Fashion and illustration have long had a symbiotic relationship. Before Tiktok and Instagram, and photography for that matter, illustrations were a designer’s tool to convey one’s ideas. They were either done with studied hurried flourishes in the manner of say Karl Lagerfelf who would commit a dress in his mind to paper with quick workings of his black marker. This would then subsequently be sent to the mains in the atelier to bring the sketch to life.
Other designers and illustrators take a more lengthy approach to this process. As in the case of Erté whose illustrations were highly detailed and evoked a sense of drama and grandeur. He would make his name known worldwide through his illustrations for the covers of Harper’s Bazaar and Vogue beginning in 1915. Indeed before photography, illustrations were used to sell clothes and fashion dreams be they magazine covers or advertisements.
Fashion and its denizens also have a penchant for dispatching bon mots and zingers. The industry’s larger than life figures have a tendency to make proclamations in the most dramatic and quotable fashion such as Diana Vreeland’s “Pink is the navy blue of India” or Coco Chanel’s “Elegance is refusal”.
A new book has combined fashion illustrations with juicy, intriguing and thought-provoking quotes from some of the industry’s best known designers. Entitled Be-Spoke: Revelations from the World’s Most Important Fashion Designers, the journalist Marylou Luther has culled quotes from her interviews at various stints from the likes of the Chicago Tribune and Los Angeles Times alongside show notes from fashion shows and personal conversation with designers.
She has enlisted the artist and fashion illustrator Ruben Toledo to bring the quotes to life. “My relationship with Marylou goes back over sixty years. In fact, she was the first journalist to document my career in fashion,” writes Toledo in the book’s foreword. Toledo brings his usual wit, love of color, and understanding of fashion and its creators to the pages of Be-Spoke and the result is a tome that is sure to delight both fashion and art lovers.
Among the designers featured in the book are Anna Sui, Michael Kors, Thierry Mugler, Sonia Rykiel, Riccardo Tisci, Virgil Abloh, Valentino Garavani, Christian Dior, Alessandro Michele, Phillip Lim and many more boldfaced names. It is a veritable who’s who of fashion. And its release couldn’t be more apt with fashion week (fashion month, really) having just concluded in New York and London, and is currently winding down in Milan before it moves to Paris.
Below are some of the quotes and illustrations in the book.
Above is a the spread for Tom Ford accompanied by the quote: “Fashion is everything—art, music, furniture design, graphic design, hair, makeup, architecture, the way cars look. All those things go together to make a moment in time. And that’s what excites me.”
Above is the spread on Kerby Jean-Raymond, founder of Pyer Moss with the quote “The ultimate sign of trust is a subject lending you their body as a canvas. Making good fashion is a sign of respect for that trust. It’s important we not make it just beautiful, but also an extension of what we think the wearer wants to say without their words.”
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