One thing you’re sure to find in any credible fashion magazine or book is illustrations. Fashion and illustration have gone hand in hand from as far back as the 1500s. Once Vogue started replacing their cover illustrations with photography in the 1930s, illustration took a bit of a back seat, that is, until now. A renewed love of the discipline has seen a growing breed of talented, young illustrators determined to carve out a lucrative career in fashion. One such individual is New York-based illustrator Natalie Jheté. Schön! caught up with the illustrator and aspiring designer to get an insight into the craft.
How would you describe your style?
When people give me their thoughts on my style I usually hear that it is whimsical, and a little bit moody, with a comical undertone. A lot of times the term Fin De Siècle gets used, most likely because of some of the intricate patterns I create.
Creatively who, or what, are you inspired by?
Creatively, many different things and people inspire me. I truly appreciate any artist that can create something surreal in their work, be it painting, photography or fashion design. Among some of my favourite creatives are Daniel Merriam, Tim Walker and Alexander McQueen. I even find myself constantly inspired by some of fashion’s greatest model muses such as Gemma Ward.
On Twitter you’ve mentioned the ‘woes of finding an illustration agency’ – what are the obstacles you’ve faced?
Like all artists, I constantly struggle with identifying my “signature”. Being inspired by so many different things, it is easy to lose your voice and have your work compared to other artists that you admire. Figuring out who I am as an artist would have to be the biggest obstacle I have come to face.
If you could illustrate the cover of any book which would you choose and why?
There is actually one book that I am obsessed with called The Purple Book: Symbolism & Sensuality in Contemporary Art and Illustration. Basically it’s a book of poetry but it is full of beautifully erotic illustrations that complement each poem. Having the opportunity to illustrate the cover of that book would put me beyond words.
You have a few collaborations on the go – which has been your most challenging to date and why?
Of all my collaborations, I have to say that the alphabet series was probably the most challenging. That series was so large that by the time I got to the letter L, I was already over it. It’s hard for me to focus on things for too long which is why you see so many mini-series throughout my portfolio, but in the end I am happy that I followed through with completing it because it is one of the things that people are impressed with most in my portfolio.
How would you describe the link between fashion and illustration?
Fashion and illustration are two things that have gone hand in hand for a very long time. I can remember seeing the original covers of Vogue that were illustrated and thinking how cool it would be if Vogue went back to showcasing an illustrated cover every now and then. For a while, fashion illustration kind of disappeared, but now it’s making a comeback and illustrators are more desirable then ever. Who knows? Maybe there will be another chance for illustration to grace the covers of Vogue.
How do you think new technologies, such as graphic tablets, have changed illustration?
The expansion of technology has its pros and cons when it comes to how it affects fashion illustration. An artist can use these technologies to enhance their hand drawn creation or use it to create something completely from scratch. While I personally have fallen in love with a handful of digitally rendered illustrations I must admit there is nothing like hand drawn illustrations.
Had the illustration not been as productive what would you be pursuing instead?
Illustration and fashion design are two interests that I have almost always simultaneously explored. When I first moved to New York my direction was aimed towards fashion design-related jobs but after realising the opportunity to network with industry people came easier when I presented myself as an illustrator, I decided to move in that direction. While illustration takes up a big chunk of my creativity, I am still very passionate about pursuing fashion design. Recently I have partnered up with a friend to launch a womenswear clothing line. Hopefully it will be the perfect platform to merge both of my interests.
What are your goals for 2014?
I have pretty high hopes for 2014 for my illustration and design. As far as illustration is concerned, I’d love to have a few collaborations to add to my portfolio, where my work is showcased in a fashion editorial. As for my adventures in design, I’d love to get some recognition for the brand as well as starting developing prints from my illustrations. It doesn’t seem like anything too crazy, so hopefully it will happen!
Words / Ihunna
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