Drawing Fashion Exhibit Illustrates a Dying Art


The London Design Museum’s exhibit “Drawing Fashion,” which runs now through March 6, 2011, is a unique exploration of 20th and 21st century fashion illustrations reminiscent of a time when couture and glamor were far more chummy than today. The exhibit reflects the artistic style of each decade, through Art Nouveau to Art Deco and Pop Art.

Exhibit fashion curator Colin McDowell told Vogue, “Each drawing exemplifies the period it came from which is why illustration is so special. I want this exhibition to kick-start people in thinking ‘Why don’t we use illustration again?’ I collect Vogues and my favorite one is from 1923 – it’s so beautiful because of its drawings,” says McDowell.


These illustrations, hailing from the likes of artists that have worked with Chanel, Dior, Comme Des Garcons and Alexander McQueen bring to light a neglected area in the fashion world that began as an advertising tool pre-photography and only continues now in a handful of design houses. While it seems a dying art, the very much alive exhibit, collected over the past 30 years by Joelle Chariau of Galerie Bartsch & Chariau, is a compilation of artists like turn of the century illustrator Lepape to current artists like Mats Gustafson and Aurore de la Morinerie.


Antonio, New York Times Magazine, 1967

Gustafson, an illustrator who’s advertising campaigns have been utilized by Bergdorff Goodman and Chanel, told the Huffington Post his work has always been about “the shapes he draws attention to” and how working with designers such as Yohji Yamamoto has enabled him to complement his own style with theirs. “You have to somehow fall in love with whatever you work with, to find the most interesting perspective or the beauty in whatever you do. When it really clicks between you and the designers, then of course it is more dynamic and more exciting.”

Mats Gustafson – Red Dress -Yohji Yamamoto, 1999

While illustration expresses fashion in a more exaggerated way, inviting us to interpret clothing through more of a designer’s lens, the artist has the task of being the bridge for us to see how the designers wanted the clothes to really look on a body.

Chariau, with her 30 years experience on the art says: “their work is interesting as fashion drawing, but is also interesting from an art perspective.”

Watch this video interview with collector and co- founder of Galerie Bartsch & Chariau, Joelle Chariau and illustrators Mats Gustafson and Francois Berthoud at the Drawing Fashion media view.

The Design Museum shop will be stocking exclusive exhibition merchandise including limited edition prints, posters and postcards while a book called Drawing Fashion will also be available at the exhibit.

Top Illustration from Antonio-At Home, New York Times Magazine, 1967

Amy DuFault

Amy DuFault is a conscious lifestyle writer, consultant and fashion instigator. She resides in Cape Cod, Massachusetts.