‘Drawing Fashion’ at The Design Museum

Illustration is the oldest form of media used to communicate ideas of fashion to the world; a form that served a particular important purpose at the turn of the twentieth century. The cutting edge photographic covers of Vogue, Harpers Bazaar and Elle that we see on the news-stands today were once whimsical illustrative creations depicting the latest trends, designs and styles by world class couturiers. As with the introduction of any new technology, photography soon replaced illustration and its necessity to communicate fashion soon diminished. The art of drawing fashion is still taught and practised today but regrettably does not always receive the large recognition it deserves.

The recently opened ‘Drawing Fashion’ exhibition hosted by The Design Museum, London, presents for the very first time an extensive collection of fashion illustrations ranging from 1910 to present, through an array of framed art work as well as video show reels which demonstrates the creative process of producing a classic fashion drawing. The collection, which took over thirty years to gather and collate, includes over 150 master pieces by world renowned twentieth century artists including Lepape, Gruau and Antonio, as well as those who continue the craft today, such as Mats Gustafson and Francois Berthoud.

The exhibition launched two Wednesdays ago with appearances from fashion industry faces including Vogue's Ella Alexander, legendary fashion writer and curator of 'Drawing Fashion', Colin McDowell (who generously gave VFS Director, John Walford, a signed copy of the exhibition's book), as well as our very own VFS designers, Eudon Choi and David Longshaw. "It's a fantastic exhibition, beautiful curated in a great setting." David told us after attending the launch party. "Getting to see the originals, being able to properly study them and look at their techniques (after seeing them in old Vogues and fashion history books) is massively inspiring." And of course David's date for the night, Maude the Mouse, had a thing or two to say on the matter as well: 

"Where were the f**#ing illustrations of me!!! Other than that massive oversigh, it was a gorgeous exhibition of  iconic imagery. A must see for any one interested in fashion: From students to seasoned practitioners we can all learn something from this exhibition... The booze was good aswell (great work with the sponsorship) Doris was  pissed after two minutes of arrival!"
David Longshaw's Maude in the ‘Drawing Fashion’ exhibition

I've often thought that the drawing of fashion is both a skill and a talent that should never be forgotten or dismissed (although with the world's constant demand for a digital and technological lifestyle, it does certainly look like it can go that way...) Longshaw couldn't help but agree: "Fashion illustration is an art form often neglected by galleries and under appreciated by the art and design world; this exhibition shows how incredible an art form it can be..." However, as was its purpose in the early twentieth century and that used by the design houses of Poiret, Chanel and Dior, many designers of today still use the traditional technique, whilst some style publications have too in recent years begun to embrace the illustrative form once again. This is documented in the exhibition’s ‘Fashion Drawing For The Future’ section through a display of Gustafson’s work for Chinese Vogue’s May 2010 issue as well as an introduction to fashion illustration of the future…

Our very own fashion illustrator (and i-D's 'top ten illustrators of the future') Kelly Anna, and myself pose with our favourite fashion drawings...
The exhibition runs until 6th March 2011 at The Design Museum, London SE1 2YD. Please check their website for more details...

Sarah Barlow