FASHION ILLUSTRATION FOR DESIGNERS AND ARTISTS:
The Definitive Guide


Before there was fashion photography, there was only one way designers captured their ideas visually before and after their designs: Fashion illustration.

Creating fashion Illustrations in the fashion industry have evolved so much, it’s hard to think that there is room for growth. What is fashion illustration? Well, I believe although there is nothing new underneath the sun, nothing is impossible. I’ve researched and put several thoughts into the significance of fashion illustration as it relates to the art and the fashion industry today. 

The fashion drawings that designers create before they start their design process triggers more creative ideas for their designs: multiple concepts and variations are imagined before they are brought to life.

What is fashion illustration?

Starting from the beginning to now, much of the fashion illustrations and photography we witness today should be attributed to Paul Iribe.

His fashion drawings and paintings in Les Robes de Paul Poiret, 1908 symbolizes the birth of fashion illustration.

During the early development and prior establishment of the fashion industry as we know it is today, these types of illustrations was the first form of visual representation of designer’s works. Of course, with fashion photography coming into the picture (no pun intended), everything would change in an instant.

From 1890 To 1920:

In the time period between 1890 to 1920 photography was just starting to be experimented with. With this being the case illustrating fashion was very prominent as the form of visual imagery publications used in their prints.

The two biggest fashion magazines back then and still today are very much the premier representations in the fashion industry was Vogue and Harpers Bazaar.

High Society Fashion

High Society Fashion

I don’t want to bore you with too much detail about the birth of fashion because I want you to continue reading and it gets more interesting. However, I will recommend later on I will recommend two fashion books you can get to learn more about the history of fashion design.

Fashion Throughout The Years

We came from the high society to the modern chic fashion design we see today.

What is the “high society”?

I will attempt to define this high society period the best way I can using today’s terminology. The term “high society” as it relates to fashion was a period, where the dresses and gowns that women wore were majestic, luxurious, royal and almost divine. During this time in fashion, the clothing women would wear were beautiful dresses combined with expensive furs meant for royalty.

Lavish Dresses and Fashion Design

Needless to say, not everyone could afford these lavish and beautiful dresses. They were the type of wardrobes that queens and princesses during that time would wear especially in Europe in the 18th and 19th century. In 100 Years of Fashion, author Cally Blackman lists royals that were photographed and painted in these exuberant dresses.

The author who studied Fashion Design and History of Dress provide a list of royal women between the time of 1901-1959 that own these types of outfits.

These dresses are no longer something women wear. The contemporary ladies and women today, even the British royalty have adapted to the change in fashion in the 21st century.

I imagine it would be silly to walk around in outfits like that in the 2000’s. Fashion has evolved so much over the years and although fashion does recycle quite a lot of time as well.

Ancient Greece Clothing

The Fashion of The Greeks and Egyptians:

Fashion illustration without classification dates back to the Greek and Egyptian times. Having studied Ancient to Gothic Art History as well as Greek to Roman Art History, I know these civilizations were the first that we have documented as creating art.

The purpose of art is so relevant to society and I believe it should be viewed as more important than it is today.

Painting Fashion and Sculpting Fashion

The point is the early cultures and civilizations painted on vases, walls, and sculpted on tablets. In the art that they created through the natural mediums they had at the time they created images of people with outfits.

Now, by no means were their visual drawings or sculptures then detailed. However, they did show what the style of clothing servants, leaders and the people in their cultures would wear.

Now that I’ve briefed you on a very quick background on fashion design and fashion illustration history, let’s talk about the influence of fashion illustration.

Grecian Fashion Illustration

Grecian Fashion Illustration

Fashion Illustration Vs Fashion Photography

Eventually, fashion photography became more popular than fashion drawings and pushed fashion illustrators to the back of the line. Today, some fashion photographers make thousands of dollars for editorials working for companies live V Magazine, Vogue, Elle, Cosmopolitan, and many more big name companies.

Fashion Illustration went from being high valued by publications to not being so utilized today by the elite fashion magazines. Really, when is the last time you saw a fashion illustration as the cover of a magazine at the supermarket, bookstore and or gas station. It’s all about fashion photography in today’s day and age.

The illustrations that were once created for fashion designers went from being high valued by publications to barely being utilized today by the elite fashion magazines. Really, when is the last time you saw a fashion illustration as the cover of a magazine at the supermarket, bookstore and or even gas station? It’s all about fashion photography in today’s day and age.

There are even some people who would rather buy a print of a famous model to hang on their wall rather than an original fashion illustration drawing or painting. Although some companies still hired fashion illustrators to create illustrations for them before they spend money fabricating designs. Nevertheless, it is not nearly as popular as it once was.

Passion For Fashion Photography

Both of the following photographs were from collaborations with a gifted stylist I know by the name of Omar Rodriguez. The clothing design for the celestial dress was designed by fashion designer and artist Dan Richters. The black and white photographs dress was designed by fashion designer Buf Reynolds.

Fashion Designer Dan Richters

Fashion Designer: Dan Richters

Fashion Designer Buf Reynolds

Fashion Designer: Buf Reynolds

Free Mind & Free Design

I would assume that being a great fashion illustrator is an essential part of the process of creating Avant-Garde fashion designs. Although, I know some fashion designers that do not sketch or do fashion illustration drawings for their designs. They may create pattern drafting and outlines of the designs, but they do not draw or paint illustrations.

Two of the most inspiring Avant-Garde fashion designers I met at Omaha Fashion Week were Dan Richters and Angela Balderston. Whenever I see their work I think of something celestial and otherworldly.

The experience they generally create with their Avant-Garde fashion collections is always something marvelous to experience. Avant-Garde is not something everyone appreciates because it’s often misunderstood.

I do not oppose fashion photography at all; in fact, I’ve attempted to capture fashion photography in the past. I think it’s great to be able to collaborate with other creative individuals to capture fashion.

Of course with the amount of technology we have today, why not? Why would someone not want to hire a great fashion photographer to capture their fashion collection?

Both fashion illustration and fashion photography are still very important. It’s just amazing to think about the history of it all and how things have totally turned around. Pushing one medium to the back while the other rise in popularity.

The Influence of Fashion Illustration

As an artist, I will discuss later on how fashion illustration influences the art that I create. For now, let’s talk about its influence on the current culture.

With the many celebrities, public figures, and abundance of fashion brands; fashion culture is extremely diverse. In the 1960’s if you take a look at the image below you will see the style that was widely accepted. Now considered vintage clothing, the style was a lot more relaxed and transitioning to the modern looks that we wear today.

Innovation of Yves Saint Laurent:

Yves Saint Laurent’s 1967 Trousers Suit and Safari Suits were trendsetters. Prior to that women did not wear men’s style clothing. In the book, 100 Years of Fashion author Blackman provides this photo of the “Mondrian” dress, which also signified a creative shift in fashion.

The Mondrian dress inspired by contemporary art

The Mondrian dress inspired by contemporary art. Designer: Yves Saint Laurent

Pop Culture Influenced Fashion Design

Working Title/Artist: "Mondrian

Now, if you are an artist or went to school for creating fashion drawings and illustrations, fashion design, or fashion photography. There is a strong chance that you’ve seen Andy Warhol’s Campbell’s Soup Cans art piece. This artwork was used for the inspiration for the Souper dress design. So, one can say that the 1960’s was full of experimental designers as it is so today. These were the times where designers were trying a lot of different things and expressing their creative ideas.

Polos and Casual Luxury

When I think of the word polo, I automatically make a connection with the Ralph Lauren logo. There are certain brands in fashion, that have come a faded away, but you have some of the most durable brands like Ralph Lauren that has remained consistent over the years. Since 1967 Ralph Lauren has grown to establish a wide amount of loyal customers all around the world.

The wealthiest of all people in society adore his Polos, which started as a company that created only ties for men (Source: Independent).

Finding Inspiration At Fashion Week

Living in the Midwest city of Omaha, Nebraska I had the opportunity to attend my first fashion week event at Omaha Fashion Week in 2012. It was then I first peaked interest in doing fashion photography, which would lead to me creating an abstract fashion art series to now more fashion art projects.

Avant-Garde Fashion Is Fashion Art

Every time I’ve been to an Avant-Garde fashion show I’ve always told myself “the world is just not ready for this craziness in fashion.” Not that Avant-Garde fashion is crazy, it’s just too far ahead of its time. Maybe in the year 2200 A.D., human society will be wearing Avant-Garde fashion designs as day wear and evening wear.

For now, a lot of people are very judgmental of this style of fashion design. They fail to realize that it is art and the true beauty of this style of fashion.

The Modern Geisha Editorial Shoots

The following photo shoots were visions I had, which I proposed to a local stylist in Omaha I met through a fellow artist Beth Conklin Hanson (Omar Rodriguez). From there we created something I believe that was magical. The model Nancy Pham is one of the most beautiful models I’ve ever shot with. Here are the fashion illustration drawings I presented to him with a few visual comp boards.

The Geisha Avant-Garde Fashion Sketches

Once we started getting closer to the shoot date much changed in the aesthetics of the shoot. Working together as we got closer to the shoot, ideas came to mind, I ordered a kimono from a Netherland online store with other props.

Stylist and Makeup Artist Omar Rodriguez:

Omar is one of the most imaginative, kind, humble, determine and focused stylist I’ve ever work with. We were able to really connect and have a clear vision for these two Avant-Garde Geisha shoots.

The Geisha Makeup Sketches

Published Geisha Photoshoot

Following the shots I reached out to some publications and ended up getting the photographs published through a magazine in Florida and New York. These were the first photographs I ever got published and it was inspiring for me to continue photography, but I made a conscious decision to pursue being an artist instead in the earlier part of 2016.

The Fashion Magazine Covers

Why Is Fashion Illustration Important?

The purpose of fashion illustration could be a simple as being a visual representation of an idea. If a fashion designer wants to convey a thought through their clothing line or design. The purpose of illustration in relation to fashion could be to be utilized as art. It could also be to compose something more than just a design but used to send a message.

Purpose #1

Conveying an idea: First, let me say that I am not a fashion designer but I believe fashion designers are artists. As an artist when you are creating artwork you can creating it for many reasons. The art you create will ultimately be either non-subjective or subjective. Viewers of the artwork you produce will either recognize it because it has an image/subject that they have seen before or it will be abstract (non-subjective).

Depending on whether the artwork you create is going to be subjective or non-subjective. You will decide whether it’s necessary to do thumbnail sketches. In the same manner, fashion illustrators draw or paint fashion illustrations to represent their ideas. Unless, you are doing an Avant-Garde fashion line/collection and you do not need to draw out patterns to help you sew your outfit.

Purpose #2

Utilized as Art: In the 21st-century art is very broad. Similar to the fashion industry. The art industry has evolved to the point where it is utterly difficult to become a pioneer of a certain style of art. This is all thanks to the masters of the arts that came before us as artists. We are left with the option of creating alternate art and also recycling art.

Pablo Picasso once said, “good artists borrow, great artists steal.”

Not to say that it is impossible to come up with a purely 100% original idea because you can take something and make it your own. But to come up with a unique style like abstract impressionism, hyperrealistic art, cubism, surrealism, and etc. You are going to definitely have a hard time pioneering a style that has never been seen before.

With the technology that we have today to do digital paintings, photo manipulation, and computer graphics. The ideas you can think of, some artist have already thought of. Although they may lack the ability to bring it to life.

Purpose #3

Send a Message: With so many global issues like politics, gender, race, sexuality, foreign, and sickness. There have been many different ways individuals use fashion to voice their support for or against certain issues. Take Aids awareness for example.

I once attended a local fashion show organized where a group of fashion designers designed clothes out of condoms. Another example is designer Jean-Charles de Castelbajac’s Spring 2009 collection presentation. At Paris Fashion Week, the designer showcased a few dresses from his line showing support for President Obama’s election.

Fashion illustration is an essential skill one should have if they are a fashion designer. Unlike myself who is an artist that merely loves drawing and painting. I just so happen to have a passion for fashion enough to create art inspired by fashion.

All in all, there are many reasons why and how fashion illustration can be purposeful.


Fashion Design in Cinema

We are all familiar with the awesome Science fiction, Space, Fantasy and Mythical movies. These movies produced from some of Hollywood’s finest producers require a great team.

All of these movies would not be the same if there was not a great team of individuals who put everything together for the director. Cinematic film productions require not only the producers but the actor, unique set-builders, fashion designers, illustrations, storyboard artists and more.

Here are two very popular films that made innovations in costume designs that accent the importance of great fashion in films.

Jean Paul Gaultier's illustrations:

Political Fashion Design
Fashion Political Statement

A model wears a short dress with a portrait of Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill, a creation by French designer Jean-Charles de Castelbajac during his spring-summer 2009 ready-to-wear collection presented in Paris, Friday, Oct. 3, 2008. (AP Photo/Michel Euler)

Star Wars Fashion Illustration:

Star Wars Fashion Illustration

Concept drawing of the Lake Retreat Gown from the Attack of the Clones. Lucasfilms Ltd. Source: Smithsonian

Fifth Element Illustration:

Fifth Element Fashion Design

Jean Paul Gaultier’s fashion drawings and illustration for the Fifth Element film. Source: Sewing Artistry

Fashion Icon and Designer: Jean Paul Gaultier

Jean Paul Gaultier creates a magical experience for those that wear his clothes. This experience also happens to the ones who have to opportunity to be the first to see his work. Take Janelle Monae for example. She wore this beautiful dress that was created by the fashion icon at the Grammy Awards.

Learning Fashion Illustration

Yelen Ayé is a fashion illustrator published on YouTube. In the following video, he goes over some of the tools he uses when creating his fashion illustration drawings. He talks about the importance of not going to details right away. Ayé also mentions the importance of gesture from the beginning.

In the video Aye use a pointy tip marker for his fashion illustration demonstration. Once he has a few quick gestures drawn out, he then draws a loose contour drawing of the model he wants, using a fine point sharpy.

Following that, he starts with the skin tone of the model first with the base color and then the shadow areas. The next step he takes is creating the pattern or detail he wants in the garment/clothing of the model.

More Fashion Illustration Tutorials

There are many great fashion illustration tutorials you can search for on YouTube that can provide you with great tips on how to draw fashion illustrations. I believe there are a lot of things you can learn as an artist widely available online.

This sometimes makes artists wonder why they should even bother going to school for an art degree or study something related to art for a career. Continue reading I will mention the Key thing that makes going to school for art very beneficial.

Learn Fashion Illustration

Best Markers For Creating Fashion Illustrations

Copic markers are hands down the best markers out there for illustration, cartoon drawings, and various forms of drawing. There are other brands out there that are a bit more economical, but if you want what is considered the best marker go with the Copic markers brand.

I am a strong believer that it is is not the tool that makes great art, but it is the skill level of the artist using the tool. However, if you want the best marker for your commission work or paid projects, it’s worth the small investment.

When I create fashion illustration artworks I use different paper for different reasons. Depending on the objective of the artwork; If I am planning to sell the artwork I use 70 lb bristol board drawing papers. My preferred paper is brand Strathmore’s Vellum or Smooth surface. If I am not planning on selling the illustration I use Blick 30 lb Newsprint paper, while you could also use Borden & Riley marker paper similar to Yelen Ayé.

5 Highly Recommended Fashion Illustration Books

When I first gained interest in fashion illustration, in order to incorporate it into my art I had no idea where to begin. I looked for resources online, but even with the millions of websites online and images I couldn’t find the best source for me.

Beginning in 2013 I started to go to the library to study more about the human anatomy. I looked at how to draw the human figure books, but still, couldn’t find the resources I wanted that worked for me.

In time I found the following fashion illustration books I am sharing with you, that have been very beneficial in helping me understand the best way to stylize my figure drawings for my fashion artworks.

On this list, you will also find two books I recommend reading and having in your library about fashion design’s history. There is something powerful and special about owning books versus reading from an ebook. Books are also just one grab away and you can flip through many pages that have not been digitally transferred for some.

Here Are The Books:

Book 1: Fashion Illustration Inspiration and Technique by Anna Kiper

Book 1

This book has served as the title suggests, as an inspiration. Anna Kiper the fashion illustrator provides over 150+ fashion illustrations with different looks. There is a difference in evening wear and day wear that she makes noticeable.

Fashion Illustration Inspiration and Technique is a rundown on different styles. You could attempt to combine some of the styles in your own way to bring your vision to life.

If you are looking for a visual handbook that could provide you with great color palettes and texture ideas for your illustration textiles, you need this book.

Book 2: Figure Drawing for Fashion Design by Drudi & Tiziana Paci

Fashion Figure Drawing Book 2

Figure drawing is simple, but if you miss the fundamentals it can be the most complicated thing you can learn as an artist. Let me explain.

In drawing the human anatomy, you can always use references, but in fashion illustration, you don’t always have time to find the perfect reference photograph. For the most part, fashion illustrations are always stylized and rarely true to the human proportions.

Therefore, you must develop a skill that allows you to be able to draw a model’s figure quickly with no reference. After all, your time is valuable and so is the client you may be creating the illustrations for.

Figure Drawing for Fashion Design provides step by step drawing tutorials. These tutorials you can follow and practice in order to develop such skills.

Book 3: Figure Drawing for Men’s Fashion by Drudi & Tiziana Paci

Figure Drawing for Men

Similar to Figure Drawing for Fashion Design, this book is a mirrored version but focuses on men’s fashion solely.

Drawing different types of pants, coats, hats, and other styles of clothing men wear take an alternate vision. It is possible to be polished in drawing both men and women.

Some aspiring illustrations have trouble doing both, but trust me you can develop your skill be great at both. All you need are the right resources to help you as you continue to practice your drawing and painting.

Book 4: 100 Years of Fashion by Cally Blackman

100 Years of Fashion

100 Years of Fashion was a great help to me in helping me learn the evolution of fashion design. The book is broken down by time periods, years, and categories of styles as they were defined.

Dating back from the 1800’s to the early 200’s, the author Blackman provides excellent sources and moments that changed fashion. This books provides you an in-depth timeline of fashion throughout the years and many pictorials to show the design changes visually over time.

Book 5: Coming into Fashion by Nathalie Herschdorfer

Coming Into Fashion

Sex, class, and beauty have always been the things that in commercial fashion sold for designer brands. Coming into Fashion provides a ton of fashion photography captured for Condé Nast/Vogue over a century since fashion photography started to take the industry by storm.  

This fashion book is filled with many of the great advertisement campaigns and iconic photographs that altered people’s views on what “fashion” was. It sets the tone for sexy looks, elegance, and creating a specific standard of beauty.

My Favorite Fashion Illustration Books for Designers and Artists

The following illustrations were created with these two illustration books, every beginning illustrator should have. Read more about fashion illustration and view the rest of the pieces below.

I have always been a fan of art and creative artworks that are visually compelling. Fashion illustration is a sub-genre and style of art I admire. Without fashion illustration, it is hard to create any fashion attire or pieces. This is an essential part of the layout/construction of any design a fashion designer may have in mind.

The skill in creating fashion illustration is essential like learning figure drawing if you are studying to become a character developer. After a fair amount of research, I found two fashion illustration books I thought were very beneficial to any designer or aspiring fashion illustrator.

The first book is Figure Drawing for Men’s Fashion from the Pepin publishing company and Figure Drawing for Fashion Design. (Fashion Illustration Books Resources)

Both of these books I have on the shelf in my small and personal collection of art related and illustration books at home. I find it great as a reference from time to time, when I need some guidance on fashion illustration principals.

Brief Excerpt on Fashion Illustration History

During the 1500s and 1600s, two centuries of exploration and discovery, there was a strong desire to know about the costume of other nations. Costume books with engravings, but also painting became important sources of information.

By the end of the 1600s it was even in fashion to collect fashion engravings! Around the same period, fashion for the first time became a topic in periodicals and in the 1700s pocket books with small and uncolored fashion illustrations enjoyed a wide circulation. Towards the end of the 18th century, the first fashion plates appeared in periodicals dedicated to fashion only.

The 1800s were the heyday of the fashion plate and saw the emergence of a large number of fashion magazines. There were even lower priced black-and-white and more expensive hand-coloured versions of the same magazine.

Another development in fashion illustration were plates that not just showed the clothes, but depictions of women wearing them in social contexts, illustrating the appropriate circumstances for the clothes to be worn. The late 1800s saw the beginnings of experimentation with fashion photography, but even then magazines copied photographs through engravings.

Fashion Illustration History after WWII

Even after WWII, fashion illustration still blossomed in fashion magazines, but from the 1960s onwards it was replaced by photography as the main conveyer of fashion. Fashion illustration largely disappeared from magazines, although there was a revival in the late 1980s, reminiscent of the style of the 1920s.

Nevertheless, up until today fashion illustration is considered an art form and, thanks to the digital revolution, is experiencing a renaissance. The Internet is an excellent platform for fashion illustration that offers fresh and unique perspectives in a fashion world that is saturated with photography.

Major fashion publications like Vogue and Vanity Fair magazine were some of the pioneers in the fashion industry to feature works of fashion illustration in their publishing.

The illustrations brought a unique feel to the publications at the time when photography was not as dynamic or prominent. Fashion illustrations were done to express and showcase the luxury in fashion of the ladies and gentlemen in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s.

8 Master Fashion Illustrators You Should Know

In the late 1800’s when fashion illustration was at its prime. There were not many women fashion illustrators who gained the fame men did. Here is a list of fourteen fashion illustration illustrators and artists I’ve compiled and admire their works. 

Paul Iribe
Fashion Illustrator Paul Iribe:

Born in France in 1883, Paul Iribe studied in Paris where he attended College Rollin and Ecole des Beaux. Like most illustrators back then he went to school with some very skilled illustrators at the time.

One of the illustrators I’ve read about and admire his work is J.C Leyendecker, who I will mention more about as I talk bout these great fashion illustrators.

Paul Iribe’s fashion illustrations brought him much recognition in 1908. A designer by the name of Paul Poiret hired him to help represent his designs in an original way.

Iribe then created a catalog brochure “Les Robes de Paul Poiret”, which became instantly influential to the fashion world that was developing in France. He would spend a few years in Hollywood working with Paramount Film Studio and later on working with Conde Nast’s Vogue. (Photo Credit: Fashion Model Directory)

Max Hoff
Fashion Illustrator Max Hoff:

Born in Vienna, Austria. Max Hoff an Austrian Illustrator studied at the Vienna Academy of Fine Arts. His time there included training in portrait and landscape painting. Something that one could view as not art related to fashion. Simpsons of Piccadilly, which is now DAKS was the company that gave Hoff his opportunity to shine.

His elegant, classy, and charming ladies along with his handsome men illustrations gained him much recognition. His fashion illustration drawings became the trademark of DAKS Simpson men’s fashion from the 1930s through the early 1960s.

Today, this is certainly difficult to do because there are so many fashion illustration artists and well-connected fashion designers. The development of fashion photography and digital graphic design changed everything in this regard.

Hoff’s career is said to have capped off with drawings created for German advertising agency Hanns W. Brose and Astor Cigarettes. (Photo Credit: Photoscan)

Ruth Grafstrom
Fashion Illustrator Ruth Grafstrom:

A renown fashion illustrator was Ruth Sigrid Grafstrom; born in 1905.  Her illustration work started appearing in American Vogue in 1933 and she probably remained with them until World War II. (fashionmodeldirectory)

She was one of the artists regularly contributing during the 30’s and had an immediate and lasting effect upon the style and appearance of the magazine, not through any personal revolution or innovation, but simply by work so distinctly of its time. The work was now more painterly than graphic, more direct and freely expressive in its statement than apparently deliberate and closely designed”

In 1937 Ruth sketched a gown designed by American designer Muriel King. Muriel King was a  costume designer, briefly at RKO in 1936 and 1944. Studied art at the University of Washington. Worked on theatrical costume designs, and simultaneously in magazine illustration for Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar.

Right from the beginning, she drew colored illustrations of clothes by Molyneux and Bergdorf and Vogue mentions “Ruth Grafstrom acknowledges her debt to Matisse, but Vogue’s mind is on the capes”.

Ruth Grafstrom’s work is not seen in Vogue after the start-up of World War II, and not much is known about her thereafter.

René Gruau
Fashion Illustrator René Gruau:

Rene was an Italian fashion illustration artist who painted illustrations inspired by Art Nouveau aesthetics. He used lines in his artwork to emphasize the shapes he wanted to draw the viewer’s attention relating to the fashion.

What lead Rene to become the fashion illustration icon he is today? Well, Gruau began his career doing editorial work for print advertising. It wasn’t until he worked on a fashion campaign for Miss Dior in 1947 that his career took off. I’ve read about many artists successes and what brought recognition to their work.

I’ve learned that all of them create art or illustrations back then that people were drawn to. I’ve taken the same approach in the artworks that I’ve chosen to create lately. (Photo Credit: Fashion Model Directory)

Fashion Photography Quote

“In photography, people hire you for your point of view. They contact you and want you to capture them because they like your vision and the way you take your photographs.”

I believe this is also true for artists and illustrators. The people that come across your art will buy it if it speaks to them and they like your style. There is no point in copying someone’s style exactly, if you find inspiration from another artist and develop something on your own it will work for you then.

Great illustrators like René always created art and illustrations out of their own direction. They were the directors and producers of their work; companies and people of influence in the realm of the work they created, simply gave them an opportunity of a lifetime.

Andy Warhol
Artist Andy Warhol:  

I never knew Andy Warhol created fashion illustration until I begin my research on renown artists and fashion illustrators. In the 1950’s when he was not occupied with selling his work or creating personal art for galleries, Warhol was an illustrator for Harper’s Bazaar. He created high heel illustrations and colorful art of beauty products for the publication.

Following his famed Campbell’s Soup cans artwork, he created Interview Magazine. It never occurred to me that Warhol actually was that much into fashion. Many of his fashion high heel illustrations can be viewed on the New York gallery Guy Hepner’s website.

From 1955 to 1957, he was the only hired illustrator for the shoe manufacturer I. Miller. Every week he created new illustrations for ads in the New York Times as well. His silkscreen paintings are what his is predominantly known for, but Warhol was a fashion illustrator and an all round creative artist. (Photo Credit: Tate)

Antonio Lopez
Fashion Illustrator Antonio Lopez:

Growing up Antonio Lopez was submerged in fashion and art. He was destined to become a great fashion illustrator. His father was a mannequin maker and his mother a seamstress. He learned how to draw from his mother and he also learned from his father how to apply makeup and wigs onto the mannequins.

Although he was born in Puerto Rico, his family emigrated to the United States to live in the Bronx, New York. He earned a scholarship for his talent at the age of 12 to a prestigious fashion school in New York. Following his graduation from the High School of Art and Design, he was accepted into the Fashion Institute of Technology.

In the Observer, author Michelle Honig mentioned that Lopez worked for Versace with their campaigns. He also discovered iconic model Grace Jones. His work was more than fashion illustrator for him, he created fashion illustration with the mission to be a social critic, highlight racial inequality, sexual identity, and cultural appropriation. (Photo Credit: Paper Magazine)

J.C Leyendecker
Illustrator J.C Leyendecker:

J.C Leyendecker is one of my favorite illustrators from the golden age of illustration. The style of illustration that Leyendecker created captured my attention the moment I saw it. His style was distinctively different that famed American illustrator Norman Rockwell.

Born in Germany, like many Europeans from the 1800’s his family emigrated to the U.S. and landed in Chicago. He began studying under other illustrators and traveled to Paris for a short period of time with his brother to study art. By the time Leyendecker came back to the states, he would work with renowned publications at the time like “Collier’s” as well as “The Saturday Evening Post.”

His “Arrow Collar Man” set the trend in the early 1900’s for gentlemen’s dress shirts and neckties. (Photo Credit: Collectors Weekly)

Cecil Beaton
Fashion Illustration Artist & Photographer Cecil Beaton:

Cecil Beaton was the writer and illustrator for Vogue in the 1920 ‘s prior to becoming one of the magazine’s regular photographers. In the book 100 Years of Fashion Illustration, author Blackman mentions that he paid much attention to details and the social scene around him. This would be a key trait in his illustrations that made them unique. With much of the fashion illustration at the time focusing on solely the clothing or style, he also took account the environments these styles were worn in.

Beaton was a fashion photographer, writer, stage designer, and portrait photographer as well according to the National Portrait Gallery. He would capture iconic figures like Marilyn Monroe, Twiggy, Pablo Picasso, Mick Jagger, and more.

Beaton was a modern renaissance man in his own respects. (Photo Credit: Vogue)

Fashion Illustration Today

Today many brands still hire illustration artists to create illustrations for their brand. There are also illustrators who take it upon themselves to create illustrations of the trending fashion that celebs wear at the red carpet events from award shows.

Social media has made it possible for some of these illustrations to gain thousands of fans for their art, which I am sure brings income for them if they offer commission work. However, I am also certain some of them are way too busy to bother with just any project unless it is going to be beneficial for them financially.

The Abundant Artist, a blog I follow mentioned that the concept of “starving artist” is a myth and I agree. I believe it’s a mentality some have accepted and allowed to control their lives as creative individuals. It’s easy to lose hope and lose faith that you can actually be successful through your art.

Fashion illustration is still used today in a brand advertisement, but in slightly different manners. With the rise of digital art and computer graphic designer; the definition of illustration has certainly evolved over the years.

From Outfits To High Heels

High heels have been around since ancient times. In Chinese history, there was the practice of foot binding in the 16th century, where a woman with bound feet was appealing.

Now because of the feet being bounded, it was prevented from going normal feet and would remain small. The average bound feet were 3 inches long. It’s fascinating to think that this was a practice so long ago these were customs and practices in certain cultures.

In an essay, written by Amber King on Academia, she cited a source Love, sex, and marriage through the ages by Bernard I Murstein. In this book, the author mentioned how Egyptian butchers from the period of 3500 B.C. used some form of high heels.

Butchers wore these elevated shoes to keep their feet clean of any blood from the animals they slaughtered. The aristocracy at the time would wear high heels; this being both men and women.

Back then murals and tablets were what Egyptian artists utilized to illustration events, customs, and culture.

Inspiration of the High Heels Series:

High heels an essential part of fashion. From the high fashion models to iconic celebrities like the late Prince and Elton John, who were some male figures that popularized men wearing high heels.

The inspiration for the high heel art series came from my love for the organic shape of the heels. I also find women who wear high heels even sexier. There is a level of classiness, subtle elegance and royalty in high heels.

I wanted to take all of these ideas and put in into the high heel art series I started to develop. Another source of inspiration was the ancient Egyptian patterns, elements, and imagery. Knowing how far high heels dated back from leading to this point. I wanted to create fashion drawings of high heels that also represented history.

High Heel Illustrations From The Series:

In the high heel drawing series, all of the pieces I have composed so far have different elements to them. Although, I did create the artworks to have similarities when I create the rough sketch drawings

Combining Abstract Lines and Fashion:

Prior to me creating this fashion art of the high heels, I produced colorful abstract line drawings that we also inspired from Omaha Fashion Week. During the week of capturing the many beautiful designs by the designers from the event, I had a huge amount of great photographs to use as references.

The way I captured the models on the runway was at an angle, which I believe allowed the images to be more dynamic with each frame. From these photographs, I experimented with multi-colored line drawings to illustration the fashion from the runway. Following this set of drawings, I created one fashion art series after the other; Some of the high heels I've turned into coloring pages people can also download for free.

The Fashion Gods Art Series

Everyone believes in something. Even the people that say that they don’t believe in any religion, faith or spiritual thing believe life was created somehow. I honestly think it’s silly to think that we just poofed into life, the universe, and existence just came out of nothing. This could be a long religious debate, but let’s continue on the topic of fashion.

The reason I mention that everyone believes in something is because of the inspiration of this fashion art series.

Mirroring Greek & Egyptian Gods

I created this series out of an idea that came to me regarding what if there were fashion gods. What would a fashion goddess or fashion gods wear? What style would they have originally worn that influenced mankind to create wardrobes like the gods of fashion?

This idea is also spun from Greek mythology and Egyptian gods history. The ancient Greek mythological gods and goddesses influenced men to do certain this and gave these men specific gifts. Egyptians also had gods they believe gave them abilities, gifts, skills and some even powers.

There is a development of fashion gods, a masculine version of the series that is a work in progress.

Inspiration From Zendaya

The third fashion artwork from the first four pieces in this collection was inspired by the talented Zendaya. When I decided to create the third fashion goddess, I believe it was around the time of the Grammy Awards in 2016. At that time I had created an illustration of Zendaya, which I shared on Instagram that she liked and it gained over 6,000+ likes.

The outfit she wore to the Grammy Awards served as an inspiration for the illustration of the third goddess. The design of the outfit is totally different, but the colors and striped pattern are what I fell in love with when I was creating the piece.

Fashion Art
Fashion Art
Fashion Art

The Tools I Use For Fashion Illustration

  • Colored Pencils
  • Lead Pencils
  • Ink Pens
  • Digital Drawing Tablet

I start all of the illustrations primarily in pencil using Staedtler HB to B pencils. I will either use the newsprint paper I mentioned earlier or a Strathmore spiral sketchbook. I learned from an artist that it makes a big difference in your digital art if you start out traditionally drawing you subject.

Once I have the sketchbook fashion illustration contour drawing done, I then scan it onto my hard-drive or take a good photograph of it to work from. I also use a Wacom Intuos Pro to create my digital illustrations through Adobe photoshop.

Choosing A School For Fashion Design, Illustration and Art

I mentioned that there was one key thing that made going to school for art a major factor in your career. Over the years I’ve learned that high-end galleries, museums, and even publication companies value your educational background. Getting into prestigious schools is one thing, but getting into a gallery where you could have the potential to sell your art for thousands of dollars to millions even harder.

Think about it. There are a lot of aspiring, amateur, and professional artists out there. What differentiate these types of artists? Well, it’s either the education they received or how they hustled to build their name as well as value.

Artist’s Education and Money

I once worked for a sculptor, who created monumental public art. His sculpture ranged from $40,000 to $5,000,000. Yes, there are sculptors/artists out there that are not famed generate wealth for themselves that you have not heard of. Now, you do have Jeff Koons, Dale Chihuly, Sheperd Failey, David Cho, and a numerous of living artists that are doing well. If you read their background story you would understand why.

I am certain that all of these artists made connections or contact through the universities they studied at. If and if that wasn’t the case, they had a genius way they marketed and promoted their art as well as brands. The lesson is that it is beneficial to go to school for art, but you must know how to use your educational background as leverage to get you where you want to be.

Although a certificate and diploma still have much value, if you are not one that can figure out a way to make it without going to school. Either way, an entrepreneurial mentality must be developed.

Choosing the Right School as an Artist:

Now, there are so many high school students who graduate internationally and in the Americas, who are always looking for the best art school that fits their personalities. I believe in choosing a school you must consider the location, curriculum, campus, and the school’s history in regards to artists.

Conclusion of Fashion Illustration

All in all, if you want to be a fashion designer, fashion illustrator, or simply to create fashion art, the information is all around you. You just have to go after what you want. Set a goal for yourself as an illustrator or artist and develop a plan on how you are going to get there. If you just love fashion and love art continue to support the artists you know and love. My journey with my art will continue to develop and I am always eager to bring the ideas I have in my head to life.

Thank You for Reading This Guide

If you found it insightful and would like to share it on your fashion blog or art blog feel free to use this cool infographic or simply link back to this page.

Resources Cited:

  1. Europeana Collections, June 12th, 2014, europeanafashion.eu
  2. Fashion Model Directory, Ruth Grafstom, fashionmodeldirectory.com
  3. Miruel King: IMDB, imdb.com
  4. Tate Magazine, tate.org.uk
  5. Paper Magazine: 10 Fab "It Boys" From NYC
  6. Collectors Weekly, August 28th, 2012,  Before Norman Rockwell, A Gay Artist Defined The Perfect American Male
  7. American Art Archives, americanartarchives.com 
Before there was fashion photography, there was only one way designers captured their ideas visually before and after their designs: Fashion illustration.
What is fashion illustration?  I’ve researched and put several thoughts into the significance of fashion illustration as it relates to the art and the fashion industry today. Visit the website for the ultimate guide on fashion illustration. #fashion  #fashionillustration #fashionart #fashiondesign
Before there was fashion photography, there was only one way designers captured their ideas visually before and after their designs: Fashion illustration.
What is fashion illustration?  I’ve researched and put several thoughts into the significance of fashion illustration as it relates to the art and the fashion industry today. Visit the website for the ultimate guide on fashion illustration. #fashion  #fashionillustration #fashionart #fashiondesign
Before there was fashion photography, there was only one way designers captured their ideas visually before and after their designs: Fashion illustration.
What is fashion illustration?  I’ve researched and put several thoughts into the significance of fashion illustration as it relates to the art and the fashion industry today. Visit the website for the ultimate guide on fashion illustration. #fashion  #fashionillustration #fashionart #fashiondesign
Before there was fashion photography, there was only one way designers captured their ideas visually before and after their designs: Fashion illustration.
What is fashion illustration?  I’ve researched and put several thoughts into the significance of fashion illustration as it relates to the art and the fashion industry today. Visit the website for the ultimate guide on fashion illustration. #fashion  #fashionillustration #fashionart #fashiondesign

About the Author Kenal Louis

I create art daily. If I missed a day not producing art... I feel a bit strange.

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