Our fans and subscribers LOVE to hear what our esteemed instructors are up to these days and if you’ve been reading this blog for the past month, then you know that some of our instructors are newly minted entrepreneurs: our menswear instructor, Rishabh Manocha and our swimwear instructor, Jessica Krupa, each have launched their flourishing new businesses.
This week, we’d like to put the spotlight on Ruchira Amare, an amazing talent who manages to combine her artistic talents with her technical fashion design skills. And, she too has launched her brand.
Ruchira was born and raised in Mumbai and is a life-long learner. Although she earned a bachelor’s degree in technology and communication engineering at the University of Mumbai, Ruchira, who has always been interested in the arts, listened to her heart, and pursued individual study with famous Mumbai artists, photography at the National Institute of Photography Mumbai and eventually moved to New York to study fashion design. She earned a bachelor’s degree at Parsons the New School for Design and has worked under fashion designers Donna Karan, Laura Smalls and Peter Speliopoulous.
Live model fashion illustration by Ruchira Amare, aka Y.R. Egon (Image courtesy: Ruchira Amare)
Ruchira is a modern-day polymath. She is just as comfortable using her engineering skills to draft and sew tailored jackets as she is with a paint brush in her hand. As a fine artist, Ruchira’s work has been exhibited in Manhattan at the Dacia Gallery, The Leo House and Space 776. In Brooklyn her artwork has been exhibited at Established Gallery and the Greenpoint Gallery, and her photography at 440 Gallery. Her work was also featured at the Rochester Contemporary Art Centre in Rochester, New York, in Laguna Beach at Six Summit Gallery and online at the Colors of Humanity gallery.
Collage by Ruchira Amare – watercolor on paper with newspaper print entitled: Girl with Yellow Glasses (Image courtesy: Ruchira Amare)
Ruchira’s fashion illustrations have been featured during New York Fashion Week and her work was chosen as part of The New School Alumni Bookshelf 2022, a highly curated list of works by their most notable alum.
Fashion illustration by Ruchira Amare (AKA Y.R. Egon) exhibited during NYFW Art Hearts Fashion event at Angel Orensanz Church. (Image courtesy: Ruchira Amare)
In 2021, Ruchira continued her studies at the New York Academy of Art and the School of Visual Arts. She also explored block printing in India, using plant-based natural dyes from turmeric, dogwood and indigo. Ruchira’s new business venture combines age old block printing techniques, with contemporary motifs from her paintings, to create a fresh take on sustainable fashion.
Ruchira’s Indian block-printing using plant-based natural dyes. (Image courtesy: Ruchira Amare)
Block-printed fashion designs using sustainable dyes inspired by Ruchira’s artwork. (Image courtesy: Ruchira Amare)
Ruchira’s mission is to lead a happy life and be able to share her craft with the world, We wish Ruchira much success in all of her endeavours and especially with her new block printing sustainable clothing venture!
Karl Lagerfeld Sketches His Life video (Video Link: You Tube)
In honor of the upcoming MET exhibit entitled “Karl Lagerfeld: A Line of Beauty,” we would like to celebrate Lagerfeld’s work as an accomplished fashion illustrator, as well as a prolific fashion designer. It is a common myth that all fashion designers are able to conceptualize their fashion designs via fashion illustration. The truth is that very few designers know how to ‘illustrate‘. It is much more common for designers to execute a quick fashion ‘sketch‘ to get their design idea across.
Another misconception is that all fashion illustrators can ‘design’. Well, just because one can illustrate fashion doesn’t mean that they can also design fashion. In fact, it is quite rare when a fashion designer can do both. As many of our subscribers know, there are other skills including draping, pattern making and sewing that should be honed to become a successful designer.
Therefore, in lieu of the upcoming MET show, this week’s blog post will highlight Lagerfeld’s work as both a designer and illustrator. And, since we just celebrated World Creativity Day on April 20th, we will also be highlighting other famous designers/illustrators whose illustrations are fast becoming collector’s items, that are either sold at auction houses or on their websites for thousands of dollars.
KARL LAGERFELD: THE ILLUSTRATOR
The upcoming Lagerfeld MET exhibit, which runs from May 5 to July 16, is expected to draw fashion enthusiasts and industry insiders from around the world eager to experience the life and work of one of fashion’s most influential designers. It will feature Lagerfeld’s most iconic designs, including his re-imagined Chanel jackets, Fendi fur pieces and his signature accessories. The exhibit will also include a variety of personal items belonging to Lagerfeld, such as his sketchbooks, personal correspondence and photographs. This is definitely a designers’s dream show come true!
Karl Lagerfeld and his treasured cat Choupette in Paris 2018. (Photo Credit: Annie Leibovitz for Vogue)
Throughout his career, Lagerfeld created a wealth of fashion illustrations that captured the essence of his designs and his unique creative vision. His illustrations were often used to promote his collections and even today, they continue to inspire and captivate fashion enthusiasts.
In Lagerfeld’s early illustration work, you can see that he had a much tighter hand as shown in the images below that he did for the House of Tiziani before he joined Chanel in 1983. His illustrations were characterized by their bold, graphic style and attention to detail. Over time however, Lagerfeld’s hand became looser and less rigid and therefore was able to capture the movement and flow of fabrics, often highly stylized, with exaggerated proportions and abstracted shapes. Despite their abstract nature, Lagerfeld’s illustrations always conveyed a sense of elegance and sophistication.
Four of the fashion illustrations by Karl Lagerfeld auctioned on April 18, 2019 (Image Credit wwd.com)
Whether Lagerfeld was illustrating a Chanel jacket or a Fendi gown, he always managed to convey the unique character and style of each piece. Used as promotional materials, Lagerfeld’s illustrations helped build anticipation and excitement for each of his upcoming shows.
Illustration of Chanel coat, fall 2017. (Courtesy of The Metropolitan Museum of Art)
Lagerfeld’s work was also a reflection of his larger creative vision. He was known for his love of art, literature and culture, and his illustrations often incorporated elements from these fields. For example, he frequently incorporated references to classical art, such as Greek statues, Renaissance paintings or iconic monuments such as the Statue of Liberty. These references added an extra layer of depth and meaning to his work and helped to establish Lagerfeld as a true visionary in the fashion industry.
Lagerfeld’s illustration – Anna Piaggi for Liberty of Fashion, Barney’s New York 1986 (Image Credit: 1stDibs.com)
The work of some fashion designers and fashion illustrators are now highly collectable and are sold on websites like 1stDibs.com, iCanvas.com and Artsy.net or in auction houses around the world.
A Karl Lagerfeld illustration circa 1960-1970: original yellow and white coat colored pencil fashion sketch – 10k Appraisal Includes a Certificate of Authenticity – sold for US$6,950 (Photo Credit: artsy.net)
In addition to illustrating his collections, Lagerfeld also created a number of illustrations for other purposes, such as books, magazines and even a calendar, showcasing his diverse talents and his ability to adapt his style to different contexts. Lagerfeld’s illustrations were always imbued with his signature style and creativity, making them instantly recognizable as his own.
A Chanel illustration for Lady Gaga created by Karl Lagerfeld. (Photo Credit: Facebook.com)
KARL LAGERFELD: THE DESIGNER
The MET’s Lagerfeld exhibit will consist of approximately 150 designs and according to the MET, it will “explore the artistic methodology and stylistic vocabulary of Karl Lagerfeld’s designs through recurring themes across more than 65 years, from the 1950s to his final collection in 2019”. The Costume Institute Benefit (also known as The Met Gala) will take place on Monday, May 1, 2023.
In addition to showcasing Lagerfeld’s designs, the exhibit will explore the designer’s life and legacy. Lagerfeld was known for his larger-than-life personality, his love of art and literature, and his tireless work ethic. The exhibit will delve into Lagerfeld’s background, including his early life in Germany and his rise to fame in the fashion industry. Visitors will gain insight into Lagerfeld’s creative process, his inspirations, and his collaborations with other artists and designers.
One of the most exciting aspects of the exhibit is the opportunity to see Lagerfeld’s designs up close and personal. Visitors will be able to study the intricate details and craftsmanship that went into creating each piece. From the impeccable tailoring of his jackets to the intricate embroidery on his gowns, Lagerfeld’s designs are a testament to his skill as a designer. Here’s a sample of what will be featured in the exhibition:
Wedding dress by Chanel Haute Couture from the Fall 2005 Collection. (Photo Credit: Julia Hetta. Courtesy of the MET)
A Fendi coat from the fall 2000 Collection. (Photo Credit: Julia Hetta for the MET)
The exhibit will also feature interactive elements, including virtual reality experiences and interactive displays. Visitors will be able to explore Lagerfeld’s designs in a variety of ways, from 3D projections to virtual runway shows. The exhibit will provide a truly immersive experience, giving visitors a chance to step into Lagerfeld’s world and see the fashion industry through his eyes.
KARL LAGERFELD’S INFLUENCE IS STILL FELT TODAY
A vintage photo of Karl Lagerfeld. (Photo Credit Getty Images)
Lagerfeld served as the creative director for Chanel for over three decades, before his passing on February 19, 2019.
Perhaps one of Lagerfeld’s greatest contributions to fashion was his ability to keep Chanel relevant. When he took over as creative director in 1983, the brand was struggling to remain fresh. However, Lagerfeld breathed new life into the heritage brand, infusing it with his own unique style and vision. He was unafraid to take risks and experiment with new ideas, while still remaining true to the brand’s classic aesthetic.
Lagerfeld’s re-invention of the Chanel jacket, which he introduced in the 1980s, was a modern update of the classic silhouette. The jacket became an instant classic and remains a staple of the Chanel collection, in various iterations, today. Although he is no longer with us, Lagerfeld’s influence on fashion will continue to be felt for years to come.
Some of Karl Lagerfeld’s best moments at Chanel. (Photo Credit: Harper’s Bazaar)
OTHER GREAT FASHION DESIGNERS/ILLUSTRATORS
Most designers working in the fashion industry today have little time to sit down and illustrate their ideas. Most execute quick, rough sketches that they hand off to their assistant or to their pattern maker. But there are fashion designers who prefer to illustrate their creations and who possess a special talent that enables them to better communicate their vision in a unique and creative way. Most designers will hire a professional fashion illustrator to showcase their work for press purposes, for example, the illustration below is by fashion illustrator Janka Letková for Marc Jacobs. See the illustrator’s signature in small script along the vertical sash.
Fashion illustrator Janka Letková for Marc Jacobs (Image Credit: iCanvas.com)
Other designers are more inclined to promote their work using their own unique style of illustration. Here a a few of the talented fashion designers who illustrate their own creations.
DIOR’S MARIA GRAZIA CHIURI
Maria Grazia Chiuri, the creative director for Dior, creates exquisite illustrations that are characterized by their romantic, ethereal quality. Her illustrations showcase the details and exquisite craftsmanship of her designs which adds an extra layer of depth and meaning to her work.
Dior’s Maria Grazia Chiuri fashion illustration for recording artist Georgia for her 2019 tour (Image Credit: fashion press.it.com)
French fashion designer Christian Lacroix is also known for his illustration skills, which are characterized by their whimsical, and fantastical style. Lacroix’s illustrations often incorporate elements from art history, such as Rococo motifs and Baroque ornamentation. His illustrations showcase his unique creative vision and his ability to blend different styles and influences into his designs.
Fashion Illustrations by Christian Lacroix (Image Credit: Pinterest.com)
Alber Elbaz, the former creative director of Lanvin who sadly passed away on April 24, 2021, was known for his playful and cartoonish style. His illustrations often featured exaggerated proportions with bright, bold colors and were used to promote his collections. His illustrations were considered artwork in their own right.
A fashion illustration by Alber Elbaz for Lanvin (Image Credit: Pinterest.com)
Christian Siriano is a designer who has built a successful career by creating clothing that celebrates diversity and inclusivity. He is also an accomplished illustrator whose illustrations are playful, yet with a sense of drama and impact. Siriano is one of the designers who sells his limited-edition illustrations, ranging from $75-$1,200, on his website ChristianSiriano.com.
Christian Siriano showing his limited edition fashion illustrations (Photo Credit: ChristianSiriano.com)
Jean-Paul Gaultier is a designer known for his daring, unconventional designs. He is also an accomplished illustrator. Gaultier’s illustrations often feature precise, graphic lines, like the one below that he did for Madonna’s MDNA 2012 tour.
Fashion illustration by Jean Paul Gaultier for Madonna’s MDNA Tour 2012
With the advent of computer-assisted design, fashion illustration has become a luxury for most fashion designers these days. However, at UoF we still promote hand drawn fashion through our Fashion Art discipline consisting of 27 Beginner, 39 Intermediate and 17 Advanced lessons. We teach how to draw, render and illustrate fashion design and accessories and so it’s no wonder that we are head-over-heels excited to see the Lagerfeld show at the MET. Viva La Fashion Illustration! Viva Lagerfeld!
SO TELL US, DO YOU KNOW OF OTHER FASHION DESIGNERS THAT CAN ILLUSTRATE?
UoF Instructor Robyn Smith (Photo credit: Robyn Smith)
Join us in welcoming our newest instructor, Robyn Smith. Robyn is a talented fashion designer, illustrator, and visual artist that hails from Baltimore Maryland. Her love for designing was inspired by her older sister who would design prom gowns for her classmates. From the early age of nine, Robyn developed an eye for fashion and knew that she wanted to pursue a career in design.
After high school graduation Robyn moved to New York City and attended Parsons School of Design. While at Parsons she achieved several accomplishments: winning the Zack Carr fashion designer award, winning the Jasco Fabrics design competition, an internship competition with the Gap and interning with fashion designer Peter Som.
From college, Robyn went on to design for the House of Deréon in 2005 and traveled to Hong Kong and Mainland China where she participated in sample fittings, sourced fabrics, and developed new designs to incorporate into the line. After designing for House of Deréon, Robyn transitioned to a fourteen-year career as a menswear ‘cut and sew’ knit designer for American Rag, Macy’s private label young men’s brand and later became CAD Director for Macy’s, Inc.
Robyn’s positions as a designer and design director not only provided her with an opportunity to travel the world for production purposes, but also to conduct trend analysis and market research in Hong Kong, Taiwan, Japan, Korea, London, Amsterdam, Berlin, and L.A.
Fashion illustration (Image courtesy Robyn Smith)
In addition to Robyn’s design career, she is also a famous fashion illustrator and visual artist. Her fashion Illustrations were featured in the book entitled ‘Fashion Illustration’ by Chai Xiuming and Lu Haoyan, and in 2021, Robyn designed a beautiful plus size collection called ‘Robyn Nichole’ in collaboration with the fast fashion brand Shein.
Plus size fashion illustration (Image courtesy Robyn Smith)
In addition to designing fashion, Robyn participated in the Ace Hotel’s 2021 group art show entitled ‘Ours’, where her work was featured in their hotel gallery space with proceeds used to benefit the Teen Art Salon (TAS), a 501c3 non-profit organization in Long Island City that supports, develops, and promotes adolescent artists, and demystifies the process of starting a career as an artist.
Illustrations courtesy Robyn Smith
As every seasoned designer knows, pulling inspiration from the Visual Arts helps you to develop a new thinking process when approaching your fashion illustrations, thus creating a more distinctive portfolio. In Robyn’s first lesson for UoF, Creating a Menswear Fashion Illustration inspired by Visual Arts, she will teach you how to find inspiration from an art museum resource and, by focusing on the details, shapes, and colors found in the image, create a unique fashion design and illustration.
This advanced lesson will teach you how to create an illustration using a pencil, gouache, brushes, and markers. And, you’ll learn how to draw and paint eyewear, create hair textures, and how to use your inspirational images to make a design within your illustration.
(Preview of Robyn Smith’s first UoF lesson: Creating a Menswear Illustration Inspired by Visual Arts)
Stay tuned for more lessons by Robyn for UoF. In the meantime, follow Robyn and her work at:
Learning how to work with cascade ruffles opens up endless design possibilities that will let your imagination run wild. In this lesson, Fiona Liu demonstrates how to draft circular fabric pieces and then how to apply them onto a sheath dress foundation, which will be sure to inspire you. This design detail is great for creating dramatic eveningwear pieces that are quite easy to achieve.
Whether you choose to create your ruffles out of a crisp or stiff fabric like silk gazar, organdy, taffeta or voile, or you opt for soft cascading ruffles using a silk charmeuse, georgette, chiffon or crepe, you will have fun experimenting with this pattern making technique.
Image credit: Fiona Liu University of Fashion
Fiona has taught more than 13 lessons for the UoF that include pattern making, draping and zero-waste design. Here’s a sample of her many talents:
It has long been debated whether fashion illustration should be considered art. Through the decades, the value and appreciation of fashion illustration has risen and fallen with societal shifts. However, according to fashion curator Connie Gray of London’s Gray M.C.A. gallery, “there seems to be a heightened interest with anything that is associated with the great designers, particularly of the 20th century like Dior, Balenciaga or Chanel in Europe, or in America, anyone from Donna Karan, to Bill Blass, to Halston,” as reported by WWD. (read our February 7th blog).
In that same article, Gray proclaimed that she “expects American fashion illustrators from the latter half of the 20th century to be the next group to begin to increase their prices. At the moment, the focus continues to be on work from the Forties, Fifties and Sixties,” she said, adding that “work by René Gruau could garner anywhere from $10,000 to $50,000.”
A Sotheby’s spokeswoman said “she didn’t think the company has the right specialists to discuss the subject.”
And yet, the work of famed illustrator Antonio Lopez, arguably the most important fashion illustrator of the 20th century, currently commands from $16,100 to nearly $27,000 per illustration, and Kenneth Paul Block’s work has sold in the $12,000 to $15,000 range.
Here at UoF, we not only believe that fashion illustration IS fine art, but we encourage, feature and promote the best fashion illustrators in the industry. It is therefore with great pleasure that I dedicate this blogpost to Roberto Calasanz, who has generously shared his fashion illustration techniques and his many talents with our students in 38 video lessons.
Roberto Calasanz in his studio with his illustration of Valentino S/S 2018 for Amazing Magazine
Left: Valentino Runway Spring/Summer 2018 Right: Illustration by Roberto Calasanz for Amazing Magazine
To all of the aspiring fashion illustrators out there, I thought you might like to hear from Roberto himself on his personal journey into the world of fashion illustration. Enjoy:
Francesca: At what age did you know you wanted to be a fashion illustrator?
Roberto: As far back as I can remember, I knew I wanted to be an artist, a painter, a maker. I would spend hours sketching when I was a kid. The heyday of fashion illustration was the 1980s; there was so much amazing talent out there, and I was influenced by a lot of illustrators. But the one that stood out, who guided my hand and shaped my aesthetic the most, was the Puerto Rican illustrator, Antonio Lopez. By the time I reached my late teens, I started to think seriously about pursuing a career in fine arts and design. I knew that fashion design was a great discipline to develop my skills, so I submitted my portfolio to Altos de Chavon School of Design in the Dominican Republican affiliate of Parsons, here in New York—and the next thing I knew, I had a scholarship and was studying with some of the best artists in the country. And this led to being awarded a grant to finish my studies at Parsons, which is how I ended up in New York, and eventually working as a designer on Seventh Avenue, in the New York Garment District.
(Fashion illustration by Roberto Calasanz)
(Fashion illustration by Roberto Calasanz)
(Fashion illustration by Roberto Calasanz (Méndez) for B & J Fabrics)
Francesca: Who encouraged you to pursue your dream?
Roberto: First my mother, who had an eye for fabrics, and who was an avid reader of fashion magazines—an interest in fashion runs in the family; I come from a long line of tailors on my mother’s side. And once I began my studies at Altos de Chavón, I was surrounded with support from fellow students, and especially from my teachers—one of whom, Julia Santos Salomon, by the way, was a good friend of Antonio Lopez. The school has an amazing collection of Antonio originals, because for several years he would come and teach illustration workshops at the school. In fact, when Antonio passed of AIDS in 1987, the head of the fashion program at the time, James Miller, entrusted me with helping to preserve his personal collection of Antonio’s work. The opportunity to handle these originals was a huge inspiration for me. From there, I was rewarded a subsequent grant to finish my studies at Parsons in New York. And I’ve been here pretty much ever since!
(Fashion illustration by Roberto Calasanz)
Francesca: You worked for many fashion houses, which one gave you the most creative freedom?
Roberto: I got my first job as an illustrator when I was still a student at Parsons. Roberta Freymann hired me to render her legendary knitwear, those novelty sweaters with all that cable work, ribs, pom poms, and intricate stitch patterns. So that was a challenge! Over the years, I worked for designers across the board, like Randy Kemper, Nili Lotan, Harvé Benard, Ralph Lauren RLX, Calvin Klein, Liz Claiborne, and Rogelio Velasco Couture—but I’ve also illustrated interiors, linens, and home décor for companies like Donghia and Waterford Beds. Collaborating with different designers is always a learning experience— I love the challenge of capturing a designer’s personal vision in a medium such as marker or gouache. This is best achieved when the signature style of the illustrator—silhouette, line, gesture, technique—resonates with the particular attitude and mood that the designer envisions. At RLX, for example the mood was rugged outdoors, but the challenge was to infuse the low-tech lumberjack look with high-tech finishes and forward-thinking design.
(Roberto Calasanz for Ralph Lauren RLX)
(Roberto Calasanz for Calvin Klein)
(Roberto Calasanz for Calvin Klein)
(Fashion illustration by Roberto Calasanz for Rogelio Velasco Couture)
Francesca: What advice do you have for aspiring fashion illustrators?
Roberto: The advice I offer my students and young designer/illustrators I mentor, is that fashion illustration is a language, and to become fluent in this language requires training. You need to train not only your hand, but also your eye and your mind. Refining your hand, line, technical skill takes practice, and as an illustrator you will be expected to render any fabric and to capture its unique properties. Each fabric embodies its own particular movement, qualities and character, whether it’s stiff like silk taffeta, or liquid, like silk charmeuse. In the beginning it is helpful to practice by imitating the work of other illustrators or artists that inspire you. Which is why I believe it is essential to simultaneously train your eye by familiarizing yourself with a wide range of artists, designers and illustrators, to know and be inspired by what has been done, as well as to be on the pulse of what is being done in the field right now. Knowledge of the history of fashion and aesthetic developments in the world of art trains your mind and prepares you to develop a unique and refined personal style.
Left: Valentino S/S 2018 Runway Right: Fashion Illustration by Roberto Calasanz for Amazing Magazine
Fashion Illustration by Roberto Calasanz of Valentino S/S 2018 Collection for Amazing Magazine
Fashion illustration by Roberto Calasanz of Rick Owens F/W 2018 Collection for Amazing Magazine
Fashion illustration by Roberto Calasanz of Rick Owens 2018 Collection for Amazing Magazine
Fashion illustration by Roberto Calasanz of Rick Owens F/W 2018 Collection for Amazing Magazine
(Fashion line sketches by Roberto Calasanz)
(Roberto Calasanz illustrations for Norman Norell)
University of Fashion’s mission, from day one, has always been, ‘to preserve the art and craft of fashion design.’ In fact, since the company’s founding in 2008 our tagline has never changed, “Master Design One Step at a Time.” Sure, we’ve added computer-generated fashion art and computerized pattern making lessons over the years, but at our core, we’re all about promoting a strong foundation, both ‘on-the-table’ pattern making and in ‘hand-drawn art’ before we recommend moving to anything computer-generated.
In this blogpost, we’d like to celebrate fashion illustration and its continued contribution to the world of fashion. We are extremely proud to share that our founder, Francesca Sterlacci, who owned and operated her eponymous brand in the 1980s, was lucky enough to have her work illustrated by THE most prolific WWD illustrators in what is now known as the ‘Golden Age of Fashion Illustration’ (1960s to the early 1990s).
As you admire the work of these illustrators, we’d like you to pay particular attention to the individual illustrative style of each and join us in celebrating their individual and unique talents.
University of Fashion
You can only imagine how over-the-moon excited we were when Women’s Wear Daily recently dedicated a week to the most prolific fashion illustrators who brought fashion to life on their pages before they replaced illustration with photography in the early 1990s. Although WWD incorporated fashion illustration from its inception in 1910, it was the 60s thru the early 90s that best describes the paper’s Golden Era of Illustration. WWD provided a showcase for some of the best illustrators in the fashion business and this blogpost is dedicated to those wonderful artists. Included in this group: Kenneth Paul Block, Antonio Lopez, Joe Eula, Richard Rosenfeld, Steven Stipelman, Robert Melendez, Robert Passantino, Glenn Tunstull, Kichisaburro Ogawa, Charles Boone, Steven Meisel and Catherine Clayton Purnell.
Kenneth Paul Block
(Image credit: Kenneth Paul Block illustration of a lace bodysuit and silk organza pants by Francesca Sterlacci-WWD 1988)
As a designer in the 1980s, having your designs chosen for WWD’s Best of New York issue was always a big deal, no matter how many times you were lucky enough to be included. And, if your work was illustrated by Kenneth Paul Block, well, that was an even bigger deal!
By far, Kenneth Paul Block (1925-2009) was the undisputed star of WWD’s roster of fashion illustrators. From all accounts, he was in a league of his own. Joining the paper in the 50s, Block’s legacy lasted into the early 90s when the illustration department at WWD was unceremoniously disbanded to make way for photography. Block’s style was uncomplicated, modern and fresh. A master of the graceful gesture, his style was a complete departure from the rigid illustrative style popularized in the 1940s.
(Image credit: archival image from 1940s illustrations)
According to WWD, Block was “known for his well turned-out, gentlemanly style, with his Dorian Gray-like youthfulness, Block dressed impeccably, favoring an ascot, fresh-pressed shirt, pinpoint perfect jackets and cigarette holders for his workdays at the easel. The artist, who died at age 84 in 2009, spent nearly four decades working at Women’s Wear Daily.”
Towards the end of his life, Block was very concerned that his body of work
be kept together and therefore gave approximately 1,700 drawings to the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston. His work is also a part of the Frances Neady collection at the Fashion Institute of Technology which contains over 300 illustrations by the most prominent 20th-century illustrators. The Frances Neady collection is named for an inspiring and dedicated teacher of fashion illustration, who served on the faculties of FIT and Parsons for 40 years.
Upon his death, the Kenneth Paul Block Foundation was established and is devoted to collecting, preserving, exhibiting and interpreting the wealth of Kenneth Paul Block’s art, in order to highlight his contributions to the art form.
(Image credit: Robert Young illustration of a tiger print top and skirt by Francesca Sterlacci-WWD 1985)
Another favorite among New York designers was Robert Young. His style always brought out the best in your design. Today, Robert Young is an Assistant Professor of Illustration at Pennsylvania College of Art & Design in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. As is the case with most artists, Robert Young’s style and breadth of work has expanded with the times.
(Image credit: Robert Passantino illustration of a peplum blouse and pleated skirt by Francesca Sterlacci-WWD 1987)
As a fashion illustrator, Robert Passantino knew the value of actually learning the basics of clothing design and construction and how that would benefit his career when he started his career at Pratt Institute. He would later take illustration classes under Steven Stipelman at the Fashion Institute of Technology, who later would recommend him for a position at WWD in 1969.
In the recent article, Passantino told WWD “I developed my style on the job. It was a fashion art boot camp. As an artist, the more you work on your art, the better you become.”
(Image credit: Charles Boone illustration of a suede pants and leather tube top by Francesca Sterlacci-WWD 1987)
(Image credit: Kichisaburo Ogawa illustration of a wool doubleknit dress and wide cinch belt by Francesca Sterlacci-WWD 1987)
Three days after graduating from FIT, Kichisaburo Ogawa went to work for WWD where he would spend the next 31 years illustrating fashion both at the paper and for numerous international magazines. In discussing what it was like to be an illustrator at WWD in those days Ogawa said, “Depending on the assignment, work was either due by the 2 p.m. deadline or the 6 p.m. deadline. After the daily editorial meeting, an editor would provide a designer’s sketch to draw from and the work would be due that same day. On some occasions the illustrator would be given a few extra days contingent on the article or the subject matter. A cosmetics cover, for example, was used for supplements, which allowed for more leeway with a longer deadline. Most of the time we had to finish within a few hours.” He also claimed that “You had to create your individual style. Otherwise, they would think, ‘Why are you doing the same type of illustration? You don’t need to work here.”
Later in his career Ogawa connected with another WWD fashion illustrator, Richard Rosenfeld, who was his office mate when they both taught at FIT. Today, Ogawa is an assistant professor at Parsons.
(Image credit: Steven Meisel illustration of a leather T-shirt by Francesca Sterlacci-WWD 1982)
Steven Meisel started out as a WWD fashion illustrator in the 80s but made the move to photography when he saw a shift away from illustration coming. In fact, famed fashion illustrator Bil Donovan took an illustration class at Parsons taught by Meisel in the Eighties right before Meisel embarked on his very successful photography career.
(Image credit: Bil Donovan illustration of a leather coat trimmed in tapestry by Francesca Sterlacci for Siena- 1991)
Catherine Clayton Purnell
(Image credit: Catherine Clayton Purnell illustration of a metallic leather trimmed linen shirt paired with a leather skirt by Francesca Sterlacci WWD 1985)
One of only a handful of females in a sea of male fashion illustrators at WWD, Purnell was most known for her colorful fantasy-filled intimate, children’s and swimwear illustrations in the 80s.
(Image credit: Catherine Clayton Purnell from the book WWD Illustrated: 1960s-1990s by Michele Wessen Bryant)
(Image credit: Steven Stipelman illustration of draped back blouse and leather skirt by Francesca Sterlacci 1985)
With a passion for illustration that began at Music & Art high school in Manhattan and continued awhile a student at FIT, Stipelmen would land a plumb job alongside Kenneth Paul Block at WWD in 1965. While most artists at WWD worked from a designer’s sketch when illustrating for the paper, Block and Stipelman would mostly work from live models and were sent to Paris to draw from the runways. Today, Steven Stipelman is a full professor at FIT.
(Image credit: Richard Rosenfeld for WWD)
(Image credit: Richard Rosenfeld)
While UoF founder Francesca never had the honor of having Richard Rosenfeld sketch her designs during his tenure at WWD, we are fortunate in that he is one of our very own instructors on the UoF site, Congratulations to Richard for being included among this elite WWD group.
Richard Rosenfeld found his way to WWD as a student at Parsons in 1967. His illustration style has always been contemporary, graphic and modern and is most famous for his beauty and bridal illustrations. His illustrations often made the gowns more beautiful than they actually were in real life!
(Image credit: Richard Rosenfeld for WWD)
Today, Richard focuses on portraits and male figurative art and exhibits his work at the Leslie-Lohman Museum of Art in New York’s SoHo neighborhood, which showcases gay, transsexual and lesbian art. According to Richard, the art featured at the gallery is “political, it’s photography — it’s all of that.”
(Image credit: Richard Rosenfeld)
Can Fashion Illustration Make a Comeback?
At the onset of the pandemic in March 2020, art and photo teams at WWD had to rely heavily on illustration and collages to cover fashion, as New York City went into lockdown and shoots were impossible to schedule. A small glimmer of hope for the fans of fashion illustration?
At University of Fashion, we are ardent supporters of helping keep fashion illustration alive, which is why we have recruited some of the best illustrators in the business, Richard Rosenfeld, Steven Broadway and Roberto Calasanz. These extremely talented artists have generously shared their secrets by allowing us to film their art and skill in action. Watch as they bring a 2D sketch to life. It’s pure joy!
And so, to all of you aspiring fashion designers out there who love to illustrate, don’t let the digital age get you down, keep on perfecting your craft. Remember, practice makes perfect!
Let us know, do you have a favorite fashion illustrator?
Often in fashion, we look for our tribe. We are drawn to those with a similar aesthetic, admire those with successful businesses and established clientele and seek out those who share the same philosophy on design and production. This week, I get to tell a bit of a fashion fairy tale as I share the story of two talented artists and makers, Roberto Calasanz and Judy Kaye. Read More