London-based Dash magazine celebrates fashion illustration as an art form. Editor-in-chief NoéMie Schwaller talks us through significant pieces of their archive
The diffusion of an image of a new collection usually starts at the end of a catwalk. A professional photographer takes a picture that is then sent off to newspapers, magazines, bloggers and PR agencies. In addition, since the introduction of the smartphone and social media, the same looks are being posted through various other channels, only from a different angle. The result: We basically see the same pictures over and over again.
A fashion illustration on the other hand has its origins in the brain of an artist, and thus, becomes so much more than only the depiction of a runway look.
NoéMie Schwaller is co-founder of the London based magazine Dash which is dedicated to the journalistic genre of fashion reporting and illustration as an art form. „In this visually saturated and fast-lived world, it’s illustration which captures our gaze for longer than any snapshot does“, she says.
Illustration by Mats Gustafson
A fashion illustration can do what a mere picture of a runway look cannot: it reflects a point of view and becomes commentary rather than an objective report. An illustrator can lead our focus to what he or she believes is the point of an entire collection by exaggerating it or leaving out the less important bits: maybe it’s the silhouette that is more important than the colours or the fluidity of a fabric that is more telling than its texture.
We asked Schwaller to dig in her archives to discuss why she loves fashion illustration so much, why they are important and which ones touch her the most.
(Illustrations in header: François Berthoud (left) and Cecilia Carlstedt (right))
Where does your love of fashion illustration come from?
I have always considered illustration an art form in its own right and used to draw a lot myself. My obsessive interest with fashion has started at a very young age. That’s according to my mother, who had troubles making me wear appropriate and not too experimental dress for kindergarten. My love for fashion illustration simply is the combination of my two greatest passions – a perfect match. The illustrators who influenced me highly in early days were Mats Gustafson, Cecilia Carlstedt and François Berthoud.
The magic of what is being left out
What separates the illustration from the photograph?
It leaves so much for your own imagination. A great form and skill is to leave out more than you normally would, just hinting with your line. A lovely, kinky example is the work of French Petites Luxures. I once had a conversation about the magic that technique creates with David Downton, who himself is very aware on what he leaves out in his own elegant drawings.
Does what photographs can’t: fashion illustration
What is an illustration’s cultural value?
The cultural value of illustration is beyond imagination. So called fashion plates illustrating the latest trends used the be the only way to depict and spread ideas of modern dress and taste the world over. With print, creation and distribution became easier and faster, yet it was still illustration that was used for visual representation.
Nowadays, in this visually saturated and fast-lived world, it’s illustration which captures our gaze for longer than any snapshot does. Just take a glimpse at this one by Spiros Halaris – there’s nothing in it and arising from it only a photograph could do. Or to choose a less soft, bolder, more pop version, I’d go for Marcell Naubert or of course Tony Viramontes.
What was the first ever illustration you decided to put in Dash?
This drawing by British Patrick Morgan nearly made the cover. He was one of the first illustrators I wanted to collaborate with and luckily, he was available and has been supportive ever since. His style is distinct yet is easy to read, which brought him high-end clients such as Dior, Louis Vuitton or Tom Ford.
Give me an example of an illustration that has touched you emotionally in a special way.
There have been countless such encounters. An illustration, an image, any piece of art is to bring about emotions, whether they be attracting or repulsive. At the moment I’m very taken by mixed media, where often you find older imagery – giving off a certain feel of nostalgia – juxtaposed to modern ones. It’s a rupture I find highly interesting in terms of creation, meaning and what it does to us visually as well as emotionally. Take the work of Pablo Thecuadro, Alana Dee Haynes, Konrad Wyrebek, Louise Mertens, Rocio Montoya or Meric Canatan just to name a few. All intrigueing on a level of fascination.