ACMI: an audience with Fashion on Film curator James Nolen

During Melbourne Fashion Festival, James Nolen will host a panel discussion on the reanaissance of the fashion illustration called ‘Drawing Fashion: Manolo, YSL and the Melbourne Scene’.

With a sense of fun and easy shareability on social media, fashion illustrations can catch the eye of sartorialists and fashion houses on the look out for fresh ideas. The resurgence of the illustration as an artwork and muse is not lost on local talent either, and Nolen has tapped in to that for his panel discussion.

During the talk, the Fashion on Film curator will be joined by Melbourne-based fashion illustrator and educator Angie Réhe whose work has appeared in a host of high end mastheads including Vogue, Elle, Harper’s BAZAAR, L’Officiel, as well as Jimmy Choo and illustrator Katie Geppert who (amongst many things) has been developing some unique works for one of the hottest designers/labels of the moment, Virgil Abloh’s Off-White, and Danielle Whitfield, Curator of Fashion and Textiles at the National Gallery of Victoria.

We banded together with James Nolen to mull over the subjects of this year’s Fashion on Film program, furious sketchers Yves Saint Laurent and Manolo Blahnik, and to ask James what he thinks are the reasons behind the fashion illustration renaissance.

James-Nolen-3.jpg

TGW: Why do you think the renaissance of the fashion illustration has come about?

JN: There is something in the air regarding Fashion Illustration at the moment. I do think social media platforms like Instagram have been important in repopularising this (almost) forgotten form. I think anyone who uses Instagram can’t help but notice the influx of fashion brands embracing the artfulness of the platform and producing some fantastic collaborations.

To see this done really well check out Fei Wang, who recently collaborated with the London houses of Drake’s and Dunhill, producing illustrations that really bring a breath of fresh air to menswear. Other important names include Didier Falzone, Jill Lin from People of Fashion and Andrew Mashanov – all illustrators who are truly revitalising fashion illustration.

Illustrators from around the world who are truly revitalising fashion illustration are Fei Wang, Didier Falzone, Jill Lin from People of Fashion and Andrew Mashanov.

Two Melbourne-based favourites of mine are Angie Réhe (whose work is seen at top) and Katie Geppert. Both are great examples of illustrators who use Instagram as a platform for inspiration and collaboration. I’m lucky to share a stage with them both for the Fashion on Film 2018 panel discussion Drawing Fashion: Manolo, YSL and the Melbourne Scene.

TGW: Are we seeing more fashion illustrations than ever that will never be realised as physical garments?

JN: I actually think it is happening the other way around. Of course, there are creatives like Yves Saint Laurent who was so prolific in his illustrations that it would be impossible to turn them all into physical pieces. Though I think this exchange between illustration and garment is actually a more complicated process, and this process isn’t always linear. We are seeing fashion that already exists re-interpreted through the eyes of great illustrators; and illustrations from the past that are reworked and remade by fashion designers and costume makers. Prolific illustrators like Saint Laurent and Manolo Blanik are being re-visited in film (both included in ACMI’s 2018 Fashion on Film series) and just recently at New York Fashion Week, Marc Jacobs’ line was making heavy reference to the great 80’s designer Tony Viramontes.

We are seeing fashion that already exists re-interpreted through the eyes of great illustrators; and illustrations from the past that are reworked and remade by fashion designers and costume makers.

TGW: Megan Hess is one of our most famous exports in this genre. What is it about her illustrations in particular that have captured the attention of the fashion world?

JN: Megan Hess has really taken the world by storm. Her illustrations capture something special about the fun and joie de vivre of fashion, and her dedication to her art is so clear. It certainly helps that she is exceptionally delightful and charming in person.

TGW: #Trending – More PRs are engaging fashion illustrators to draw on-the-spot portraits of their guests to create theatre at events. a) Have you been captured in your own portrait and b) Why do you think this is popular right now?

JN: I have noticed this! I encountered it first several years ago when I was lucky enough to attend a delightful opening for a shoe store in South Melbourne (Vitorine). Little did I know that an illustrator by the name of Jeff the Peff had captured me. ACMI played with this trend after I invited Jeff to capture some of our fashionable patrons at our previous Fashion on Film season.

I think people love it [fashion illustration] because it is not just a photo on your iPhone. It’s special and it’s a moment captured in time…and it is (generally) rather flattering!

I think people love it because it is not just a photo on your iPhone. It’s special and it’s a moment captured in time. It’s someone looking intensely at you and reinterpreting what you are trying to communicate in your clothing. And it is (generally) rather flattering!

TGW: Does flattery actually make the world go around?

JN: Quite possibly. Just on Sunday I was on the tram and a fellow passenger came up to me to compliment me on my outfit. He rightly said that Australians aren’t really accustomed to that sort of unannounced flattery, though he was from Cuba, where it appears they don’t hesitate. I’m going to return the favour and tell you to check out his amazing style too.

TGW: Illustration is a huge theme for this year’s Fashion on Film program during VAMFF. Yves Saint Laurent would create hundreds in preparation for each collection. What detail do you think can be captured in a hand drawn fashion illustration as opposed to a CAD drawing?

JN: Nuance. You can see with both Yves Saint Laurent and Manolo that their illustrations are so evocative. There is blood pumping though the veins of their illustrations and they make you dream what could be possible. In our upcoming documentary The Drawings of Yves Saint Laurent, Pierre Bergé comments that the way Saint Laurent drew you could see instantly if the piece of clothing was to be reproduced in silk or velvet. CAD drawings are just a little on the cold side. Precise, but cold.

There is blood pumping though the veins of Yves Saint Laurent and Manolo’s illustrations and they make you dream what could be possible.

TGW: Manolo Blahnik has a pencil attached to his bed in case of “somnolent inspiration.” Shouldn’t we all have a pencil attached to our beds instead of smart phones?

JN: I totally agree. It must be something about certain types of people. I believe Winston Churchill did a similar thing and designer Paul Smith proudly talks about his endless night time note taking.

Can you tell us more about your guests appearing with you at the Drawing Fashion: Manolo, YSL, and the Melbourne Scene talk ?

I am so looking forward to chatting to the endlessly fascinating Angie Réhe who combines a fashion design background with illustration and has worked for a few companies you may have heard of including Vogue, Elle, Harpers Bazaar and Jimmy Choo! Joining Angie on the panel is illustrator Katie Geppert and I’m dying to hear more about her recent collaboration with probably one of the hippest brands of the moment – Virgil Abloh’s Off-White.

The ACMI Fashion on Film talk ‘Drawing Fashion: Manolo, YSL, and the Melbourne Scene‘ takes place on 10 March in Melbourne. Click here for tickets.

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