For Spring 2014, Prada’s Ready-To-Wear collection featured a sporty mix of tube socks and street chic murals of women’s faces on bejeweled, bra-implanted coats, dresses, bags and furs. While the message Miuccia Prada intended with her bold collection said “strong, visible fighters” and the recognition of feminism through the instrument of fashion, we couldn’t help but notice the way the vivid primary colours and portraiture resembled the work of various Pop artists.
For Fall 2015, Viktor Horsting and Rolf Snoeren took the question as to whether or not fashion qualifies as art, one step further, calling their collection “Wearable Art.” The integration of hinged frames on dresses painted with modernist splatters and old portraits transformed the designs from outfits to artwork, reinforcing what we already know – fashion and art go hand-in-hand.
Laura Gulshani, a talented 23-year-old fashion illustrator from Mississauga, Ontario, proves that whether you wear it, design it, or illustrate it, fashion is meant to be an unapologetic vehicle for self-expression, identity and self-discovery – the greatest form of art there is.
The young artist creates elegant, yet complex and striking illustrations with a harmonious combination of pen, pencil and acrylics, and has been featured in Herringbone Magazine, Canadian Living Magazine, The Kit’s online and weekly publications as well as in their newest venture, The Kit Compact. She defines her work as a mixture of designer dud’s with a lot of detail, punches of colour and interesting silhouettes that capture the minuscule components, and complexity behind the construction of materials that may otherwise go unnoticed.
We talked to Gulshani about the importance of fashion illustration, drawing techniques, and how she uses the stroke of a brush to bring the talent of designers’, as well as her own fashion fantasies – to life.
Your work is incredible! Have you studied at all, and if so, where and what did you study?
Thank you! I have taken all kinds of art classes since I was young, but never really considered a career as an illustrator. I did my undergrad at Ryerson University, majoring in Fashion Communications. There were some illustration classes offered, fortunately!
When did you discover your talent as a fashion illustrator?
I still don’t think I have or ever will! I’m pretty hard on myself when it comes to my art and continuously push my limits, which may or may not be healthy. But through the incredible support from the ladies at Herringbone Magazine, Canadian Living Magazine and The Kit, I gained enough courage and conviction to think that maybe I did have a shot to get somewhere as an illustrator. They discovered me!
Can you tell us a little bit about the world of fashion illustrating? How do you get your illustrations out there for people to see?
It’s a growing world, for sure. I think there are more and more illustrators popping up everyday, each with a unique style which is making this game a lot more competitive. Right now, the best way to get your work out there is on Instagram, where you can reach designers, bloggers, celebrities, etc. very easily, which is amazing. A regram of your work by an influential social media personality is all it takes to possibly become an overnight sensation.
Tell us about your creative process when starting an illustration. How long does it normally take you to complete one?
My style changes daily, depending on how I feel, so my process ranges from grabbing a pen and rapidly drawing imperfect faces and bodies to using a pencil and meticulously sketching out faces and proportional figures as a guide for going over with acrylic paint later. But whatever garments I’m illustrating always have a lot of detail, so my rough pen sketches take about an hour while my full-out paintings take half a day.
What is it about fashion that inspires you to illustrate?
I see fashion as an art form. It’s just a different way of expressing oneself instead of using paint and a brush (although thanks to interesting textile innovations, sometimes paint and fabrics become one). All art forms are used to tell stories, and for me, there’s no better way to tell a story than through a garment. A specific colour or cut, for example, can say so much about the type of character wearing an item of clothing just as a certain brush stroke or composition when illustrating clothing can do the same. The clothing I paint, I chose because something about its design spoke to a part of me, perhaps a past memory or a current fashion obsession of mine.
What are you most proud of about your illustrations? And more specifically, which drawing are you most proud of?
I’m happy that the response to my work has been so positive, and people have even wanted to purchase some for themselves. Also having my illustrations regrammed by some of my favorite designers in the world have made this whole experience feel unreal, which is why I think I’m most proud of my illustration that was regrammed by Mary Katrantzou, who I admire so much.
Is there a specific designer, style of clothing or colour you prefer to draw? What defines your illustrations, besides fashion, of course?
I love drawing any designer’s duds that have a lot of detail, interesting silhouettes and punches of color, which is why is why I’m always watching what Mary Katrantzou and lately, Dior and Gucci, are doing. Colour and detail are the two characteristics definitely define my illustrations.
What for you, makes a successful illustration?
When what comes out on paper is exactly what I had pictured in my mind, I feel like that illustration is a successful one.
Why is fashion illustration important to the fashion industry?
Fashion illustration can be such a personal and beautiful way to express your appreciation for someone else’s talent, and the best way to bring to life a fantasy of perhaps an amazing gown you saw or that popped into your mind and you’ve created this whole back story to but you’re not a photographer or a designer, ergo you pick up a pencil and paper. Fashion illustration also provides a relief from photography, creating an image that perhaps can’t exist in real life. And there’s so many applications for fashion illustration in the industry now that it is becoming a key method to keep things fresh and exciting.
What are the biggest challenges you face when completing a drawing? Are there challenges you face in just being a part of this industry?
In this industry, it’s easy to be replaced as it moves very quickly and many new talents appear daily. It’s probably the same across many industries actually, and it’s just the way it is, but it does put a lot of pressure on illustrators to constantly reinvent and leverage themselves, I think. This pressure, and the pressure of sometimes being given subject matter that is exactly your favorite, can come out in a negative way in your drawings.
What are your plans for the future? Do you plan on making fashion illustration the focus of your career? Or do you have other plans?
As a freelancer, and looking at the way the job market is changing, I think the best plan is to have no plans beyond a couple of months from now. So currently, I’m focusing on fashion illustration and letting that take me where it may. I would love to find a permanent home at a fashion magazine, so I’m also keeping my eye out for any opportunities there.
Follow Laura Gulshani on Instagram to see more of her amazing work.