How Online Retailers can use Fashion Illustrations: Interview with Danielle Meder
With the increasing competition in the e-commerce market, online fashion brands are always on a lookout to make their brand look unique and more memorable. And in these photography saturated times, fashion illustrations can help you offer something fresh to your customers in different ways. So we had a chat with Danielle Meder of Final Fashion, a Fashion Illustrator based in Toronto, Canada to know what makes fashion illustration is still an underused branding instrument by Fashion Retailers. Danielle’s illustrations have been featured in The New York Times and Women’s Wear Daily, and she has worked with the likes of New York Magazine, Bloomingdale’s and The Hudson’s Bay Company, among many others.
1. Pulkit: Please tell us about yourself, your work and when did you decide that you want to be a Fashion Illustrator?
Danielle: I’ve been drawing fashion for as long as I can remember. I went to school for fashion design, and even as I was completing my degree I was doing drawings for clients, most fashion designers. My evolution into a professional fashion illustrator was very gradual, although at a certain point I printed the title on my business cards and never looked back.
Since that moment, I’ve supported myself as a full-time fashion illustrator for 7 years. I have a wide variety of clients, including fashion retailers both large and small.
2. Pulkit: I feel many people think that Fashion Illustration is a thing of the past. Do you really think Fashion Illustration has made a comeback? Or was it always there?
Danielle: The golden age of fashion illustration, when there was a high demand for fashion illustration at all levels and the greatest illustrators were stars who could sell magazines with their cover art and commanded the rates to match that influence, are long gone. But fashion illustration itself has never gone away – you can see it everywhere, printed on products, in advertisements, on websites.
And of course nearest and dearest to my work, fashion illustration functions as a way of communicating clothing and accessory design ideas that aren’t yet real – that is one purpose that photography can never make obsolete.
3. Pulkit: Please share your thoughts on the transition of this art form from Print to Online?
Danielle: I’m discovering that there is much less emphasis on fashion illustration as a product and far more emphasis on illustration as a performance. Because online makes everything immediate and kinetic more fascinating, I’m being hired more and more often to do “live drawing” of events, to demonstrating how to use touchscreens to draw, being filmed while drawing, or teaching how to draw. People are just as fascinated with how I draw as the drawings themselves.
4. Pulkit: What impact can a good Fashion Illustrator have on the brand experience of an Online Fashion Store?
Danielle: Good images sell, whether they’re photographs or illustrations. If an illustrator’s style is a good fit for the brand, their drawings will strengthen the brand. The trick is being able to select an illustrator based on their portfolio. If a brand is fun and playful, the illustrations need to be humorous and cute. If the brand wishes to evoke classic elegance, they need to hire an illustrator with a confident line who understands the legacy of fashion illustration.
5. Pulkit: I have seen Retailers like NastyGal & Forever21 working with illustrators to create artwork like yours, featuring some of their favorite pieces. Why do they use illustrations when they have a lookbook to show their products in action?
Danielle: Every project is different so I let me explain by example. Sometimes retailers want to evoke the process of fashion design (FCUK did a combination of photographs and drawings in a recent campaign), others want to use illustrations to emphasize artistry. The illustration is not usually used as a substitute for lookbook photos – generally, people want to see descriptive photographs of what they’re buying. Instead, illustration is usually used more expressively.
6. Pulkit: Can you share your favorite examples of E-commerce Retailers who’re doing the best job in using Fashion Illustrations for marketing?
Danielle: Fashion is a visual business and online commerce is no exception. Some clever brands have figured out ways to use illustrations to help tell their story. Dolce & Gabbana’s editorial website Swide.com often uses fashion illustrations to bring the D&G fashions to life in an artistic way. Another example is JosephineSwim.com, which uses a beautiful drawing to give their ‘About Page’ flair. Ann Taylor created an illustrated campaign to support their online branding efforts in 2012.
8. Pulkit: What do you enjoy doing more – interpreting ideas of fashion and costume designers or making inspiring marketing material?
Danielle: Any project where I’m allowed to really let my skills shine is enjoyable to me – whether it’s creating detailed, layered paper dolls or spontaneous fashion sketches. I enjoy drawing for both its narrative and communicative potential.
9. Pulkit: How can Fashion Retailers use illustrations to create a specific brand personality? Can you share some examples?
Danielle: If a company finds an illustrator whose style really connects with their branding, and they’re able to form an ongoing working relationship, the results can be really spectacular. I can’t think of an outstanding retail example, but editorial examples include Daily Candy and Emerald Street which use illustrations for all of their email newsletters, and jewelry brand Thomas Sabo uses an illustrator for all of their lookbooks and branding.
Illustrations could be effectively used in banners and sidebars, to add style to email newsletters, to help convey a brand’s identity on an about page, to create fun avatars for social media and as editorial content on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.
10. Pulkit: Alright. We have seen many young brands using loud colors and Gif animations to make an impact. What are your thoughts on this?
Danielle: GIFs are really eye-catching, and so are loud colors. If it works for the brand, it works! And I see a lot of young illustrators experimenting with the format and achieving interesting effects. There’s a whole sub-genre of GIF-makers out there whose work is a hybrid of collage and illustration, and it makes sense to hire that talent where it’s appropriate.
11. Pulkit: Do you think Fashion Illustrations can be used to influence the buying decision of a customer?
Danielle: Great quality imagery is really powerful, regardless of whether it’s illustrations or photography. In either case, if the attitude and style of the image reinforces the brand, the results will be effective.
12. Pulkit: I know you have done a lot of work for fashion designers and fashion publications. Can you please share some of your work?
Danielle: I created paper dolls for Bloomingdale’s and The Hudson’s Bay Company, both of these projects were very exciting for me. Recently I’ve had interest from retailers interested in tapping my live-sketching skills for in-store events. I was commissioned by a designer named Andrew Majtenyi to create large-scale artwork for his boutique in Toronto. Most of my experience so far with retail clients have been for traditional bricks-and-mortar stores. I’d love to have the opportunity to do more with online retailers.
“Fashion illustration, which was once a common tool for advertising and catalogues in the mid 20th century, has been eclipsed by colour photography since the 1960s. However as photography has become ubiquitous since the development of the smartphone, there is a revival of interest in using artistic talent to develop distinctive and expressive imagery. ”
Danielle Meder, FinalFasion.ca
Danielle will be happy to answer any questions you may have about the usage of Fashion Illustrations. Please feel free to post your questions in the comment section below. Or you can reach her directly via. Twitter at @finalfashion