FIT Authors Discuss Future of Fashion Illustration in Contemporary Design

Anna Kiper

Non-artists and illustrators may have felt a tad out of place at last night's FIT lecture in the Katie Murphy Amphitheater, which hosted illustrator Anna Kiper and author Laird Borrelli, both of whom were repeatedly beseeched to offer tips and drawing techniques to the young artists in attendance.

But that's not to say it wasn't fascinating. While the talk mostly oriented itself around artistic process (Kiper has even worked with a toothpick dipped in bleach), it offered new insight into the unusual role illustration plays in a design world otherwise dominated by computers.

Kiper, who was promoting her new book, "Fashion Illustration: Inspiration and Technique," shed some light on the relationship between illustrator and fashion house. "Not everything I illustrate gets made," she explained. "In general, there are way more drawings than garments." Meetings with her employer, Maggie Norris Couture, typically require that she produce complete illustrations within fifteen to twenty minute windows so she can quickly adapt to any design tweaks or changes made by the designers.

Borrelli, on the other hand, came to the talk with more of an outsider perspective, proclaiming from the onset that she couldn't "draw at all." Nonetheless, she is undeniably an expert on the subject, with six books of contemporary fashion illustration published since 2004. Excerpts from her latest, "Fashion Illustrations by Fashion Designers," demonstrated the extremely personal, often obsessive role illustration plays in the life of a designer. "I never go anywhere without my sketch pad and pencils," Sonia Rykiel told her as she compiled interviews for the book. 

If there was one thing to take away from the discussion, it was that fashion illustration is in no danger of being phased out by Adobe Photoshop. As Borrelli put it, "part of the magic of fashion illustration is that you can see someone made it."

Contact Us