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Melanie Reim

Chair of Illustration
Fashion Institute of Technology, New York.

From battle scenes to royal courts, cocktail parties, a day at the races or the zoo, an ad for a car, for short stories of torrid romance, medical emergencies, and feel good family time, fashion has long been present in commissioned illustrations, not as fashion illustration but as the fashion in the illustration, documenting the times and styles of our popular culture.

The illustrator is responsible not only for the astute skills with which to deliver an engaging, if not seductive, composition as well as a powerful and adept facility to draw the figure but also has the challenging duty to persuasively reflect the signs of the times. Fashion is not only a vehicle for that, but also, and often, the driving force behind the design delivering the context of the environment by virtue of the shape of hat or the length and detail of a dress. While frequently considered the complement to the text, it is the allure of these images that breathes life into the words on the page or the atmosphere of the event.

Fashion illustration used to be the single figure, captured in a dazzling moment by an illustrator working spiritedly from life, in the high energy, pulsating envir­on­ment of runways around the globe. As the illustrator adopted the role of being the storyteller of the times and the culture, he/she became the arbiter of lifestyle and the depiction of fashion became a significant function of the signature of the artist.

Coupling illustrations with short bio’s and the working media of the illustrators, the presentation will highlight those commissioned pieces for magazines and book covers, from what was considered the ‘golden age’ and/or the boy – girl era of editorial illustration to the notion of fashion when creating characters for concept art for the entertainment industry.