One of our favourite elements of the fashion design process is fashion illustration. Not only would fashion design not be possible without it, but it is also a beautiful art form in its own right. But do you ever wonder what working as a professional fashion illustrator is actually like? Are you curious to find out how professional fashion illustrators turned their passion into a career? To get you the answers to all your questions, we chatted to two of the top fashion illustrators in Australia: Natalie Rompotis and Alexandra Nea! Read all about them below.
How did you get into fashion illustration as a career?
Natalie: Art has always occupied a special place in my heart. From as young as 4 or 5 I remember loving drawing women in intricate ball gowns (not much has changed since!). But it was only after taking a break from my law career that I reunited with my art. I decided to showcase some of my work on social media and within a short space of time, my work caught the attention of Beyoncé (one of my illustrations is on her website!), Maison Valentino, and Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Australia, among others. Soon after, MBFWA asked me to be their official illustrator!
Alexandra: As early on as Kindergarten, I was doing after-school art classes and during my high school years I took on as many units in art and design as I was allowed to. Being creative, whether it be sewing a dress or drawing a picture, is my happy place. I worked as a fashion designer for twelve years after studying Fashion Design. Part of the course was illustration, my absolute favourite subject!
Tell us a little bit about your day-to-day as a fashion illustrator.
Natalie: My clients range from private clients to large scale corporations. A typical day will consist of liaising with a client in relation to a brief, juggling multiple projects, and tending to the "business" side of my business. I'm also a voracious reader; I love to keep my finger on the pulse of the wider fashion industry, so I make time to read the major journals.
Alexandra: Once I have a solid understanding of the tasks ahead of me, I can clear my mind and get stuck into actually creating a piece. I ask a lot of questions on a brief to ensure I have a complete understanding of what the client wants before I begin drafting—this saves time and money, and prevents miscommunication issues further down the track. I then put in the colour—all by hand—generally all done by pencils, though sometimes I will use fashion markers for solid tones of colour. Final tweaks are made at the colouring stage and then once the whole artwork is approved, I create a digital file and send the artwork to the client.
What’s the best part of fashion illustration? What’s the hardest part?
Natalie: The work is the best part! I consider myself very fortunate to be able to work in a field that would otherwise be a hobby for me. The hardest part would be sometimes having to persuade clients to allow me, as the artist, some creative freedom. Open, honest and detailed communication is key.
Alexandra: The best part is delving into the world of Haute Couture fashion from a birds-eye view! I love fashion, but I know after a decade working in the industry that the commercial fashion world is not for me anymore. So to be able to still be involved but now from afar, dipping in and out as I work on special projects for varying brands is the best of both worlds for me.
What is your biggest creative inspiration?
Natalie: I would say that my inspiration is constantly evolving, although I'll often return to my anchors: the French aesthetic, classic cinema, and high fashion editorials. My all-time favourite fashion illustrators are the legendary René Gruau and David Downton.
Alexandra: Some of my personal favourite fashion illustrators are Eris Tran, Arron Favaloro, David Downton, Emma Leonard. I love the beauty of the bygone eras: that time when items were all lovingly handmade, cherished, repaired and loved. Fossicking through an antique market is pure inspiration joy to me.
What advice would you give to students pursuing fashion illustration?
Natalie: Take your time to find your own unique style and don't be afraid to make mistakes!
Alexandra: Work on your own style. Don't try to copy others—being able to develop your own unique signature will make you stand out from the rest and will give clients a reason to come knocking on your door.
If you want to keep up with Natalie and Alexandra’s stunning work, you can follow them on Instagram at @natalierompotis and @alexandra_nea. Are you interested in studying fashion illustration? Check out our upcoming fashion illustration workshop!