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.
To celebrate the ever-alluring charm of Paris Fashion Week, this season, we invited the inimitable Eri Wakiyama to reimagine her favourite looks by spreading her magic and etherealness across SHOWstudio through her enchanting illustrations. Her alienesque sketchings are equally ethereal as they are magical, characterised by surrealistic blown-out proportions, contrasting colours and distinctive forms of mark-making.
Choosing to illustrate looks from Ottolinger, Kenneth Ize, Marine Serre and Saint Laurent, Wakiyama's whimsical and eerie depictions add another layer to our fashion coverage as the magic of her characters sprinkles another layer of artistry across our fashion reportage. Even though Wakiyama's work very much speaks for itself, Christina Donoghue, charmed by Wakiyama's distinctive style, caught up with the illustrator to find out more about her working process, and thoughts on the state of fashion illustration today.
Christina Donoghue: How would you describe your illustrative style?
Eri Wakiyama: Sensitive, dark and cute.
CD: How did you come to establish your distinctive style?
EW: I always drew since I was a child on everything. I remember I loved seeing strong bonds of characters in cartoons such as Sailor Moon. I love that they all had their own different set of characteristics. I started to draw girlish characters with different personalities. As time went by, I developed my own girl, who is now present in everything I draw. Also, I have unsteady hands and tend to scribble a lot, and I'm sure that's somewhat shown in my other illustrations.
CD: Have you always wanted to be an illustrator?
EW: Deep, deep down in my heart, yes.
CD: Can you talk a bit about your artistic process?
EW: My drawings are usually all from imagination and memory. I only use references when I need to draw something specific (like a runway look).
My style is constantly evolving, so I can definitely see a difference in my main line of work vs working on specific things like fashion drawings.
I always have bursts of thoughts, and I have to write them down immediately because I can be forgetful. I guess the process is natural, with an adrenaline rush. Poetic and manic at the same time. Sometimes a volcanic explosion or sometimes just a quiet and peaceful process, like the feeling of the sun setting.
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...
EW: I think you can always work on a piece endlessly, time and time again, no matter how 'finished' you think it is. So I always feel my pieces are unfinished; I guess it's mostly intuitive.
CD: What relevance do you think illustration has in today's world?
EW: It's a unique form of art that can't really be replaced. Maybe it's sometimes overlooked in how much time one puts into it, but that's a different thing altogether. I wouldn't say I like to do too much digital work because I love the touch of the pencil, pen, marker, or whatever I use. Put it this way, if society crumbles, I would still be able to find some medium and form of paper to draw. That's pretty special, I think.