can’t I?

Was it worth it? I have no idea. Final Fashion is not a shopping blog or a personal style blog. It seemed like a few regular visitors found it a bit jarring, and most took it in stride. When I solicited reactions, some readers thought it would have been better if I had included more of myself in the sponsored content somehow. This came as a surprise to me – sponsored content on fashion blogs is often a little too integral for my taste. Especially on the personal style blog end of the spectrumprofessionalization is beginning to heavily distort content. Now it seems like the genre is about to enter some kind of existential crisis.

As a niche fashion blogger and independent creative careerist who has mixed feelings on monetizing, here are my personal thoughts on how to sell out and still love your fashion blog.

  • Never rely on your blog for income. Depending on the blog will inhibit your ability to be creative, it will also make it more difficult to take time away from the blog when you need to. Beware inadvertently turning your role into a media salesperson and content-generator, when your true calling is elsewhere. If a serendipitous sponsor opportunity comes along, by all means take it – but treat it like mad money, not rent.
  • Set a high bar for how much a post sells for, keep the independent:sponsored content ratio as high as possible.
  • Selling out is not a sin. Almost all artists have to navigate this challenge in order to finance the pursuit their craft, and the snobs who say otherwise are anti-creative. Sponsorship is not universally bad or good – but like any business choice, it has tradeoffs. Be careful.
  • The more of your blog you sell off, the less the blog is yours. If your ego is as heavily invested in your blog as mine is, you know what a personal endeavour this pursuit can be. Value your authorship, and keep your independence.