New York Fashion Week SS16 live runway sketching portfolio

Yasmine Warsame at TOME SS16

This time, New York! This time I will not be defeated!

I went in with flaming swords and guns blazing for this season in New York. One year ago, I finished New York Fashion Week feeling defeated. Usually, New York hearts me – but bad seasons happen to everyone and I was no exception, so for SS15, New York hurt me.

I went back to my studio and buckled down on work, recovering financially. I started a meditation practice which I discovered was a wonderful enhancement for the work of live sketching. Then I followed up with two European fashion weeks for FW15 – London and Paris – where I recovered my confidence and then some. These portfolios – particularly the London one – represent my best live runway sketching work to date.

Until this season. This season was about redemption. I slayed the many-headed dragon that is New York Fashion Week!

The lead up was intense. I’m currently working on a book (!) and that entailed 4 months of heavy studio work ahead of my New York trip. I didn’t really have a summer this year. I was grinding out 140 pages of illustrations (and words) at a rate of 10 hours a day, 7 days a week. Then, as circumstances would have it, I had to move out of my apartment at the end of August. So currently, I’m technically homeless… embracing the impermanent lifestyle, maybe permanently?

I flew to New York, and ‘settled’ into my current impermanence. Then I allowed myself an indulgent long Labour Day weekend escape to a rural location. From that place of peace and recovery, I felt ready to take on New York again.

This time, I had a client – CNN shared one of my best sketches each day on Instagram. On the first day, the last look at the last show I went to – TOME, above – worn by the exquisite Yasmin Warsame – was THE sketch. The first shot, and I hit the mark! This was going to be a great week.

Tia Cibani SS16 1

Of course, I had spent the previous day warming up at a couple presentations, including Tia Cibani, above. People assume that I like to draw at presentations because I have more time – I actually think the extra time can be a hindrance, and if the models are aware of being drawn they can become mannered – plus a crowd of people holding drinks and jostling about doesn’t make it any easier. But I enjoyed Cibani’s style and this sketch came out clear.

Nicholas K SS16 1

My first runway show of the week was Nicholas K. Usually my first show comes out a bit stiff, but I got three good sketches at this one. I had space, for one thing, I could spread out on a bench – and I loved the fierce styling with the heavy boots and big gold cuffs. When I like the design, the sketches just come out easier.

Nicholas K SS16 2

Nicholas K featured ombre too, which made me get really wet and messy. Starting out this loose was a great sign. Compare these sketches to the ones last season in Paris and you’ll see an incredible difference. I’ve recovered the looseness I used to have when I first started live sketching – but now I’ve got control too. I’m actually getting good at this!

Nicholas K SS16 3

Still, a good first day doesn’t mean every day will be good. The next day was a tricky one and I didn’t get anything really good. The sketch I ended up submitting to CNN from Chromat I ended up revising significantly in Photoshop, for both creative and ‘fix it in post’ reasons. The venue at Chromat had freezing cold air conditioning, and I foolishly hadn’t brought a sweater, so the work ended up being stiff. Fall fail.

Ji Oh SS16 1

The next day was a bit better, but the first show didn’t inspire my best work. It was followed by an exciting creative collaboration that I’ll announce in a later post. Then I went to the Ji Oh presentation (above and below). The indigo aesthetic was lovely, and the models were beautiful with gorgeous hair. These sketches turned out great.

Ji Oh SS16 2

The last show of day 3 was Baja East at Milk Studios. Remember when I couldn’t get a break at MADE? I’ve been tossed out of that venue so many times, it’s so embarrassing. But this season they were really sweet and welcoming! I was like, has fashion week changed or have I?

The answer of course is that even more than I have, New York Fashion Week has changed. This season, the old Lincoln Centre location is gone and replaced with two large industrial spaces further downtown, and MADE Fashion Week is now owned by IMG too. The sponsorship aspect has been toned down considerably, a very visible change. You know what? A change does everyone a lot of good. Things felt generally fresher and friendlier in New York than they have in a long time – even better than the old days at Bryant Park, I’d say.

Baja East SS16 1

Baja East was one of the only shows I had to stand at this week, but I still scored a great sketch on Paper by FiftyThree, above. I also used the new Paper app for the iPhone to sketch at a couple presentations this week – the small screen makes drawing a challenge, so instead I had fun with the feature where you can draw over top of photos to extend the background of the presentation into the foreground.

Andre Leon Talley at Tracy Reese SS16

At Tracy Reese, I received an unprecedented seating assignment in the front row, directly across from legend (and former Warhol employee) Andre Leon Talley, above. I don’t often sketch front row, but this was too good a chance to pass up. For some reason I felt too shy to show it to him, though. Regal is the word for this man of fashion.

Tracy Reese 1

Even though I was seated right in front of the photographer’s pit and had a self-conscious awareness of being scrutinized, I completely rocked out at Tracy Reese. The clothes were amazing – and brightly coloured, bold shapes – and the styling was lovely, with wispy hair and playful makeup and metallic shoes by Sarah Jessica Parker (who was also seated just across from me!), so of course it was fun to draw.

Tracy Reese 2

The models walked by very quickly though. The music was incredibly triumphant – I actually loved it. When I’m at a show, I always sway to the beat. I think chair dancing helps a lot to get the vibe, knowing that the designer works closely with the DJ and the music is artfully chosen.

The effect of this rocking motion was that the sketches ended up very wet and loose – while I was doing them I kind of thought, oh, I’m messing all of these up.

Tracy Reese 3

After the show when I re-assessed them, I was so pleased that they were, in fact, beautiful messes! Somehow all the splotches came together in that happy accidental way that watercolour does sometimes.

Tracy Reese 4


As I was about to board the subway after Tracy Reese, a man came up to me – he was from Labtonic, the DJ business that had produced the music for the show. He was like, we saw you really getting into the music! And I was like, yeah the music was awesome! And he invited me to come to another show they were working at. Sometimes, creative people see each other and recognize the joy in what they’re doing. That’s what makes going to fashion week fun. It’s not about impressing important people – it’s about finding your people.

Odette backstage at Prabal Gurung

From there, I went to my biggest show of the week – Prabal Gurung. You never know what you’ll get for the price of asking, and in this case I was offered a backstage pass to sketch the models getting their makeup done. I got to go through the industrial labyrinth deep inside the venue. The models and makeup artists were delighted with me! And the models were so beautiful – the girls of the season, really. Above, Odette, and below, Lineisy.

Lineisy Montero backstage at Prabal Gurung

After that it was my big moment to shine to sketch the show. It opened with a bunch of monks, which made me smile, because I think of fashion shows as the most wonderful terrible place to meditate. But then, I sort of choked! I only got one really good sketch from a beautiful, colour-filled show, below. Damn it!

Prabal Gurung SS16

The next day I met the guys from Labtonic at Lela Rose. There a dream came true – for the first time ever I got to sketch from the DJ booth! It’s incredible – instead of a flash of a model from the side, I could see the models walking to and forth on both of the runways. The result was great sketches.

Lela Rose SS16 2

The sophisticated designs that featured big bows on the front were especially lovely to draw.

Lela Rose SS16 1

And I got to go in with the gold – metallic shoes were everywhere this season. And signature rose for the background. Thanks so much Matt and Laurent for such a great opportunity!


Lela Rose SS16 3

I was thrilled to attend the Yeohlee show. When I was a nerdy fashion student, into geometric pattern cutting, I spent a lot of time with her book. I got to meet her! She hosted the show at her tiny shop, with just a few chairs, and I perched on the staircase.

Yeohlee SS16

This sketch from Yeohlee, above, is what I would consider a nearly flawless live sketch – and I’m my own greatest critic. Of course I had a very elegantly designed subject, which helps. What makes it a winner is that there are almost no extra lines. It’s just enough, and no more.

Street style at Calvin Klein SS16

I did a bit of street style sketching the last day because I didn’t have any shows. The arrivals at Calvin Klein were very high end – CK is MONEY. You can literally feel the power of one of fashion’s largest advertisers, even outside of the venue. I don’t know who the subject is above, but I liked her outfit. I had to watch out for fast moving, roving packs of photographers who have a tendency to step on me.

Emmanuelle Alt at Calvin Klein SS16

Then I got to sketch Emmanuelle Alt of French Vogue, above. She’s one of my favourite subjects – I’ve drawn her multiple times – and a style inspiration for me personally. She always wears the same outfit. I love that.



Marc Jacobs SS16 2

Then, a dream came true. I went to the Marc Jacobs venue, expecting to sketch street style arrivals. But when I got there, I discovered that there was a red carpet between the makeup tent and the venue (the venerable Ziegfeld Theatre!) and that the public would be able to see the show there!


It was way too crowded to draw at the show. So instead, I just watched, and intensely absorbed the collection in a way I never get to do when I’m live sketching. it was amazing. Just a few feet away from me, the most beautiful models in the world were wearing incredible gowns covered with Warholian imagery – Americana and all sorts of classic movie references – everything I’m obsessed with, since I was a little girl! It felt like Marc Jacobs was a magician who had cast an amazing spell upon me, where everything that fascinates me crystallized into one perfect moment. A transcendent moment at a fashion show, it happened to me!

Marc Jacobs SS16 1

The best thing happened right after that. The crowd melted away at the end of the show, satisfied with their smartphone photos… but they all left before the curtain call! So I had space to crouch by the red carpet with my paper and brushes… and all of the models walked back to the makeup tent and I got to see the entire show again, but this time I could draw! And I got two wonderful sketches. The most satisfying finale to the best fashion week I’ve ever had. The fact that the winning sketch of the week had an exposed heart on the breast felt exactly right. I <3 New York, and you know what? New York <3 me.

I am victorious.

4 thoughts on “New York Fashion Week SS16 live runway sketching portfolio”

  1. The last line puts me in mind of you as Boris (Alan Cumming, 20 years ago) in Goldeneye, leaping from your desk to proclaim, “I am INVINCIBLE!”

    I really enjoyed this; your resilience and capabilities really spoke to me through the various pieces (also, I think I spotted Rogue of the X-Men in there, who is occasionally misnamed as Rouge – now there’s a sartorial superhero). Your nous for details, both those of the outfits and your own artistic embellishments, simply shine

    Speak soon,

    BON x

  2. Danielle, these are superb – it’s so lovely to see a post from you again in my inbox, and even more of a delight to see these gorgeous colour filled sketches! The Tracy Reese and TOME piece at the beginning are my faves of these. You have such confidence in your strokes now, I can’t believe these are done live. And you’re working on a book?! Please be sure to let us know the details, I am desperate to pick it up!

  3. So exciting to see you grow, Danielle! Loved reading about your experience. That’s really cool about the Matc Jacobs show. I’ve gotten into doing photography and video. I’d love to do a fashion week. Any advice for getting access to the shows?

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