Fashion used to be illustrated, capturing the allure of clothes with lines and colour. Then photography came along and after a rocky start, it became the preferred art form of the style universe.
More than ten years ago, when I started out as a fashion journalist, it was often difficult to get good samples from any well-known brands. Stylists often had to emulate the looks off the catwalk, using vintage clothes or imaginative styling.
In that period, it was sometimes easier to use fashion illustration to convey the key pieces of the season since you could choose exactly which look you wanted. Maybe this is why Sweden has been quite successful in the fashion illustration department?
Sweden’s most famous fashion illustrator is called Mats Gustafson. During the Eighties he worked with everyone and dazzled art directors with his sophisticated style.
But since then there have been many others.
Lovisa Burfitt lives in Paris and also works as a fashion designer. She is perhaps the most obvious heir to Mats Gustafson aesthetically with her watercolour-based drawings. But it is an updated aesthetic, reflecting her interest in punk and street fashion. She has worked with Vogue and just made a line of porcelain for Rörstrand, featuring her illustrations.
Living in Milan, Liselotte Watkins works regularly for D, the fashion supplement for Italian newspaper La Repubblica. Her biggest triumph was when Miu Miu chose her illustrations for their Spring/Summer 2008 fashion show, featuring them as patterns on ten different dresses.
Another successful Swedish illustrator is Kristian Russell, currently based in New York. The illustrations could be described as a modern take on psychedelic and has landed him jobs for a variety of Vogues as well as brands such as Nike and Diesel.
From these examples it is easy to see that Swedish fashion illustration isn’t very minimalist at all. Rather it is bursting with colour and pattern clashes, an interesting aside to my previous post about the lack of colour in Swedish fashion.