I just love contemporary fashion illustration. If there's something more fantastical and otherworldly, more playful and experimental, than the dressing up box of couture itself, it's the exquisitely rendered illustrations that strive to embody it. Anything is possible in a fashion drawing: It's a place where all your dreams can spill from your nib if you have a little skill. As a lingerie designer, I love to draw and capture clothing design ideas myself in the form of illustration, so I always have my eyes peeled for inspiration from other colorful artists working in my field.When I was little, I used to draw "myself" (although I always pictured myself as a blondie wearing a crown — when I was most definitely a brunette child!) at elementary school, wearing a variety of extravagant ensembles, taking inspiration from picture books and history textbooks. I also had a penchant for paper dolls, playing dress-up with Barbie and styling myself up as various characters that captured my imagination. I think perhaps this is where my love of fashion, and fashion illustration, began!For the purpose of this article, I am defining "fashion illustration" as depicting works of art that feature images of figures wearing beautiful clothing in beautiful scenarios. Fashion illustration can be used for design purposes, to worship the collection of a haute couture design house (or any designer, really), or just to daydream. It's very easy to fall down the rabbit hole of fashion illustration, and get lost. But it's a good place to be.So without further ado, here are seven contemporary fashion illustrators to inspire you today, because sequin hair and playing dress-up with rabbits are not just for children.
1. Kat Macleod
Kat Macleod is a graphic designer and illustrator living and working in Melbourne, Australia. Not only that, but she co-directs the design studio, Ortolan. This established and prolific artist has been featured in many fashion magazines including Chinese Vogue and Numero Tokyo and has published several books. I have a copy of Like I Give A Frock — a tongue in cheek fashion commentary by Michi Girl — and it is a multi-textured dreamland!I love Kat Macleod's kooky mixed media mash-up of sequins, collage, fabric, paint, crayon, felt tip, and pencil. Somehow, her glamorous women look elegant, despite the crazy, as her drawings are so well-balanced. The minimal, delicate line drawings that describe the women's facial features and bodies are ghostly, with the focus being on the wayward hairstyles and quaint ensembles.
2. Aya Takano
Strictly speaking, Aya Takano isn't specifically a fashion illustrator, but her work always features ethereal girls in interesting clothing, and she has worked in collaboration with makeup companies and fashion houses alike. As well as working with Eyeko in the noughties, she illustrated the packaging for the 2010 Shu Uemura Christmas Collection of cosmetics, named Abrecadabra Fantasy. Fellow Japanese artiste extraordinaire Issey Miyake's 2004-05 Autumn/Winter collection was also a collaborative effort with Aya Takano — with her iconic illustrations adorning everything from umbrellas to Wellington boots to tulle dresses.
With her long-limbed, lemur-eyed, alien-like nymphets and surreal, romantic sci-fi settings, Aya Takano's paintings and drawings conjure a world of uncanny happenings. As well as being ridiculously talented, Takano is incredibly intelligent — both cute and articulate when describing her thoughtful works. In fact, she's one of my heros.
3. Kate Alexandra Mcleish
Kate Alexandra Mcleish hails from the U.K.'s Northern city of Manchester. With a degree in Embroidery, this colorful lass creates multi-textured and patterned illustrations and writes about menswear, too! Inspired by the fancy regalia of vintage clothes, old photographs of women, and haute couture, her work has a naive line quality and quaint style. Screen printed lovelies sewn with huge sequins and foils; watercolor ladies in rainwear; clashing patterns and bold color choices, define Kate Mcleish's childlike imaginings — they're just delightful!
4. Fifi Lapin
The only bunny to break into the world of couture, Fifi Lapin wins the award for cutest fashion cartoon character. If only all models were long-limbed rabbits with killer style...Created by polymath, Ruby Gatta — who is a photographer, artist, and interior designer, as well as rabbit-mother to the couture legend — Fifi Lapin has developed a cult status in the fashion world. Drawn wearing Luella, Rodarte, Valentino, and more, Ms. Lapin has the most covetable wardrobe in the world and she wears it well. I love Gatta's playful take on couture through her furry fashionista. Fifi Lapin reminds us that fashion is just fun and we shouldn't take it too seriously.
5. Daisy De Villeneuve
I discovered Daisy De Villeneuve by route of her witty and telling book, He Said, She Said . A comedic look at relationships using quotations from her friends, and accompanied by her signature felt tip constructed characters, He Said, She Said is realistically satirical.As well as publishing similar style books, Daisy De Villeneuve's work has been featured on shoe boxes and VM for Topshop, appeared in Vogue, and on the textiles that constructed Zac Posen's Spring/Summer 2011 collection.Her angular, zany illustrations have plenty of pizazz, scribbled on scrap paper or in lined notebooks. Their doodle-like immediacy packs a punch being rebellious, strong, and childlike all at once.
6. Susannah Garrod
Instagram famous Susannah Garrod is an up-and-coming illustrator who is getting herself noticed for her fairytale, inky scribbles of whimsically-clothed women. I fell in love with her airy brushstrokes when she painted my favorite outfit from Molly Goddard's collection at London Fashion Week.There's a touch of '50s fashion illustration nostalgia in Garrod's watercolor women, but they remain defiantly contemporary in their innocent and naive construction. I love her distinctively jaunty tone, which is both soft and awkward. It's a strange beauty that haunts, but still has a twinkle of impishness.
7. Velvet Wolves
Last, but by no means least, is pop culture driven "Velvet Wolves," the illustration and apparel company created by indie illustrator Natasha Thompson. With blog banner commissions and magazine covers for Lionheart Magazine under her belt, Natasha Thompson is a rising star in the fashion illustration world. With a style that sits somewhere between photorealism and minimalism, the pixie faces of the likes of Kirsten Dunst in Marie Antoinette, Lana Del Rey, and Game Of Thrones' Daenerys Targaryen are carefully crafted by her pencil. Feminine, soft, and culturally on the pulse, Thompson sells prints of her gorgeous renderings. You can even purchase one of her leading ladies on a t-shirt like I did. Look!
Images: Kat Macleod; Kate Alexandra Mcleish; Natasha Thompson; hocafoundation, totaltrash, missdesanantonio, dear_kukula, fifi.lapin, daisy_de_villeneuve, susannahgarrod/Instagram; YouTube/ProjectDystopia