When I work with students who are just starting on their design education, the first thing I make sure they know is that you don’t have to be excellent at drawing to be a great designer. Being a fashion illustrator is a very different role to being a fashion designer. Some of the lucky few are blessed with being both, but mostly we working designers just find a way that suits us to best express our ideas, in a way that our colleagues, bosses, suppliers, clients can understand what we are trying to express.
I am not a great illustrator by any stretch of the imagination. However I have found my own style, my own visual language to show my design ideas, developed over many, many years of working as a womenswear designer. My style is pretty clear and understandable. Hey, I love David Downton and Rene Gruau as much as the next fashion fan, but you try cutting a pattern from their drawings! Also, as a working designer, you are pretty much always time-poor, so you need to find a rather speedy way of getting your creativity from your imagination and on to a piece of paper.
Many people now create their design work using a computer, but I am pretty old-school in that respect. It’s still all about the pen, pencil, rubber and marker pens for me! I thought you might like a little insight into the way I create my design drawings- from very scruffy thumbnails to the finished sketches. What you see here is the process we at Blink London go through once a month when creating our retail reports for our international clients. The aim is to distill all of the big looks we’ve seen at retail each month in to a few pages of drawings, inspiring and informing our clients all in one go. No biggie…
Stage 1: a very rough, ‘back of a fag packet’ downloading of ideas onto a few pages. I would NEVER usually let these see the light of day! I tend to create these as ‘flats’, so a garment drawing rather than ‘on the body’.
Stage 2: those scruffy thumbnails get redrawn on a body template that I have developed over the years. Using a template is a great way of making sure you spend your time designing rather than illustrating. I make sure my pencil is super sharp and that my trusty rubber is close to hand!
Stage 3: next I rub out some of the pencil lines (I know this may seem like a weird thing to do!), leaving just a faint trace so that I can add colour without being stuck with pencil lines that I might want to change a little when I later over-draw with my pen. Out come the Copic and Promarker pens that suit me to represent a flesh tone and also to add some shadow, depth and detailing to the designs.
Stage 4: hopefully now rubbing out some of the pencil lines makes more sense! As I want my clients to fully understand the ideas I am delivering, I like to make the drawings look well defined. To do that I redraw all of the key elements with a super fine black pen (my one and only choice for this is the Muji rollerball in 0.38). I may then add a few more pencil or marker flourishes, but pretty much, that’s it folks!
They may not be super artistic, but they do the job well enough as far as my retail report customers are concerned. Happy customers, happy me!
For more fashion inspiration, take a look here.