BMW and Escada Sponsor Fashion Illustration Exhibition, Drawing Fashion

Luxury auto-brand BMW and fashion house Escada have come together to sponsor an exhibition comprising a collection of the most impressive drawings and illustrations in the fashion world during the 20th and 21st century. The Drawing Fashion exhibition will be held from November 17, 2010 to March 6, 2011 at the Design Museum in London.


Gerd Grimm, 1949

Illustrations and drawings have always been a way, in fashion, for the designer to visualize his or her creation. Easily recognizable for their silent but implied elegance, these drawings are also undeniably associated with the world of couture. Over time, they have taken on multiple roles. In pre-photography days, they were used as the primary form of advertisement, and in today’s high-technology world, they are often used to set brands apart. What fashion illustration simply is, in other words, is a way in which artwork can be used to envision or encapsulate a product or theme in the fashion industry.

The Drawing Fashion exhibition honors the artists who have, over time, created a unique genre of art, one that has carefully preserved the styles and themes of the era in which it was created. This includes Art Nouveau, Art Deco, Pop Art and more. Drawings from the collections of Chanel, Dior, Comme Des Garçons, Paul Poiret, Viktor & Rolf, and Alexander McQueen include some of the displays. All illustrations in the exhibition are accompanied by projections of the couture pieces they represent, as well as related news-reels, music and photos.


Twiggy by Antonio Lopez for The New York Times magazine, 1965

The collection kicks off with Georges Lepape who, in the 1920s, illustrated classic pieces designed by the legendary forefather of avant garde fashion, Paul Poiret. His style was heavily influenced by the Ballets Russes (Russian ballets), cubist artists such as Picasso and Georges Braque, and early expressionist works by Henri Matisse and Wassily Kandinsky, all responsible for the abundant use of color and themes of splendor. It was the illustrations created for Poiret in 1911, which shot Lepape into fame.


Paul Poiret (evening coat) by Georges Lepape for La Gazette du Bon Ton,
April 1920

The 1940s and 1950s are represented by artists such as Italian-born Parisian René Gruau, whose sensual works brought fashion illustration into its Belle Epoque (golden age), making him the go-to artist for several Haute Couture productions. Raised by a mother who instilled in him the ways of high society, and the values of elegance and sophistication, it is clear to see why his works are rich in subtlety. Entering the world of high fashion via his close friend Christian Dior, Gruau’s name was soon borne on pages of Vogue, International Textiles, Flair, as well upon illustrations for Dior perfumes and designs.


René Gruau for International Textiles, 1946


René Gruau, May 1952


Miss Dior by René Gruau for Parfums Christian Dior, 1983

A key fashion illustrator of the 1960s, ’70s, ‘80s was Nuyorican artist Antonio Lopez, a graduate of the Fashion Institute of Technology, New York. He moved to Paris and turned Pop Art into a trend in the fashion world. His powers as an influencer were not only responsible for much of the look of the ’60s and ’70s (he was close friends with movers and shakers of the fashion world such as Karl Lagerfeld, Paloma Picasso and Andy Warhol), but were also responsible for catapulting emerging models such as Grace Jones, Jerry Hall and Pat Cleveland into stardom.

He is also renowned for introducing ethnic models and an aesthetic of eroticism, muscularity and strength where previously most illustrations had depicted delicate, ethereal women. His works have been on the pages of Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar and WWD, and have also been displayed at the Musée de la Mode at the Louvre, the London Royal College of Art and a plethora of additional museums and venues.

Antonio Lopez for Nordstrom, 1985

Contemporary names in fashion illustration include Mats Gustafson, the Swedish heir to René Gruau, whose minimalist style has graced names such as Chanel, Yohji Yamamoto, Comme des Garçons, Geoffrey Beene, Bergdorf Goodman, Galeries Lafayette, various Vogue editions and The New Yorker.


Mats Gustafson for Comme des Garçons, Vogue Italia, 1997


Mats Gustafson for Tiffany, 2004

Another current artist very worthy of mention is Aurore de la Morinerie, who after her arts education, studied Chinese calligraphy for two years, and then traveled through China, India, Japan and Egypt, thus absorbing influences that would affect the unique nature of her artwork. She has worked for names such as Hermès, Le Monde and Le Printemps. In addition, she has also designed theater sets and costumes, and continues to pursue her fine arts practice on the side.


Aurore de la Morinerie for Hermès


Aurore de la Morinerie for Christian Lacroix

The Drawing Fashion exhibition has been put together by Joelle Chariau of the Galerie Bartsch & Chariau in Germany. The gallery’s two key focuses have always been fashion drawings and classic cartoons of the 19th, 20th and 21st centuries.


François Berthoud for Burberry, Numéro, France, 2003

Further information on the Drawing Fashion exhibition and accompanying events hosted by The Sunday Times can be found here.

Comments are closed.