Before fashion film, there was fashion photography, and before fashion photography, there was fashion illustration. Dazzling the pages of many of fashion's most revered publications, wondrous illustrations adorned the covers (and continued to decorate the inside pages) of Vogue, Harper's Bazaar, Flair, Tatler and many more throughout the first half of the 20th century, proving quite an asset to the quintessential style bible. Having always believed in the power of illustration, primarily when used to communicate a mood or palpable presence, SHOWstudio have long been inviting fashion's most talented illustrators, on and under the radar, to offer their unique talent in interpreting the latest season's collections.
For the New York fashion shows which have just come to a close, we invited celebrated illustrator Zhenya Z to reimagine her favourite shows, choosing to illustrate looks from Moschino, Carolina Herrera, Michael Kors, Peter Do and Colina Strada, Zhenya Z immortalised each brands' offering into mesmerising pieces of art that dazzled, fascinated and bewildered anyone who came across them.
Specialising in lustrous close-ups, soft and luminous in appearance, Zhenya's signature aesthetic is characterised through her neat, elegant lines, working with colours so bright, the illustrator undoubtedly captures her subjects' spirits with divine attention each time. Intrigued by her unique style and excessive use of negative space when illustrating, Christina Donoghue wanted to find out more about the fashion illustrator at hand, choosing to ask her questions on her illustrative style, inspiration and working process.
Christina Donoghue: How would you describe your illustrative style?
Zhenya Z: I always focus on the face (especially the eyes) and then I add lines and elements that visually build the illusion of the whole image. If I was to sum up my style in terms of art movement, i'd say it's a combination of realism and abstract artwork.
CD: Have you always wanted to be an illustrator?
ZZ: Not from the very beginning. I've always known i've loved to draw. A fashion illustration is something that resonates in my inner world and always has done. I used to work as an architect, but then there came a moment when I realised that I wanted to use my life for what I love to do, hence came the fashion illustration...
CD: Can you talk a bit about your artistic process?
ZZ: The first step is to search for ideas. I am inspired by fashion shows and models' faces primarily; then I make a sketch and think about the background colour that I will use for the illustration. I use pastel for my works, because it is a very lively material, but I never limit myself to just this, I can use pencils, markers or digital graphics and more. The most difficult thing is to create a photo of the work, because it is difficult to convey the colour of the paper; then I make small settings in the graphic editor for publishing on the internet.
CD: Do you go back and add to your works often? Or are you someone who knows when an illustration/piece of work is completely finished...
ZZ: That's a good question. I never thought about it. I don't think how I should finish the illustrations, it happens organically so I suppose you can say I always know when i'm finished, even if that though is subconscious.
CD: A lot of your works make use of the negative space... is this always something you've done when drawing, or was it a style of yours that developed over time?
ZZ: I think that the style is plastic in time. I started consciously using negative space a few years ago. I like the idea that you can create the illusion of a whole image through lines, negative space, light and shadow.
CD: What relevance do you think illustration has in today's world?
ZZ: I don't think about it because different groups of people value different things. Although I can say for sure that Illustration and fashion illustration are both constantly developing, especially with new technological innovations. People will always draw, because it is as necessary as food, breath and water. A creative person needs self-realisation.
CD: Any illustrators you particularly look up to? Dead or alive?
ZZ: I find inspiration from other illustrators, but I don't want to be a copy of another illustrator, so I try to focus as much as possible on my work when I draw and my own style.