The Influence of Fashion On The 20th Century’s Greatest Illustrators

With an array of titles to her name covering the ebbs and flows of fashion’s illustrious history Cally Blackman was really the only person who could have written 100 Years of Fashion Illustration. In her book Cally uses the work of illustrators such as Georges Lepape, René Gruau and Antonio Lopez, as well as lesser-known artists, to weave a portrait showcasing the best of the century’s stunning visuals, design collaborations, and pure illustration artistry .


From the influence of Japanese aesthetics early on in the 20th Century to the introduction of computer technology and its impact on illustration, Cally’s combination of in-depth research and engaging images engages both fashion-savvy and non-industry readers alike. It’s precisely this flexible flair which makes her titles both highly valuable and entertaining resources.


Aside from her work as an author, Cally also lectures at Central Saint Martins, as well as regularly writing articles and contributing to courses at other prestigious institutions, including London College of Fashion and Sotheby’s Institute.

As 2017 marks 10 years since 100 Years of Fashion Illustration was first published, we sat down with Cally to discuss the inspiration behind the book, and the future of fashion illustration.

THE PLUS: You’ve written about the history of fashion and menswear – what inspired the shift to fashion illustration?
Cally Blackman:
It was actually the other way around – fashion illustration came first. Which was great, because the research for it gave me a good overview of all types of fashion in the twentieth century.


TP: So how closely do fashion illustrations actually resemble the finished products?
It’s not necessarily the job of the illustrator to create a faithful rendition of a garment, but rather to interpret a designer’s vision.

TP: What were some of the most exciting/interesting developments for you in the history of fashion illustration?
The influence of the Japanese aesthetic early in the 20th century was very important in terms of colour, space and graphic impact.


TP: And what about the advent of the digital age?
Computer technology introduced a whole new way of making images. Although it caused the demise of fashion illustration, photography was very influential because it changed the way people saw the world.

TP: What kinds of materials and styles have been popular over the years?
Style evolves with the aesthetic of the cultural zeitgeist, from the flat cut-out figures by Georges Lepape to painterly images by David Downton. Most of the great illustrators have come from an arts background and experimented with all types of media – from inked stencils to linocuts and drip techniques.


TP: Do you think fashion trends have any influence on the changing styles of illustration?
Yes of course, just as art influences fashion. It is an interesting, and much debated, question as to whether and how much fashion has influenced art, rather than the other way around.

TP: Any fashion styles from the past 400 years that you’d like to see come back?
My favourite fashion era is the first two decades of the twentieth century – I would love to float around in Poiret, Lanvin and Fortuny!

TP: Where do you see fashion illustration going next, now that things like VR and 3D printing are getting increasingly popular?
The job of the fashion illustrator is not merely to produce a diagrammatic version of a garment, but to interpret a designer’s vision. There is an element of imagination and artistic expression that is key to successfully illustrating how fashion is lived that I don’t think computer technology can do – yet.


100 Years of Fashion Illustration is available now at Laurence King Publishing.