Fashion Now Archive

Useful and Beautiful? William Morris and H&M

Coincidentally, two days after I asked whether the bourgeois elite ever matched their upholstery to the fabric of their dress, I took myself to the William Morris Gallery to work out what I thought about the H&M x Morris & Co. collaboration. Spoiler: while I am decidedly annoyed with myself for buying a pretty but unnecessary book about mazes (labyrinths have been on my mind – what else?), I remain ambivalent about the latest of the Swedish fashion chain’s myriad partnerships.

A West End window, emblazoned with the autumn partnership. Photo by author

On H&M’s campaign page, the shopper is encouraged to get lost ‘in a world of exquisite original patterns and modern tributes to the work of William Morris, one of the nineteenth century’s most celebrated designers’, in celebration of ‘nature, style and timelessness’. Two models stride through a moor where they offer daisies, peer through windows, dunk enamel cups in basins, and snap pics with a vintage camera, self-referentially underscoring the ad’s amateur film footage look to induce the brand of lifestyle envy that only the 30-second fashion advertisement can. Then: an array of womenswear, ranging from £5.99 to £79.99, though neither the fabric hairband nor the wool-blend coat book-ending the spectrum represent actual collaboration pieces. Out of 90 products, 33 are William Morris & Co. x H&M. And so while there is nothing extraordinary about a two-pack of knee socks, the collection is meant to be a composition of heavy, heady historical references attenuated by standard H&M basics. Pair pleated skirts, maxi dresses and printed wide trousers with knit jumpers, Chelsea boots and faux fur coats: one can ‘curate’ outfits in a way that, in the age of online shopping, would normally never bear mentioning but which happens to resonate particularly with Morris’s artistic ethos: hand-picked Art for Art’s sake…and for everyone else’s.

A selection of pieces from the H&M x Morris & Co. collaboration. From https://
www2.hm.com/en_gb/ladies/shop-by-feature/1288a-morris-co-x-hm.html?sort=ascPrice&imagesize=
small&image=stillLife&offset=0&page-size=90

William Morris was one of the 19th century’s romantic, disappointing sons who abandoned a future in the church in favour of much more earthly realms. Getting a taste of artistic camaraderie after falling in with the Pre-Raphaelites, larking about on Rossetti’s hilarious ‘Jovial Campaign’ and embarking upon a group artistic housewarming project, he and six partners—whom he eventually bought out—founded the interior decorating business Morris, Marshall, Faulkner & Co. in 1861. Disillusioned with modernism and industrial modes of production and radically nostalgic for an age of highly artisanal craftsmanship, Morris pioneered a sort of anti-Industrial Revolution. As a progressive socialist and firm believer that beauty belonged to the masses, he also understood the limits to what could only ever ideally be a democratic model, apparently regretting that his ‘his high quality, handmade products were beyond the means of ordinary working people’ (William Morris Gallery). In a move similar to that of 19th century couture houses, his evolving company launched more affordable lines to attract a wider range of clientele – the interior design’s analogue of fashion’s ready-to-wear.

Mannequins dressed in collaboration pieces at H&M. Photo by author

While the ideal Morris client would have afforded an exquisite, hand-crafted, bespoke interior – despite the designer’s empathy for broader swathes of society – there is nothing inherently bespoke in today’s accessible, ubiquitous fashion lines. To be fair, what H&M has done is, superficially, no different from what countless museum gift shops – commercial spaces with much closer ties to art and history – do: if the scarf my mom wears at the Huntington Gallery is not printed with a Morris design, it certainly shares the look. Even his contemporaries ‘dressed themselves with his wall hangings’ (William Morris Gallery). Perhaps it is simply that, what with H&M as an established, popular clothing store, I am more inclined to critically analyse the partnership in terms of fashion and art history and get caught up in notions of integrity; and because Morris had such striking aesthetic principles, I am more invested in an ideological dialogue that I find lacking. Ultimately, the collaboration between Morris & Co. and a mostly-affordable fast fashion company that tends to satisfy and disappoint me at an equal pace oscillates between seeming antithetical and completely fitting. I have not purchased anything, nor do I plan to, and, as mentioned above, I remain ambivalent. But perhaps it would be more fitting to frame this ambivalence as a blossoming response to William Morris’s motto, ‘Si je puis: Pourquoi pas?’

A Portrait of Jeremy Scott

How did Jeremy Scott capitalise on his ‘aura’ whilst simultaneously crowning himself the Founding Father of (21st century) Fast Fashion? 

The campaign artwork for Jeremy Scott’s 2018 Moschino X H&M collection, at H&M’s Regent Street flagship store, London, 2 November 2018. Photo taken by author

‘Some company recently was interested in buying my “aura”. They didn’t want my product. They kept saying, “We want your aura”. I never figured out what they wanted. But they were willing to pay a lot for it. So then I thought that if somebody was willing to pay that much for it, I should try to figure out what that is.’ -Andy Warhol

I am unsure as to whether Andy Warhol personally believed he was successful in ‘figuring out’ the marketability of his ‘aura’, but he most certainly triumphed in utilising its inherent mystique to cement his place within the Western art historical canon. If you see a Warholian work of art, the shadow of his authorship looms over its image: his soup cans, his saturated Marilyns, his acidic hibiscus flowerpieces—each undeniably drenched in the saccharine scent of his ‘Pop’ personhood. In the figure of Jeremy Scott, I am reminded of Warhol’s mass-appealing ‘aura’. However, in Scott’s case, his aura’s RRP is far more affordable, and by next season (or by the time his next collaboration drop hits), it will have metamorphosed to possess an entirely new face and/or aesthetic. 

Campaign artwork for Jeremy Scott’s 2018 Moschino X H&M collection

In the campaign artwork for his latest Moschino collection, in collaboration with H&M, Scott places himself front-and-centre. A large, gilded portrait bust of Scott eerily hangs in the backdrop, his icon securing his role as Creator of the collection, the luxury Italian fashion house he directs, and a generation of kitsch-kids who will queue for hours on end to invest in their own slice of 21st century pop-culture history. I was somewhat stunned by the intoxicating jolt of hysteria I experienced viewing this bust of Scott through the glass of H&M’s Regent Street flagship store on my walk to work. There were so many burning questions: Is he aggrandising the role of Designer? Is he mocking himself? Is the use of a sculptural relief with such strong classical connotations important? Why, oh why is it gold… 

Campaign artwork for Jeremy Scott’s 2018 Moschino X H&M collection

I am not shocked by Scott’s use of license in this play on portraiture: he has always heavily publicised the indoctrination of his self-image within Moschino’s branding. In conversation with Alice Casely-Hayford of British Vogue regarding the Moschino x H&M drop, Scott stated, ‘I started with the thought of how to make it the most Jeremy Scott for Moschino collection ever.’ I am not even shocked by the garishly bombastic representation of the self that lingers in this spectral, chain-ridden bust. Jeremy Scott has consistently inspired a playful subversion of the fashion industry’s grandiosity, with his Moschino collections of the past five years undoubtedly poking fun at the veil of exclusivity that shrouds the luxury goods market. 

Behind-the-scenes image of Jeremy Scott and model Gigi Hadid on set for the Moschino X H&M collection campaign

Franco Moschino himself similarly antagonised the culturally accepted signifiers of consumption through his irreverent humour and socially-conscious campaigns—which, likewise, featured himself.

I am, however, shocked by the forward motion of Scott’s cult of personality. A strong, creative character that functions as a personified embodiment of the luxury brand under their direction is not necessarily a negative, it is far less common that a fashion house is governed by an introvert. However, the Moschino brand now, in 2018, cannot be examined without the inclusion of Scott; his authorship is a function of Moschino’s further discourse, and consumers invest consciously into his strategically marketed, highly covetable ‘aura’. 

A picture of Venessa Lee after collecting her goodies from H&M’s Regent Street flagship store on 8 November 2018, day of the Moschino X H&M collection drop

Queues outside H&M’s Regent Street flagship store on 8 November 2018, day of the Moschino X H&M collection. Photo taken by author

Hot tip: type “HMMoschino” into the gif feature on your Instagram Stories for a hilarious insight into Mr Scott’s 21st Century aura. You’re welcome 😉 

And I don’t know about the wider consensus but I’m looking forward to future @diet_prada content on Scott, coming soon to an iOS or android device near you.

The copy-cat scandal that @diet_prada reported on in September 2017, regarding Norwegian womenswear designer and London College of Fashion graduate Edda Gimnes and Scott’s Spring 2019 ready-to-wear collection for Moschino

References

A. Warhol, ‘THE Philosophy of Andy Warhol (From A to B and Back Again): 5. Fame (1975)’ in ON&BY ANDY WARHOL, ed. Gilda Williams, (Cambridge, Massachusetts, The MIT Press, 2016, p.53 

Alice Casely-Hayford, ‘A First Look at the full Moschino x H&M Collection’, British Vogue, 25/10/2018. Online edition. https://www.vogue.co.uk/gallery/hm-announces-collaboration, accessed 15/11/2018 

Fashion Illustration and Instagram

From the creative process to representation in magazines such as Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar, illustration has always played a key role in fashion, its rough, sketch-like appearance giving it a whimsical elegance. Just like fashion photography, fashion illustrations are palpable sources of information about the collective cultural currents of a moment in time.

Today, as long as you have a smartphone, you can capture anyone walking down the street in what you consider to be a fabulous outfit, identifying yourself as a fashion photographer. Depending on the number of followers your fashion account has, you can even be thought of as an ‘influencer’. As someone who loves looking at photos of clothes, especially street-style, I turn to Instagram for my daily dose of visual inspiration. Over time, I have noticed that my feed has automatically curated itself. However, I cannot help but notice the lack of variety in the fashion images I encounter. My newsfeed is saturated with the same overly edited type of photo (I don’t always buy the #nofilter). It seems that every new fashion account is trying to outdo the next most popular one.

In our recent Portraiture and Identity-themed MA seminar, we began by discussing events that would be occurring in London over the next few months. All of the events seemed to have to do with fashion illustration. When I got home I turned to Instagram—of course— to look up a few of the illustrators that we had been discussing. I was so relieved to be exposed to an entirely different, though no less vibrant, dimension of fashion representation. Additionally, there was something exciting about knowing that while I could encounter photos of illustrations at my fingertips, I could also stroll down to the Fashion Illustration Gallery in Covent Garden and engage in a more dynamic viewing experience of fashion illustration.

Fashion Illustration Gallery (The Shop at Bluebird).

Although sketching the runway may seem archaic in a time of live stories and Snapchat, is there not something refreshingly authentic about the process of drawing—a process that offers an escape from filters and retouching? Fashion illustration offers a very different form of real-time representation, one that is organic in its process and tangible in its materiality. Each illustration is unique, rather than a template. There is a rarity in each piece that gives it the special aura of a collectible item.

Left: Richard Haines, Four Guys Walking, 2017, 42×29.7 cm, digital inkjet pigment print. Right: David Downton, 100 Years, 2008, 59.4×42 cm archival FIG pigment print.

 

David Downton, LOVE YSL, 2013, 59.4×42 cm, digital inkjet pigment print.

Fashion illustration definitely seems to be garnering interest in social media, with Instagram seemingly acting as a portfolio for the fashion illustrator. For instance, the page ‘The Unique Illustration‘ posts what its moderator(s) have called ‘fashion illustration flash mobs’. The page selects an image and then posts various illustrations of it realised by different artists. Like in the case of ‘Alice in Gucciland’, this relatively young display mode showcases a fascinating variety of illustrations, which, interestingly, might never have been seen were it not for the platform Instagram affords the artists.

Fashioning the Dangerous Woman in ‘Killing Eve’

Villanelle wearing a Molly Goddard dress. Costume design by Phoebe de Gaye. BBC America/Sid Gentle Films, 2018.

Killing Eve’s female-led approach to the spy thriller reverses a number of gender stereotypes. However, reversing a stereotype is not always the same as challenging it, and one stereotype that the series struggles to challenge is the trope of the dangerously fashionable woman.

In Killing Eve, this woman takes the form of sharply dressed assassin, Villanelle. Her passion for her work is matched only by her passion for designer clothes, and she stalks the streets of Europe in an array of the latest fashions. A hit in Tuscany requires a lace-trimmed Burberry dress, for example, while one in Bulgaria calls for a satin Miu Miu bomber jacket. In Berlin, she dons a frilly JW Anderson top to hide in plain sight as she spies on MI5 agents before changing into a brocade Dries van Noten suit to stab one of them. Then, of course, there is the striking Molly Goddard dress and Balenciaga boots ensemble that she wears to visit her psychiatrist in Paris. Villanelle’s fashionable clothes are both her tactical wear and markers of her confident, fearless character.

Crucially, Villanelle’s fashionable appearance contrasts her with that of Eve, the unassuming MI5 agent tasked with hunting her down. Favouring ill-fitting suits and anoraks, Eve is so decidedly unfashionable that Villanelle feels compelled to send her a selection of designer clothes. Yet Eve cannot let herself enjoy them, for they represent all that she feels she is not. Over the course of the series, her unfashionable appearance thus becomes associated with a certain rationality and self-control, thereby distancing her from Villanelle both visually and characteristically. Villanelle’s fashion sense might appear confident and fearless, but it can become unruly and ostentatious when contrasted with Eve’s appearance.

Eve. Costume design by Phoebe de Gaye. BBC America/Sid Gentle Films, 2018.

In some respects, it is exciting to see a woman as fashionable as Villanelle on screen. Fashion and costume are so often viewed as mutually exclusive, but Villanelle’s costumes show how fashion can be utilised in costume design without appearing distracting. Furthermore, it is unusual for a female character to embrace fashion without fear of being perceived as frivolous or overly feminine, and to completely own her appearance. In turn, Villanelle’s costumes are refreshing because they allow both her and the viewer to unashamedly indulge in fashion.

However, this also makes it all the more frustrating that Killing Eve then associates Villanelle’s fashionable appearance with wrongdoing, for the trope of the dangerously fashionable woman is as old as the moving image itself. More often than not, the fashionable woman is confident and assertive, independent and liberated; her fashion sense, as a visible manifestation of modernity and change, comes to symbolise these dangerous characteristics. There is a reason that the vamp always wears a short dress and bobbed hair, for example, and that the femme fatale wears shoulder pads and red lipstick. Her fashion sense others her, often prefiguring her downfall.

Villanelle’s fate may not yet be known, but positioning her as the dangerously fashionable woman nonetheless renders her character as dated as it is enjoyable. Might the characterisation of Killing Eve’s leads feel different if, for instance, Eve were the fashionable one?

The intricacies of Instagram

How can dress and fashion historical imagery be consumed thoughtfully through a platform designed to deliver “Insta” visual-gratification?

The name of the game is self-explanatory. Instagram is a digital landscape through which the inescapable consumption of countless images is organised into a curated virtual reality. A flurry of images is uploaded onto our personal, tailor-made feed daily, hourly—in fact, any time the app is refreshed on our device of choice. And this instantaneous cycle of viewing and sharing has become snuggly situated in our collective day-to-day narrative. 

It is fair to say that fashion imagery, more specifically fashion photography, has become a firm feature on many an Instagram feed. Snapshots of contemporary collections are shared by Influencers from Fashion Week’s runway-adjacent front rows; models post Instagram Stories when on set, on location; and makeup artists upload videos of themselves mixing palettes when designing sponsored campaign looks. The content is constant and it is diverse, meaning that a fashion-centric aesthetic is now marketable to a wider portion of the Instagram community. But what does this mean for the tradition of fashion imagery—its dissection, discussion and the themes that underpin its discourse—and how are we now to consume said images in a way that preserves meaning and evokes critical analysis? If the volume of fashion and dress historical imagery being uploaded onto Instagram’s constantly shifting consciousness continues at such a rate, will it ultimately damage how it is read? 

Take for example the trend for ‘fast-art’ on Instagram. You take a painting—either in its entirety or a key compositional detail—and post it with accompanying text. You devise a caption summarising the work’s basic details: its dimensions, medium, the date of execution and title, maybe even a brief yet spiffy artist’s bio, if you will. Then you post. Established accounts such as @paintings.daily or @historiadelart are good examples, and @painters.paintings neatly describe their account as ‘An Art History Tour in a Virtual Gallery.’ 

A snap taken of @painters.paintings Instagram account, featuring their profile bio. Photo by author.

This exhibition-like design of posting is not exclusive to art historical accounts: it is also trending in the representation of art-historical dress and fashion. @the_corsetedbeauty, a well-followed dress account, claims to document “historical finery from days gone by. From the 18th century through the 1950s.” From the fashions flaunted in English Victoriana society portraits to the costumes designed by Michael O’Connor for Cary Joji Fukunaga’s 2011 adaptation of Jane Eyre, the account covers all manner of fashion foray, sweetly packaged into an aesthetically pleasing feed adorned with concise captions and analytically prevalent hashtags. 

Figure 2: An example of the content posted by accounts such as @the_corsetedbeauty. Photo by author.

Its output, in accordance with that of accounts such as @redthreaded, @artgarments or @thiswasfashion, is undeniably a step in the right direction. However, in the majority of cases, we are given the essential information on the image without being asked to question it. What is this painting’s unique place in the art historical cannon? What does the dress being worn signify about its wearer? Can we discern the subject’s social status and which domestic interior is being depicted here? How are we to read the space in relation to the protagonist’s interaction with her friend, sister or even trusted domestic servant? There are many questions to raise in the reading of any image, but is Instagram the right space in which to begin this line of questioning?

Maria Aceituno of @historicalgarments thinks that, in the context of fashion history (which she believes has a different goal than that of modern fashion imagery, as it does not affect current designer purchases) ‘the use of social media for sharing fashion history images is affecting fashion consciousness. With more access to images, a wider audience is learning about the use, construction, and purpose of clothing in a more user-friendly manner. Searching with a hashtag yields a wealth of information. Captions that go along with these images can also help give new insights, correct misinformation, or even perpetuate myths **cough: corsets and missing ribs: cough**.’  

Maria’s account, @historicalgarments—‘Inspiration, humor, and sewing for lovers of fashion before the 1950s.’ Photo by author.

I am inclined to agree with Maria, to an extent. It is encouraging to see accounts such as her own act as a dress/fashion history catalogue, potentially exposing a greater, more diverse audience to the discipline. But am I asking too much in my desire to be challenged by the content to which I am exposed? I dream of a time when I will reread captions with motive, when my interest is pushed enough to strike up a debate in the comments, when I am moved to ask for more insight over DM. I look forward to when I can interrogate and probe, as opposed to continually swiping the state of passivity in which I find myself, adequately educated, yet to be enthralled. 

Fashioning Wakanda: the fashioned black body in Black Panther

 

The fashioned black body is one that has been excluded from the western mainstream fashion and beauty world for centuries. It is often removed to the category of subculture, even though the styles and fashions that are considered “lesser” are often appropriated by white bodies. Black Panther (2018) challenges this notion of afro-centric fashion as a “subculture” by making it mainstream through unapologetic representation.

Like most people around the world, I saw Marvel’s Black Panther directed by Ryan Coogler, which was the most culturally relevant superhero movie that I have ever seen. It was essentially a short introduction to African diasporic studies, that touched on the socio-political relationship between black Africans and those black bodies that have been historically displaced by colonization and slavery, and the desire to find autonomy in a world where whiteness is a marker of value. Black Panther has made the conversation regarding the need for the representation of black bodies in Hollywood “blockbuster” productions public. Black Panther is a completely self-contained movie that did not need quirky cameos from other Marvel superheroes to legitimize its place as a franchise. That is in part because of the powerful storyline, incredible visuals and character development of both male and female characters.

Black Panther cast photograph (2018)

From the very start of the film, the viewer is transported into the world of Wakanda through bright colors, shots of lush landscape and incredible displays of advanced technology. However, I found myself most mesmerized by the stunning costumes designed by the Oscar nominated, Ruth E. Carter. Carter has been designing costumes for films over the past 30 years, for movies like School Daze, Do the Right Thing, Malcolm X and Amistad. Carter drew inspiration from various cultures and dress styles within Africa, in addition to Afropunk styles to create the image of Wakanda as a site of afrofuturism. Through dress, Carter was able to change, or rather provide a new way of looking at the black body that was void of colonial impact. In an article on the importance of fashion in Black Panther by Tanisha C. Ford from The Atlantic, Ford writes, “Carter is quick to point out that her work has always centered a black conception of the future, one rooted in political determinism and creative self-expression”

Black Panther fans in Melbourne, Australia.

The costumes of Black Panther were designed first with practical functionality in mind so that the fighting body could move without restraint. Costumes within the movie also function has a symbol of self-expression, honor, and belonging. However, this idea of belonging is layered. Firstly, within the film each character’s clothes reveal which tribe they belong too, in addition to their role and rank in Wakandan society. Belonging extends outside of the film screen in the way moviegoers have been fashioning themselves in African prints and Wakanda inspired outfits on their way to see the movie. The discussion of ‘what to wear’ for watching Black Panther has become a growing and trending topic on Black Twitter, solidifying it as a pop cultural and socio-political discursive event. The discussion around what one should wear to the movie reveals the fulfilment of the craving to be seen and to have one’s ancestry honored. It is also a testament to the idea of black fashion escaping the realm of the mythic and imaginary to one that is real and has permanence and value in its own right.

By Destinee Forbes

A Day at London Fashion Week 2018

 

London Fashion Week was the talk of the city February 16-20. Local and international fashion icons were traveling the three-mile radius of LFW visiting shows, presentations, special events, and parties over the course of these well awaited 5 days. The home base of this biannual event, ‘the Store Studios,’ was just a quick walk down the Strand from the Courtauld, and I was fortunate enough to attend thanks to the generosity of my extended family who lives in London.

A long and winding red carpet escorted you immediately through the ‘designer showroom,’ a space comprised of small boutiques of over 150 British and International designers. Rich with a diverse collection of garments and accessories, the showroom provided the space for selected designers to showcase their work and products. I spoke with a number of designers about their collections and inspirations, as the majority of them were posted-up each day in their respective spaces chatting with LFW visitors.

Designer showrooms

The lounge on the second floor overlooking the Thames was lush with foliage and flowers. The marble tables and the large cozy couches provided a restful and refreshing space to work, recharge, and re-caffeinate in between events.

BFC Lounge x The Store

Downstairs, the ‘BFC Show Space’ was home of presentations and shows throughout the weekend. The Autumn/Winter 2018 presentation by Paula Knorr was dramatic through her use of bold red and black colors, and the addition of metallic and sequined fabrics. The space fluctuated between pink and white light, and between music and live spoken word, creating an all encompassing sense of drama and illusion—enhanced even further by the sequined carpet/faux-runway that ran down the middle of the space. The garments of Knorr’s collection were extremely tactile and presented a number of various juxtapositions, playing with transparent and opaque fabrics, fitted and loose silhouettes, and ruffled, fringed, and sequined textures. The models all had dramatic makeup and hairstyles, and were accessorized with metallic ear cuffs.

Paula Knorr Presentation

In addition to ‘the Store Studios,’ there were designer presentations and shows at numerous venues around London throughout the week. Unfortunately, this time around, I missed the Queen’s guest appearance…

By Arielle Murphy

Star Wars & Fashion: A look into the galactic love affair

 

With Star Wars: The Last Jedi reaching over $1 billion at the box office and earning the title of the highest grossing movie of 2017, Star Wars is once again at the forefront of the cultural moment and subsequently continuing the franchises’ love affair with fashion.

From the film’s debut in the 1970s, Star Wars has been a source of inspiration for fashion, even appearing in Vogue in a 1977 spread featuring Jerry Hall and Darth Vader. The franchise’s equally iconic characters and costumes have sparked Star Wars’s influence on high fashion. Rodarte closed its Fall 2014 show with gowns featuring Star Wars characters Luke Skywalker, R2-D2, C-3PO, and Yoda. Preen Fall 2014 channeled the dark side and featured Darth Vader’s mask on several pieces. Vetements created a spoof on a Star Wars movie poster (its film is titled Star Girls) as a print on a maxi skirt in its Spring 2016 collection. Just recently, in time for the release of The Last Jedi, Rag & Bone partnered with Star Wars to produce a limited-edition collection inspired by the films.

Beyond the aesthetic coolness of these high fashion designs, why do fashion designers look to Star Wars for inspiration and why do we race to wear our favorite Jedi or Sith Lord on our bodies? Is this pure fashion as escapism? Or perhaps the allure is Star War’s ability to paradoxically position itself both in a galaxy far, far away and at the center of the current culture. Fashions with Star War’s iconography or aesthetic inspiration can transport the wearer to an outside realm where a nobody can be the hero of the universe. But these styles also allow the wearer to embody a culturally relevant phenomenon.

From a marketing standpoint, Star Wars is sellable to multiple age groups and can piggyback off of the marketing for the film itself. However, I argue that the urge to clothe ourselves in the symbols and characters of Star Wars reveals a collective desire for escapism, association with a far-off time and place, and at the same time, the need to assert our own cultural relevance. Whether fashion imitates the austere neutral colors of the Jedi Order or the harsh blacks and shiny exteriors of the dark side, the pull to wear the Force is strong.

By Abby Fogle

‘A Document of Modern Living’: How to become a Fashion Illustrator

How do you advise a budding artist? Encourage and suggest the correct path to fashion success? Well, it seems Harper’s Bazaar (HB) solved this problem in 1933, in ‘The Road To Fashion Art,’ its response to a reader’s letter.

Firstly, HB notes that becoming a fashion illustrator requires quite different skills from becoming a fashion creator, since:  ‘To design clothes you need about as much technique as is required for the drawing of daisies or mustaches on a telephone pad – just enough to get your idea across.’

However, a fashion illustrator needs have far more refined abilities in this regard and must ‘draw superlatively well.’  This assertion is perhaps the key to HB’s excellent advice – that fashion illustration is a branch of that ancient technique of drawing, and as such must be learnt and nurtured.  One need only look at some of the most well-known illustrators, Eric, or Rene Gruau to see evidence of this.  Or for more contemporary inspiration scan Richard Haines’ Instagram feed and examine the way emotion and movement are captured in every line.  His work encapsulates what HB describes as every art director’s wish – not to be shown every buttonhole and seam, but to receive an illustration that is ‘a document of modern living.’  Haines’ images of men striding the city streets are proof of this – at once showing the newest styles, and capturing life as it is lived.

Richard Haines

To achieve this, you must, HB says, ‘Draw and keep drawing.’  To start: life drawing, to gain complete understanding of the body.  Next develop an understanding of colour, keep building from this, to examine gesture of every kind, for example ‘the gloved hand picking up the reins.’

As your eye becomes attuned to these telling nuances, HB advises that the budding fashion artist is ready to begin looking for ‘the quality called chic.’  With sketch book in hand, an illustrator must observe all closely – visiting fashionable locations and venues, ‘look at ankle bones, hair waves, the hang of expensive tweeds.’  Everything is a potential source, from films to restaurant customers. Of course, HB states ‘Go to Paris if you possibly can.’

Richard Haines

Only there can fashion be seen in its purest form, alongside the best in dining, socializing, art and culture.  And HB is practical too – as well as this emersion in French couture style, you must, ‘Talk to printers, engravers; learn all you can about colour reproduction, first hand.’

Richard Haines

What this master class provides is a careful guide in how to shape your talent, how to focus on drawing as a means to evoke life, to show how fashion is an expression of culture and emotion, and how to work constantly at producing the most observant images that will trigger a corresponding feeling in viewers.

By Rebecca Arnold

All images courtesy of Richard Haines

 

‘The Road To Fashion Art,’ Harper’s Bazaar, December 1933

Follow Richard Haines on Instagram: @richard_haines

Fashion and Words

I often think about how we communicate with and understand the world around us – the way we talk, write, our phrases and our physical sensory experiences.

Fashion may be what we first associate with the physical and sensory experience, but also the vocabulary of fashion, dress and textiles slips into usage for how we describe the words we use when talking or on the page (typography), our relationships to ourselves and others, as a medium between our interior (intangible) and external (tangible) selves. I am continually rediscovering and relearning the English language with these thoughts in mind, and here are some of the synesthetic ways that fashion seeps into our words when we think we aren’t talking about fashion at all.

From rags to rags

Recently it came to my knowledge that the end margins of a paragraph (when writing from left to right, with a fixed left-hand margin) on a page are described as ‘rags’ by typographers. The irregular and uneven ‘rag’ that occurs resists the neat line-end and invokes the textile affected by wear and tear, or the tattered rags which one could be dressed in. But also ‘rag’ references the destruction of paper: torn paper results in ragged edges, it references a worn cloth one might use to clean with, rag dance parties, and multiple other ideas (and phrases such as ‘being on the rag’, which was first used to describe menstruating women in the 70s). If our typed words can prove rag-like in their paragraph structure, needing to be ‘fixed’ or ‘mended’ by typographers, then we ought to spend more time in reflection on this – how our words are like a material prone to wear and tear through the tactile experience of typography, or how regardless of the quality of writing a paragraph will be considered by ‘good’ typography, less ragged and more in adherence to a vertical margin shape – a shape that words, and the way we write doesn’t ‘naturally’ fit to. Perhaps with this idea of rags in the paragraph we can consider what the body is, or whose body it is that the rags cover?

N.B Rag is ‘le chiffon’ in French, and in English a ‘chiffon’ is a sheer silky fabric.

Îles of texts and textiles

We cannot ignore the etymological link of text and textile – there has been so much interplay with these interwoven ideas over time in the art and literary worlds (a recent example being the 2016 exhibition ‘Textile Subtexts’ at Marabouparken Museum). These two words have the same root from the latin ‘texĕre’ of ‘to weave’. The spatiality of the woven fabric in textile drew me to take a closer look at the woven words that make up ‘textile’: ‘text’-‘ile’. The English word for ‘island’, and French ‘île’ comes from the Old Frisian ‘isles’. We think about weaving words together to form a narrative and the texture of a written text, or the texts within a textile in how it ‘speaks’ to us and contains a narrative. The subsequent synaesthesia between the written word and a woven fabric due to their etymological ties proposes questions around the materiality of a text and textile and their spatial and communicative aspects.

Tissus and fabrics

The word ‘tissu’ in French means ‘fabric’ or ‘material’, which reminds me of the connective tissues of communication between mediums in Laura U. Marks’ book Touch: Sensuous Theory and Intersensory Media. ‘Tissue’ in English has two meanings: it is a woven cloth and the substance of which animals and organisms are made from.  This other interplay between the materials we clothe our bodies in that covers our bodies – fabric of which we are made conveys the slippery binaries between our interior and exterior selves and skins.

Below I have listed some other ways in which the vocabulary of fashion pours out into our mouths when we aren’t talking about fashion at all:

 Phrases

A blanket expression

Wear your heart on your sleeve

To keep someone in your pocket

Terms

Address – a dress

Fray – fray

Sew – so

Wear – wearing – worn out

Fabricate – fabric

Lace – to lace with

Clasp – to clasp

 

By Evie Ward