Fashion illustration is an art that has been around for hundreds of years in tandem with the business of fashion. Artists documented the works of designers as garments were commodified. Illustrators also contributed to culture by interpreting and expressing the feelings evoked from a garment through their own artistic lens.
In 1930, Vogue Magazine made the strong decision to stop using fashion illustrations on their cover. This was a practice which had frequently been used since their first issue was published in 1892. Vogue began favouring fashion photography instead. This shift had a large impact on the business of fashion illustration, and contributed to the overall decline of its use.
Some international editions of Vogue continue to feature fashion illustrators in the publication, most notably in Italy, but overall Vogue US has all but abandoned the practice. Vogue Italia editor Emanuele Farneti has mused that, “illustrations offer a ‘freedom’ and ‘personal interpretation’ distinct from that of photography”. His belief in the value of illustration was emphasized in the fully-illustrated, January 2020 edition. This includes the fashion features.
Though he does a noble job of supporting the work of the many artists involved, he does also acknowledge that fashion photography is an essential component of the magazine that will not easily be replaced. The decision to produce a completely artist-drawn issue was explained in Vogue as, “Motivated by more than aesthetics; sustainability and philanthropy are also part of the equation. As editor in chief Emanuele Farneti wrote in all caps on his Instagram, “No photo shoot production was required in the making of this issue.” The money saved in the process will be donated to the restoration of the flood-damaged Fondazione Querini Stampalia in Venice. “We cannot save the world,” Farneti said in a phone conversation, but this donation ensures that “something specific remains of this issue”—which is sure to become a collectible, especially as the pillar of the magazine will remain photography.”
Farneti’s celebration of fashion illustration was mirrored up by Vogue US in the August 2020 issue which features the work of 7 different illustrators:
Grace Lynne Haynes, @bygracelynne,
Jacky Blue, @jackyblue__,
James Thomas, @jamesthomas,
Sara Singh, @sarasinghillustration,
Frida Wannerberger, @fridawannerberge,
Chris Gambrell, @gambrell_, and
Mary B., @mary_b_illustrations
each contributed drawings and words about the couture pieces that inspired their art.