There’s a wave of talent that’s relatively new to the fashion industry in Africa, but regardless, has been well accepted. Fashion illustration is a form of art we’ve always taken a liking to. The whimsical figures created from an artists’ reinterpretation of an outfit either from the runway or street style are remarkable, and while it may have originated from designers seeking to represent their ideas on paper, it has opened a door for artists in the fashion industry. Which is entirely amazing, truth be told .
When Irene started creating different outfits for sketched figures as a teenager, we bet she never thought she would give up her 9-5 job to practice fashion illustration. From the kid who sketched little ideas on paper and covered her notebook in doodles and drawings, to a full time fashion illustrator and artist working with design houses, sketching live at fashion shows and creating limited edition art for interiors, Irene, nicknamed YEGA by high school friends has paved a career path while doing what she loves.
It comes naturally to me and I cannot imagine not being an illustrator.
When asked “Why fashion illustration?“, she mentioned that it’s very liberating. Her love for design, and the whole thought process that goes into garment creation which can be amplified by artistically depicting the mood or theme of a collection through illustration. She’s also spontaneous about it and grabs her pencil and sketchpad the moment she sights a pose or clothing that piques her interest. With her preference for tastefully done interesting and avant garde fashion choices, the deciding factor for the people she illustrates is really based on their style.
Brewing from her love for the delicate quality of watercolour, her illustrations are composed with copic markers, ink, watercolor and good old pencil, using watercolour paper as her preferred canvas. Even as a firm believer in hand drawn illustrations, she sometimes opts for the digitally acclaimed tablet and stylus.
Now, we figured that most fashion illustrators may have, at some point, considered the possibility of going into fashion design, and she confirmed that she has in fact, done some designing here and there. And also offers design input as part of her services.
The creative nature of illustration means I design even when I don’t mean to. So it’s a definite possibility that I will make the transition if the right opportunity presents itself.
But at the moment, she’s quite content being an illustrator and is focusing fully on that.
To get her creative juices flowing, she looks to Lena Ker, Kelly Smith, Paper Fashion, Randa Haddadin and Hayden Wiiliams for inspiration. “An easy top five”, she says. Though her favorites would have to be a coin toss between Lena Ker and Randa Haddadin.
Her cyber dose of inspiration comes particularly from runway shows, fueled by its element of surprise and also, fashion magazines, fashion week, Instagram, red carpet events and just regular everyday sightings of stylish people.
Her illustration of the lady, Lupita Nyongo in a red dress counts as one of her favorites, then that of Taylor Swift and Eku Edewor make the list too.
From early memories of drawing pageant contestants with her sister to watching runway shows on television, fashion has always influenced her art and after many years as a closet artist, fashion illustration has become her outlet and “the journey has been exciting so far”, she concludes.