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 S/S 23 Paris menswear shows, SHOWstudio and Nick Knight tasked illustrator Dahren Davey to capture all the energy felt across the six day schedule. With his signature electrifying colour palette, and shading that creates emotional depth, Davey's abstract portraits embody the excitement, sorrow, and intensity felt from Marine Serre and Loewe, to Givenchy and Dries Van Noten. The artist extraordinaire has created a series that captures the breadth of emotions felt on the catwalk.
Inspired by individual aesthetics, Davey chose looks based on the imaginative worlds of young talent’s like Kidill and EGONlab. His use of colour that bleeds on the page lends itself to the energetic creations from the future of fashions most exciting talents. Over email, Davey delves into his creative process, influences, and how he chooses his signature electrifying hues with SHOWstudio’s Joshua Graham.
Joshua Graham: How would you describe your illustrative style in three words?
Dahren Davey: Oh blimey, that’s almost impossible. Maybe, ‘Mixed-up moody faces’.
JG: Where do you find your inspirations?
DD: Everywhere really; Art, film, music, magazines, clothes, people, nature and conversation.
JG: Can you talk a bit about your artistic process?
DD: I find faces that I want to draw. I then begin to draw with very little plan with regards to how it will look in the end. I just start and reassess what it looks like as it comes along. I change gear often. I work carefully at times and intuitively, without much care at others. I like mistakes. I enjoy the ‘correction’ of those mistakes. If I manage to create a new mark during the process then I feel good about it. When I feel that it looks ok, I’m done.
JG: Your colour palette is distinctly vibrant. How do you decide which colour to start with?
DD: I don’t. I more or less blindly reach for any colour to begin with. I might think ‘this part needs to be lighter’ or ‘this needs to be darker than this’ honestly, that’s about it. It kind of just happens in the moment.
JG: Who are the illustrators that inspire you?
DD: I’m influenced by everyone. I think every artist is influenced by everything they see. It's basically what we feed ourselves with. It isn’t a conscious thing in my case. I guess everything I like is there somewhere, but to me I can’t pinpoint any aspect of it that is influenced by a specific artist. I am influenced by what I dislike as well. I know I don’t want to create work that sits comfortably amongst the crowd. That’s probably more interesting to me. It’s fun to find something that you don’t like and make it into something that you do. I think everything in our lives becomes an unconscious influence one way or the other.
JG: How did you choose which brands/looks you wanted to illustrate?
DD: I choose the face initially. I like faces, what can I say? I’ve worked in fashion for years so I know who my favourite designers are. I’ll always look at them first. Rick Owens and Craig Green for example. Both have such an individual aesthetic that I enjoy and I know I’m always going to like what they do. Alongside this, I make myself draw what I wouldn’t normally because I always want to discover something new. It pushes me to find something else in my own work. Otherwise I just get bored.
JG: What separates illustration from other artistic mediums?
DD: It can say more than what the image is actually representing, more than the subject matter alone. It expresses something of the person that creates it in ways that not all other art forms can express so obviously. A signature aesthetic can be conveyed in a complicated, convoluted and multifaceted way, more so than some other art forms in my opinion.
JG: I’ve noticed you enlarge the facial features quite a bit in your work. How do you decide which features you want to highlight?
DD: I want to show some emotion but not in an obvious way. The eyes say everything really. I make them larger and spend more time on them. I start with them in fact. Eyes can convey subtlety of feeling with a tiny flicker. So if the eyes are larger then that subtlety becomes more noticeable. I hope so anyway.
JG: What do you want to express with your work?
DD: I want to express forms of beauty, a way of seeing colour, nuanced emotion, diversity and a contemporary look.
JG: What relevance do you think illustration has in today’s world?
DD: It occupies its own space just like any other discipline. It fulfils a different job to other artistic disciplines, so it will always be relevant. It is not only used for simply representational purposes. It offers many opportunities in terms of how creativity and ideas are expressed. It can more or less be anything we imagine it to be.