in the words of live runway sketchers

Before I went to New York in January, I was writing an article about live runway sketching prompted by Jazmin Welch, a fashion student who was commissioning articles for her graduate magazine project, CONTOUR. I chose to do an adaptation of this post, a collection of notes I discovered while searching for any information on live fashion sketching. To add to the archival material, I decided to email working artists who live sketch at fashion shows and ask them questions. This research not only supported the article I wrote, but also the talk I gave at the Apple Store in Soho.

I couldn’t include all of the great responses in the article and talk, but Final Fashion knows no limitations. What follows is the work and words of the practicing live runway sketchers from Toronto, Montreal and New York that I corresponded with. If you also have experience and sketches too, I’d love it if you would share in the comments. I’m very curious to hear more European perspectives.

NOLCHA Fashion Week FW13 by Mara Cespon

Continue reading “in the words of live runway sketchers”

career karma – Tom Tierney

If you have any interest in paper dolls, you have encountered the work of Tom Tierney. Mr. Tierney is the quintessential 20th century paper doll artist, perhaps the only paper doll artist in the world who has created a name known outside the world of niche collectors. His prolific body of work covers vast swathes of popular culture – film stars, politicians, literary and historical figures, mythological creatures, the camp, and the bizarre. If a human-shaped subject could possibly be adapted to the paper doll form, Mr. Tierney has probably already done it.

Now in his eighties, Mr. Tierney lives and works in Texas and from everything I’ve read about him, he is a charming man with tremendous enthusiasm for what he does. Recently, he suffered a stroke, which must be a very frustrating experience for someone who lives to draw – and yet he has a wonderful sense of humour, is constantly working on new projects, and radiates inspiring vitality through his correspondence.

Before his iconic contribution to the world of paper dolls, Tierney was a commercial fashion illustrator in the 1950s and 1960s, when fashion illustration was still considered a necessary – and therefore even lucrative – aspect of the fashion industry. The nature of this career couldn’t possibly be more different now than it was then, and it’s fascinating to get even a small glimpse into that lost world. I am honoured that Mr. Tierney agreed to share some of his significant experience with me. Below, he offers his thoughts on creating paper dolls, and his passion for his work.


How do you choose a subject for your paper dolls, and subsequently research and choose the poses and items? Are the subjects inspired by popular demand, or your own interests?

As for choosing a subject for my paper dolls, I will have to give you a rather nebulous answer. Sometimes I will contact my editor at my publishers and suggest an idea for a paper doll book. Generally I do not get an answer right away because he then presents the idea to their editorial board for their approval. Sometimes the answer is “yes”, others “no”. Sometimes they come back to me with suggestions for changes in direction and if I agree then a contract is in the offing. Sometimes the editor will come to me with an idea and if I think I can do it justice, then we will go to a contract. Actually, if someone in the general public wants to see me do a book on a subject dear to their heart, it would be better to write the editor of the publisher and suggest the idea and that it be done by me (if they want me to do it, that is). Just remember that often the idea might already be copyrighted and owned by someone else! “Superman, for instance”.

Are there any “rules” for creating paper dolls? What do you believe are the defining characteristics of an excellent paper doll?

So far as I know there are no “rules” for making paper dolls. In fact when I first started making my own paper dolls and started putting a colored columnar base behind the legs, I got several rather uncomplimentary letters saying that I was wrong and breaking tradition in doing so, because there would be no shoes to put on the dolls. I tried politely to say that shoes and hats were the first thing lost once the doll was cut out, and further if people did not like what I was doing, they had the option of not buying them! Perhaps the only valid “rule” is that the clothes fit the doll and the tabs are in the right places.

So far as I know, there are no Paper Doll Police!

As to defining characteristics for an excellent paper doll, I really know of none. They are as varied as the artist and the viewer. After all, some people prefer Rembrandt and others like Picasso!

Can you describe your studio environment and how you like to work? What types of media and techniques do you use to create paper dolls? How long does it take you to develop a paper doll book from start to finish?

My studio is rather spacious as it is the 2nd floor mezzanine of an old 1894 building. I have divided it into two sections with the front 2/3s as a display area for my art and the back 1/3 as my actual work space which has a drawing table, a large table sized paper cutter, a desk with my computer, and shelves all around for storing art materials, folios filled with my finished art, and book collection. The furniture in the display area is mostly Victorian, including a 2-3 hundred year old wooden painter’s mannequin, a couple of antique music boxes, and a large Victorian styled doll house and several metal doll houses of the 1940-50s era. As to media, I prefer to draw and paint on Bristol surfaced 2ply illustration board in colored inks. I usually work about 1/4th larger than the printed work. I generally draw everything out on tracing paper (to be sure the costumes fit) and then transfer them to the illustration board. The longest part of doing a book is the research which can take a week or two. The actual rendering of the book is about two more weeks, give or take.

You have an enviable background as a fashion illustrator at a time when there was much more practical demand and professional validation of the craft than there is now. Can you describe what it was like to work as a freelance fashion artist for department stores and other clients in the 1950s and 1960s? What would a typical work day be like?

Doing free lance fashion (and movie poster) illustration in the 1950s & ‘60s was oft times pretty grueling for me. I was a greedy little cuss and often put in 12 to 18 hours a day, often 7 days a week. I was lucky to always have a rather large studio, first a loft on the lower East Side and later my own brownstone with a floor through studio and four floors of living space for me and my family. I had several agents in the years I was in Manhattan so I had little contact with my clients except through my agent who was responsible for pick-ups and deliveries, etc. My Father was my business manager and he and my mother lived with me, freeing me to do little else than draw, and draw, and draw. Usually my agent would arrive in the afternoon with the merchandise and layouts around four in the afternoon all of which would be due back to the store the next afternoon. There were days when I would turn out as many as eight fashion figures a day, sometimes more before Christmas and holidays. When I was doing movie posters I had more time and they were fitted in between fashion jobs. Fortunately there were slow times during the year when you could get out and meet people and do other things than just draw. I guess I have always been somewhat a workaholic.

After a successful career as a freelance illustrator, you have managed to establish a well-earned reputation in a very specific niche. What do you think are the qualities and circumstances that have allowed you to not only make a living from your passion, but thrive on it?

I suppose that the secret to my success, such as it is, is that I love to draw. There are times when I feel rather naked if I don’t have a pencil or a brush in my hand. Also, I love the research and “getting to know” my subjects, if they are historic, down to studying their body language and incorporate that in my paper dolls… Right now I am in a bit of a pickle due to a recent stroke. My drawing hand is still a bit weak, but improving daily, and hopefully I will soon be back in the saddle again.

Thank you Mr. Tierney for sharing your time with me. Wishing you a speedy recovery!

cinema karma – Beijing Punk

A recent fascination of mine has been the spread of Western youth culture across the world. Subcultures that are considered totally past their best-by date, mundane and commodified to us are incredibly fresh and vivid in different contexts. It brings up a lot of ideas about how trends spread, evolve and adapt across geography and generations.

This line of inquiry brought me to Beijing Punk, a documentary by Shaun Jefford. When he noticed I posted the trailer to tumblr, he got in touch, hooked me up with a legit copy of the film and shared some of his own interesting insights on the punk scene in Beijing.

Beijing Punk is currently festival-hopping across the globe and will be released in North America soon. If you’re in Paris, you can see it at:

May 26 2012 at NOUVEAU LATINA 20, rue du Temple, 75004 Paris
Cocktail at 8pm, screening at 10pm, after party from midnight to the sunrise at Black Dog.
Organized by Hejorama and Panic! Cinema

It’s a candid, intimate portrait of a burgeoning scene. Jefford has a light touch – he allows the charismatic subjects tell their own story with affection and without judgement. Punk documentaries can often seem impenetrable for non-punks – not so with this one, I found it to be refreshing and engaging.

While I watched I scribbled down a few ideas and questions, and sent them over to Shaun. His reactions follow.

Most of the bands and the audience in D-22 are dressed in a very ordinary way. It doesn’t strike me as such a heavily fashion-driven scene the same way as it was in London in the 70s and 80s. Is this because “punk style” has already been co-opted and de-fanged by international pop culture? Or is it because signalling visual allegiance to punk has social and legal consequences, as it does in Indonesia?

It looks like bands like Demerit and Mi San Dao and are using style signalling successfully, however it seems like all of the imagery is imported wholesale from Western culture. I was hoping to at least see at least one Mao version of the classic God-Save-The-Queen t-shirt. While some of the lyrics are China-specific, did you ever notice any punkifications of Chinese or Communist iconography? If not, is it because it’s a shade too subversive?

It may seem like they are just normally dressed teens to our eye but compared to their peers, these Chinese kids are having a serious cock out rock out. Tame to our eye but in terms of local visual cues these guys are positively raging against the machine. In China the average “12 hour a day working stiff” does not look like the NYU – inner-city-anywhere-irony-is-alive- hipster-set and dressing like them is marking a clear line in the sand. In China dressing in any way differently is a huge statement in itself. They have little popular culture to rebel against ( as compared to the west ) but a vast political one.

I think it is fitting that their rebellion takes shape in western forms as they discover and appropriate the whole history of western musical rebellion ALL AT ONCE instead of sequentially, over time as we did. But it is also fitting that they will rebel in a CHINESE WAY – that is to say, low key, modest, staid and restrained. But believe me, to Chinese eyes these kids are just as offensive and iconoclastic as Johnny Rotten was.

It’s not to say that there is a dire danger for them doing this – its not like that. Not like the police will throw them in jail for wearing hipster clothes. Its more a social death – as Leijun, skin head center of Beijing Punk, from the band Misandao once put it to me: “Look at me! I’m a fucking monster! No one will hire me, no one will look at me. They want me to be invisible!” I think that is the handle right there. Dressing differently equals a social death, a little silence associated with your name. More attention from authorities, a mark as trouble to watch.

Many of the characters in my movie seem to love the iconography and style of punk, rebellion as fashion, but they seem fixated on the latter days, where drink and drugs and excess took over and the ideals were lost. We touched on the controversy of the music in China, I think more of this would have been interesting but I felt I was treading a fine line between letting the world know about this movement and alerting the authorities and getting everyone into trouble. Because of this I chose to present the movie as a comedy, so as to swing in under the radar a bit more – I could see the Chinese censors looking at my movie and wondering if I was making fun of them or not. In some cased the Chinese punks have fallen into the Topshop punk aesthetic and don’t really want to make a difference with their music. But more often than not, the people I chose to be in the film were intelligent street smart kids who had something to say and had found this crack in the wall to say it.

Also, beer is cheaper than water in Beijing. When I realized that I wondered if that’s to keep people drunk and oppressed and happy without giving them the ability to change what’s around them. Some of the characters from my movie have all fallen into that trap certainly.

A lot of the lyrics and philosophies of the subjects have this really sincere, enthusiastic quality that couldn’t contrast more with Western punk’s sarcasm and nihilism. At one of the concerts in the film, the band (Demerit I think?) is singing a chorus of “fight your apathy” and I was wondering, is this where the knock-off culture ends and China’s own unique spin on punk begins? Do you think that punk philosophy stands for something different in Beijing than it does in London?

People still don’t know China is capable of any kind or dissent or resistance within. My questions come from being a music geek and a deep believer in the power of punk as it originally was, from Stooges and Ramones through Clash and Black Flag.

What I found so startling in this journey though was that there is a point where the weight of all of this accrued punk history ends and the Chinese take on things begins. There is hope and a wish for change in the younger generation that has been ignited by the internet and is fueled by the revelation of years of careful planning by the Chinese government, to now step into the center stage and take up its position as a world power. There is hope there now where before there maybe was a feeling of isolation and a locked in fate. Now there is a hope for change. The balance of just how far the kids are allowed to stray out into the light until the hammer falls is yet to be seen.

But it is exciting to watch and I know its going to be a surprise, what ever happens in the scene.

The scene is such a sausage-fest! I only noticed a few female supporting characters and they were exceptional – and not very talkative. As someone in a gender-imbalanced scene myself, I’m cool with the idea that some stuff just appeals more to one sex than another. But I’ve always wondered with male-dominated scenes, do the guys ever remark that there’s hardly any girls around, or even wonder why?

Regarding sausage to foofy ratio in the scene the female members of the Chinese punk scene are exceptional in that it takes a certain kind of person to gravitate to toward this scene to begin with – it’s not exactly the safest career move in China to become a punk. Now if you also happen to be a woman then you have the weight of gender inequality against you as well. You are certainly stepping out of the established comfort zone for women in your culture. Then the fact that they are actually loud, proud and GOOD is remarkable.

The women in the scene that interested me were

  • Atom – the drummer from Hedgehog. (Above – Out of all the bands in the movie, I found Hedgehog’s music to be the most accessible, they have a fresh, universal pop sensibility. -D)  She has a few scenes in the movie. I really wanted to do more with Atom but the opportunities never presented themselves.
  • Bianbian – the fun / fiery vocalist from Candy Monster.
  • The girls from “Ourselves Beside Me”.

I never heard anyone comment on it but I did ask a lot about the women in the scene and they were regarded as just as hard core as the men and serious about the experience. Atom by far is the most well known and quite loved. Always at screenings of Beijing Punk I get asked what the news is with Atom and Hedgehog, I tell them all I know, which is that they are still out there, still making music.

Thanks so much Shaun for sharing your film and a fascinating conversation!

If you see Beijing Punk on a marquee near you, I wholeheartedly recommend checking it out.

style bloggers comment back

Meeting fellow fashion bloggers to talk shop is one of my favourite types of encounters, and not so long ago I had the opportunity to talk outfit blogging with some very erudite male style bloggers. The subject of reactions to outfit posts came up and I was interested to learn that in the male style blogging sphere, the nature of the commentary seems somewhat different than in the female style blogging sphere.

Curious about whether this impression was reflected in reality, I took a very unscientific poll of four of my favourite style bloggers, asking them about what type of comments they get and why they put their ensembles out there for review. Of course every style blog is different, so the answers are various. If you’re as interested as I am in the call-and-response nature of fashion, you’ll enjoy this.

Winston of Le Vrai Winston, “men like clothes too”.

Do you think that on male style blogs, the comments are mostly by males, and on female style blogs, the comments are mostly by females? If so, do you have any idea why that is? Do you think that gender plays any role in the nature of the community and the commentary?

I think that is the case and logically so. My blog attracts women as well as men, but far more of the latter than the former.

The chief ‘benefit’ for most visitors, if I am basing it on their feedback, is inspiration. That is why some women visit; they can look past the suits, ties and shoes at the colour and pattern use and obtain ideas or inspiration for their own looks. The men come to get ideas for purchasing and composition as well as colour and/or pattern use and quite often ask explicitly about one of the items in the ‘outfit.’

I would estimate that the vast majority of the anonymous negative comments have been made by males. I say this because of the particular style and point of attack; most of them are stag-like in nature, rather than ridiculing, and therefore have a competitive, male tone to them that precludes female construction.

I think that overall, females are far more pleasant on average than males although it does depend on the age group. Middle aged to older men tend to be more reasonable and appreciative, whereas younger men are more competitive and harbour jealousy and resentment. Some comments from an anonymous poster I thought to be a young man referred to my being a ‘faux aristocrat’ because I took photos on a ‘grand, Georgian London street’ to make people believe I lived there. The fact that I do live on that street is not material. What is interesting is how they construct their challenges. It is based on challenging someone on their class, which includes their name and their style.

Certain men, probably of certain political leanings, cannot stand my name and consider it pompous and pretentious and even ‘made up’ in much the same way that they dislike my apparent ‘lifestyle’ and aesthetic ideas. They spend time visiting and commenting on a blog owned by someone they probably wish to physically harm, devoting considerable thought to the challenges they choose to conjure. Their purpose in this regard is perplexing to many who choose to pursue a ‘live and let live’ existence.

What is the best comment or the best type of comment you enjoy receiving?

Believe it or not, the best type of comment I enjoy receiving is constructive criticism. It’s pleasant to read things like ‘Brilliant outfit!’ and ‘Wow. I really like this look’ but it’s better to receive someone elses ideas as I would usually consider them in future alongside my own. Some people write things like ‘Nice jacket but the trousers don’t really work as they distract from the palette’ and many recipients of such a comment might choose to ignore it but I think it is far more interesting to acknowledge it and think about it seriously.

Other comments I enjoy receiving? I think everyone enjoys comments praising physical attractiveness or comparisons with famous heartthrobs. These comments are very very few, but it’s nice when you get them.

What are your motivations for creating outfit posts that are open for comments – what do you enjoy about it?

My original motivation was borne of frustration. I was annoyed that people accused me of spending fortunes on ‘obviously expensive’ clothing when other people had to shop on the high street. I myself was a keen high street shopper and very rarely ventured into expensive boutiques or purchased designer clothing. My girlfriend told me I should set up a blog that shows where my clothing comes from, so that people can see what sort of looks are possible with high street shopping and that it’s not all about trendy fashion, that you can attain looks of longevity, style, maturity and elegance from the stores that used to be laughed at by the fashion elite.

Isabel of Hipster Musings, “THE REVOLUTION STARTS HERE AND NOW within each one of us”.

What is the best comment or the best type of comment you enjoy receiving?

My favourite comments are ones that include suggestion. For example, if I mention a movie I recently watched or a musician I’ve been listening too lately I love it when people ask me if I’ve heard of “so and so” because usually I look into their suggestion and find it quite pertinent!

What do you think the main motivations for making a comment on an outfit post – positive or negative – might be?

Comments are a marketplace for getting noticed, I think. If you can write something positive and funny, then the blog you are commenting on will hopefully leave a comment in return. Circle jerk validation, really.

Do you think that on female style blogs, the comments are mostly by females, and on male style blogs, the comments are mostly by males? If so, do you have any idea why that is? Do you think that gender plays any role in the nature of the community and the commentary?

Well I mostly read ladies fashion blogs because I am a lady and I get inspired by their outfits and see what I can try out with my own wardrobe. That said, I really like The Dandy Project because Izzy’s style is so creative and DIY and his spirit really comes through in his writing and projects. If a fashion blogger is interesting, it doesn’t matter what their gender is – I’ll read it.

What are your motivations for creating outfit posts open for comments – what do you enjoy about it?

I guess I just like being validated by comments. Obviously, the more positive comments I get the better I feel! It doesn’t necessarily make me feel better than wearing the outfit already made me feel, but I’m just glad to know that other people like what I’m wearing too! Not too many of my friends are into fashion, so it’s fun to connect with people who are.

Barima of Mode Parade, “sartorial and pop culture dissection column”.

Do you think that on male style blogs, the comments are mostly by males, and on female style blogs, the comments are mostly by females? If so, do you have any idea why that is? Do you think that gender plays any role in the nature of the community and the commentary?

I do think that to be the case; I still remember being surprised that women liked my content enough to comment on it, and the other men’s style blogs I frequent have a mostly male clientele, though on the more “charming middle aged man’s lifestyle” sites, I think the gender ratio is closer to 3:2 in favour of men. I am certain that the commentary on women’s style blogs is overwhelmingly female.

Frankly, I’ve long suspected a herd or in-crowd mentality to much of the feting that can go with outfit posts. I think that very few of us genuinely like each other’s looks or like to lead each other down the garden path, which is a terrible consequence of groupthink, as well as one of looking for a star to follow. And much of it can be so fickle in that if a post garners less commentary than normal, these seemingly regular commenters either missed it or lack the balls to say what turned them off on this occasion.

What is the best comment or the best type of comment you enjoy receiving?

For outfits, the kind that is either insightful about what makes the ensemble work for them or wants to know more about a particular piece. For the other content, either an appreciation of my writing or extra information about the subject at hand. I enjoy learning from my semi-regular readers, though I also appreciate the bonhomie of the more regular commenters.

What is the worst comment or worst type of comment you have to deal with?

This is more germane to the forums I appear on – the insecure neuroses of the Nitpick Doyens generate the worst stuff, really. Someone once described them as “cowboys who beleieve that they’ve a better idea of how the clothes fit than the person wearing them.” It’s arriviste expertise, really. I take on all constructive feedback, but there’s no chance that I’ll pay heed to someone calling me ugly or too youthful looking, or who has a cripplingly narrow frame of aesthetic reference or other things like that.

Do you have any advice for dealing with negative feedback?

Don’t take it personally. Discern whether it has any utility and then respond accordingly.

What are your motivations for creating outfit posts that are open for comments – what do you enjoy about it?

I’ve chosen not to centre Mode Parade around the outfit posts for various reasons, although I recognise that they do attract a little more notice than my “bubbling under” writing does. I freely admit that it’s a narcissistic endeavour, but I also thought that they might be a useful documentation of how my presentation changes over time. And as regards style, it allows me to demonstrate my personal tastes to leaven out the focus on my opinions.

Jentine of My Edit, “a life between peep toes and steel toes”.

Do you think that on female style blogs, the comments are mostly by females, and on male style blogs, the comments are mostly by males? If so, do you have any idea why that is? Do you think that gender plays any role in the nature of the community and the commentary?

I would guess that 99. 6% (yeah, I checked… or not) of the comments on my blog are from females. I actually don’t read any male fashion blogs so I have no idea of their commentors. I do write and post with a female audience in mind. I am sure there are some guys who read my blog but I imagine my blog readership is a giant girly slumber party with pillowfights and a cupcake buffet.

What is the best comment or the best type of comment you enjoy receiving?

I get pretty tickled pink when people tell me that I inspired them to get to a thrift store. Also, funny and random comments make my day. I’ve met some really cool ladies like Merl and Emily through rambly back and forth commenting. I really appreciate anyone who takes the time to comment on one of my posts but the whole ‘follow me and I’ll follow you?’ thing is tedious.

Do you have any advice for dealing with negative feedback?

I have incredibly thin skin and I have always had a hard time taking criticism (I know, not the best quality) so perhaps I am not the best to give advice on this. I would recommend wine though. In all seriousness now, I think when you put yourself on the internet, you have to be prepared for some negative feedback at times. I think it’s important to determine if the negative feedback is just useless trolling or if it’s meant as constructive criticism or if it’s just a difference in opinion. Sometimes anything negative gets labelled as ‘haters gonna hate’ but maybe people are just trying to tell you something and there is something to learn from the comments.

What are your motivations for creating outfit posts open for comments – what do you enjoy about it?

As much as we pretend that it’s just a nice bonus, there is a certain amount of validation that does come from the comments on an outfit post. Yes, it feels nice to get comments and I love getting a reaction to what I write. It is the easiest way to keep communication open with your readers. I have met some really top notch ladies through the comment section and it is the oddest and coolest thing that I now consider some of my online friends as some of my closest friends.

video – Artist’s Portrait by Andrea Martín

ARTIST´S PORTRAIT from Andrea Martín on Vimeo.

I recently had the opportunity to work with a young videographer, Andrea Martín, on a client project, and after we had completed that work, she did me the great favour of creating a mini-documentary with me as the subject.

Besides immortalizing a spot on my chin, I talk about what I do, share some thoughts on art, and reveal some dreams I have for the future, as Andrea captured some choice shots of how I illustrate.

Thanks so much Andrea!

career karma – Corey Lee

While I was dissolving my studio in Toronto and moving over the Atlantic to London, fellow illustrator and internet friend Corey Lee did the same, passing over the Pacific from Los Angeles to Tokyo. (I virtually met Corey when he did the first-ever-and-only fan art of me I’ve ever seen.) Naturally I’m curious about the parallel nomadic lives of my colleagues – Corey kindly answered some of my questions about making big international moves as a freelance illustrator.

What made you decide to move to Japan?

Back in June 2009 I visited Japan for the first time and I think it was love at first sight. The countryside is beautiful, but I really love Tokyo. It’s like an intricate machine with millions of pieces all working together harmoniously. Being in the center of that really inspires me everyday.

Was the transition smooth from a work standpoint? How much of your business is internet-based versus location-based?

It was nearly seamless. I do almost all of my work online, so besides the time difference my workflow hasn’t changed much.

How do you handle the costs of relocation and travel? Do you have to take on other jobs besides illustration?

I decided I wanted to live and work in Japan about a year in advance, so it gave me a lot of time to save up for my travel expenses and about three months of living expenses. Although I arrived with a decent amount of financial padding, I really tried to be as frugal as possible until I felt financially stable.

Initially I wanted to focus solely on freelancing in Tokyo, but after some research I realized I needed to secure I job at a Japanese company in order to obtain a work visa. It’s very difficult to sponsor your own work visa as a freelancer unless you’ve previously worked in Japan.

After about a month of hustling I managed to land a position at a small Japanese company where I did graphic design and illustration for mobile applications. This gave me a stable income and a work visa, while also allowing me to freelance.

How do you approach meeting friends and networking in a new country with a new language?

This is tough because I’m really a shy person when it comes to introducing myself and meeting new people. Along with networking online, I try to attend various events and meet-ups around the city as much as possible to network. The language barrier is difficult though. I spend a lot of time studying Japanese so I can improve the way I communicate with people.

What types of promotion do you use for your illustration work? Has that changed now that you are in a different country?

The way I promote online hasn’t changed too much. I still try to build traffic and web presence by getting my work featured on various websites and uploading my work to design communities like Behance, etc. The biggest difference now is I spend significantly more time networking in person. I’m still trying to break into the market, so I need to use every opportunity I can to promote.

Can you describe your current illustration studio setup? How do you do your work?

Right now my current setup consists of 21.5” iMac, large Wacom Intuos4, and a simple table for drawing. Because I’m kind of a minimalist and I work from my small apartment I like to keep things simple to conserve space. I really hate having clutter in my life.

When I create a new illustration I usually have a rough idea of what I want to draw, but gather my reference materials so I can decide on the details of what I want to create. I have a few folders on my computer where I save reference material like fashion magazine scans, and street style photos that I look at while drawing.

I draw my line work with just paper and pencil or sometimes ball point pen. I’ve been trying to migrate to drawing on my computer directly, however it still feels too unnatural. After completing the line work on paper I scan the drawing and add color with PhotoShop or SAI Paint Tool(a popular Japanese program). I’m constantly trying to tweak my technique so I don’t really have a standard process.

Do you think location matters for a working illustrator? Why or why not?

I feel like location is becoming less and less relevant. When you can promote your work and deliver worldwide with just an internet connection, location doesn’t seem to matter. There are no longer limits to who you can work for and where you can work from.

What are the greatest challenges in relocating as an illustrator? The greatest rewards?

The fear of failing. The fear I don’t posses the skills or drive to succeed. Even though I have goals I’d like to achieve I have doubts about my ability to accomplish them. At the same time, the most rewarding thing is the challenge itself. Succeeding in starting a career in another country, and living in an inspirational place is my reward.

four Canadian girls in London

When you’re a Canadian fashion girl in London, the first people you meet are other Canadian girls. They’re the ones with friends in common, and let’s face it – Canadian girls rock.

Besides our nationality, our fashion focus and our shared awesomeness, we’re all so different! Different dreams, vastly different aesthetics, unique talents. When we get together our conversations cover similar ground, and we offer each other encouragement, but we are all on our own trips. Taking on London on our own, together.

I sent a little email interview to a few of my favourite Canadian girls to give you a state of the union when it comes to landing in London and pursuing fashion freedom. To be fair, I also interviewed myself.

Ashley Godsman is a tailor. She is a reader of the blog and she arrived in London around the same time I did. She reached out to me and I’m glad – she’s one of the hardest workers I know and she is always smiling.

How old are you?


How long have you been in London?

Since October 2010.

What are you seeking in London?

After working in the design industry in Montreal, Canada for the past few years, I was seeking to expand my knowledge and skill set on a global level. I wanted to specialize in (men’s) suiting, and I wanted to learn from the best; leading me to Savile Row in search of an apprenticeship, and hopefully after a few years, a position as a cutter.

Highlights so far?

Being given the opportunity to go in and work with an amazing tailoring house. It took a little bit of courage and a lot of luck! Seeing the amount of people that come into these houses seeking apprenticeships, and work experience on a day-to-day basis is incredible. There is absolutely nothing that sets me apart from the others, so it does make me feel grateful for being able to go in and do what I love.

I cannot say enough about the team of people I get to interact with everyday, they are some of the most patient, and incredibly knowledgeable people I have ever worked with; I wouldn’t be able to find this kind of experience anywhere else.

Lowlights so far?

When you hear about London being one of the most expensive cities to live in, they weren’t lying.

When I’m not at the tailors, I’m working a part time job, and a day off is few and far between. This city is constantly on the go and doesn’t wait for anyone. I don’t have time to feel tired, and knowing how quickly I could be replaced makes me work that much harder. In my spare time I’ll be going over how to draft a trouser pattern for a specific client, or practicing buttonholes.

What advice could you offer someone who is considering moving to London to work in fashion?

Perseverance, eventually it will pay off. You’ll push yourself harder than you ever thought, but it’ll be worth it in the end. Anything is possible; it just depends on how much you’re willing to sacrifice in order to achieve it.

Sarah Joynt is a writer. I first met her when she was working as a PR assistant extraordinaire for Knot PR in Toronto. Her PR employers love her, and rightly so – she’s incredibly detail oriented, a conscientious observer with a keen sense of what really matters in the fashion business. In London, she’s using these talents towards a freelance writing career.

How old are you?


How long have you been in London?

Just over a year and a half.

What are you seeking in London?

Opportunity. I am ambitious, almost to a fault, and always looking for bigger and better opportunities. Whilst in Toronto I was working in PR and writing a bit on the side and I came here looking to become a magazine slave or work as someone’s assistant but have ended up writing on my own and am really enjoying it. Having the freedom choose who and what I write about, and get paid for it, has been a real career booster because my writing is always better when I’m passionate about the subject.

Highlight so far?

Receiving a handwritten note from a *big* designer thanking me for my review was definitely an unexpected highlight. This past fashion week was a big turning point for me because I finally felt like I was a player in the game rather than someone peeking in from the sidelines.

Lowlight so far?

In terms of my career, being in an environment without a solid network is always hard but even more so when you’re a freelancer. It’s been a bit of a struggle to make a name for myself and I think I’m only just starting to remind people that I live here. Working for international publications has been fantastic for my career but it means that people aren’t sure of my home base. Also, I was mugged a few months after I arrived which was a major low.

What advice could you offer someone who is considering moving to London to work in fashion?

Be prepared for it to be a very different market than Toronto or New York (or wherever you’re coming from outside the UK). There are a still a lot of old school people running things here and it takes some getting used to. My best advice is to be strategic about where you live. As a freelancer I need a strong home base and London is huge so finding somewhere you feel comfortable can really help with the settling in process.

Cristina Sabaiduc is a designer. She is also an artist who loves exploring unconventional materials. I first discovered her when I saw her grad collection in Toronto – it featured gowns that transformed magnetically, embellished with flowers of iron filings, textiles made from hardware supplies like caulking and mesh. Besides being inventive, she is a true adventuress – a global gallivanter, all guts and glory.

How old are you?


How long have you been in London?

Six months.

What are you seeking in London?

An exploration of myself as a person and a designer. This city is so big and has so much to offer across so many disciplines; I feel like I’ve just had to open my eyes and take a second to see the vast possibilities. I hope to develop my career as a designer, in regards to my own line, and collaborating ventures.

Highlight so far?

Meeting everyone I have thus far has been an amazing experience; it’s really showed the many facets of the art and fashion world in London. The two most memorable highlights would be getting to assist with show production on on-site and off-site shows during my first fashion week here and the upcoming debut of my work at Debut Contemporary in Notting Hill.

Lowlight so far?

Probably every other day when you may feel even a nanosecond of self doubt. Moving to a new city and aspiring to work in this really tough industry can get to you at times, and I find I create my own lows as I’m my toughest critic. I can’t say I’ve had an extremely low experience or maybe I’ve just blocked it out of my memory.

What advice could you offer someone who is considering moving to London to work in fashion?

Research. I had planned to move to London for awhile but had barely anytime to pack my life up before leaving, let alone research. What I did the first three months here, I could have easily done before I moved (and started paying ridiculous rent). From little things like what’s the equivalent of Future Shop or Shopper’s Drug Mart to what studios and pr agencies are based in London. Getting a bible to the city (London A to Z) would be beneficial for anyone hoping to call this city their home.

And as for the industry, it’s small (surprisingly), so study it and be open to what you may encounter, London has a way of leading you down a path you didn’t think was possible.

Danielle Meder is me. I’m a fashion illustrator and blogger.

How old are you?


How long have you been in London?

Since November 2010.

What are you seeking in London?

I’m looking to develop contacts and clients, both here and around Europe. As a freelance fashion illustrator, I’ve built a decent level of visibility online and a strong personal network in Toronto where I lived for eight years, but the end goal is to be an illustrator with an international reputation and the clients to match. London is a great base because of its proximity to so many other international fashion capitals.

Highlights so far?

I’ve met a number people who I’ve admired and been inspired by from afar. In particular, David Downton (who I consider the world’s best living fashion illustrator), and Colin McDowell (a brilliant writer, well known collector of fashion illustration, and vivid connection to fashion’s fading memory) both complimented my work in person, which gave me the sense of validation and encouragement I truly needed – an irrefutable confirmation that I do in fact have the talent as well as the ambition.

Lowlights so far?

The sheer level of rejection you face as a newcomer in a competitive environment is truly difficult to learn how to handle. Emails disappear into the ether, faces turn away from you at parties, and questions get ignored. There is tremendous pressure to work for free, which is something I’m not prepared to do at this stage in my career or life. The feeling of being somewhat behind as I’m very much in the same boat as a lot of 20-24 year olds. I’m not going to lie, it is impossible not to succumb to discouragement every once in a while.

What advice could you offer someone who is considering moving to London to work in fashion?

Develop a thicker skin – be prepared to weather the very British “yes that means no”. Take a philosophical approach to the ups and downs, and a practical approach to living your life – be frugal, find a side gig. Be incredibly tenacious, because the girl who gets the gig is the one who refuses to give up.

Most of all, always remember to be grateful that you are able to pursue your dream, in a city that is so full of history and knowledge and creativity.