Half a century ago, fashion illustrations not only graced the covers of Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar, but were also customary in capturing the essence of collections. René Gruau, with his Toulouse-Lautrec-like style, brought Dior’s New Look to life, perhaps more so than any photographer of the day. It was his delicate illustration of a swan that the house used to launch the Miss Dior campaign back in the 1947. For the following three decades, he would create several more campaigns for Dior. Antonio Lopez and Joe Eula captured the spirit of the ’70s glam through just a few brush strokes. Instead of snapping a quick pic, they sketched runway looks straight from their front row seats: Halston, YSL, Valentino, etc. That was then.
Now, perhaps because of the ubiquitous nature of digital photography, there is a definite resurgence in fashion illustration. One of the most prolific names (and my personal favourite) is Paris-based Jean-Philippe Delhomme. He first shook up the advertising world in the early ’90s when his gouache illustrations replaced photography in a Barneys New York campaign, for which he also provided witty captions. Delhomme’s breezy approach to fashion imagery provided much-needed humour to otherwise a fairly serious decade.
Today, Delhomme’s name continues to be in demand. He is a familiar face at shows, illustrating both the runway and its front row guests. The clever illustrator also provides provocative style commentary on his blog The Unknown Hipster, which he has maintained since 2009. The blog resulted in a book, The Unknown Hipster Diaries, published last year. If you consider it an honour to be photographed by The Sartorialist, to be sketched by Delhomme is heaps beyond, although when it comes to street style, he mostly concentrates on menswear.
Other than brilliant posts like his take on how to survive fashion week (“If you’re commuting by foot, it’s not a bad idea to start looking absorbed by your important thoughts at least 10 blocks away.”), his signature sense of humour is most apparent in his work for Maison Kitsuné, a cult French brand that has been collaborating with the artist for the past three years. If only everyone in the business was this lighthearted and delightful.
I thought for a longtime that fashion shoots were where glamour was, until I realized that a lot of the models who look like sensitive, intellectual princess on ads and fashion stories, speak and behave, most of the time like true hooligans. Maybe glamour only exists in Proust’s salon, Guermantes. – Jean-Philippe Delhomme, Interview
All the images, except for Maison Kitsuné, are courtesy of Jean-Philippe Delhomme and were taken from his website, www.jphdelhomme.com.