Why illustration is dangerous

November 5, 2018

Illustration is useful but not when you're focusing to find inspiration

(picture by Josefa nDiaz on Unsplash.com). Illustrator and fashion designer are two very different jobs. Spending lots of time to draw amazing illustrations of your garments could even dangerous for your deadlines.


What does an illustrator? He draws amazing illustration about numerous topics.  He can draw for books, for websites, for adverts and eventually sell his drawings as arts. This is very close to a photographer's job. Nowadays, an illustrator works most on digital support via tablets.

What does a fashion designer? He creates wonderful and fashionable clothes and sells them to his(her) clients. During his(her) creation process, he(she) sketches all the time: to record ideas to include in the mood board, to try any combination that could be appealing, to sort out the best clothes with this colour, fabric, details, shape combination, to explain to the team what he wants etc. A fashion designer sketches on plain paper with a pencil and usually does not include any colour. Fashion sketches are tools in the creation process, they are not sold apart. 

When does a Fashion Designer need to draw an illustration? If the Fashion Designer is selling his Fashion drawings as a freelancer, he(she) needs to sell nice and appealing drawings. Then he needs to show out real illustrations of his(her) creations. This could help to launch your career but cannot be a career in itself as you have to build your own fashion identity. You cannot achieve this if you sell your drawings to a company 

Why do you say illustration is dangerous? Going through a fashion collection from mood board to fashion show is a huge work. Only one thing is certain and will not move from the beginning, it's your deadline! You don't want all your work for several months just swept away because your fashion show is ready the day after its due date, do you? And all the money you out in this process spent for nothing!

For each garment you create, you will have to draw tens of sketches to help you focus on what is NEW, FRESH, yet compatible with your brand and/or personal fashion identity. What if you need half a day for only one sketch? This just sounds impossible because, at the same time,  you have to search for inspiration, source for fabrics and haberdashery (notion), sort out good details, find the best sewing technic, make or check patterns and muslins samples (canvas or toile), check again and again, find out accessories and shoes, chose the best model etc. So you just have no time for illustration even if you're an amazing illustrator too! Keep on illustrate and you will endanger your collection because you're not saving your time for the real creation process.

Below: a fashion sketch by Karl Lagerfeld. You can see that there's no special care for the face, hands and foot. Coat edges are not all drawn properly, for example at sleeves ends. There's no idea of any fabric colour because a fabric sample comes with the sketch. There's a lot of annotations all around the sketch. The purpose is to give the maximum of information to the pattern maker. Obviously, Mr Karl didn't take more than 15mn to draw this sketch.


A Fashion Sketch by Karl Lagerfeld


When is illustration useful for a Fashion Designer? During the advertising process, after your collection is done with and shown out (fashion show, Youtube video, Facebook etc.) You need nice pictures of your collection and illustration is another media for good and appealing adverts. Why don't you collaborate with a good illustrator? Because when your collection is done, you're already on the process for the one after and building a mood board for next to come after.

A small assessment: Google the words "fashion illustration" on google.com and take a look at all amazing illustrations you'll find there. For each, quickly answer to those questions: is there enough information for a pattern maker to figure out what the designer wants? How long it took for the illustrator to draw it?

To say it simply, illustration can only be a hobby but not a part of your Fashion Designer's lifestyle.

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