Steven Stipelman

Becoming a Professional Fashion Designer

Become a Professional Fashion Designer

Get Instant Access

'We were a generation of British youth who had lived our entire lives in the glow of pop culture, and had been through every teenage sartorial twist from the twist onward. We were innately versed in every nuance of every look and trend The past was a dressing-up box.'

Robert Elms, The Way We Wore, 2005

The story of fashion in the latter part of the twentieth century is hard to trace. It is characterized by the breakdown of the traditional couture industry; by the immediacy of the response of the world's clothes manufacturing industry to the demands of its high-street consumers; and by an emphasis on individuality which has resulted in the fragmentation of fashion into a multitude of styles. Ironically, a further effect has been a certain global sartorial homogeneity on the part of those wishing to reject the perceived excesses of the high-fashion world and to renounce the label of'fashion victim'. However, even though denim, T-shirts and trainers are prime examples of anti-fashion, they still carry a hierarchy of exclusive designer brands.

What finally put an end to the hegemony of couture, however, was the anarchic nihilism of punk. Born in London's underground club scene of the mid-seventies, punk can be seen as the antithesis of the hippies' idealistic optimism, appearing as it did in a darker period of rising unemployment and economic stagnation. The style was inseparable from music, particularly that of the Sex Pistols, whose manager, Malcolm McLaren, was the partner of the innovative British designer Vivienne Westwood. A succession of shops in Chelsea initially revisited earlier subcultural styles such as teddy boys' and bikers' gear, then moved on to fetish wear. But by 1976, when the Sex Pistols first appeared on stage, the look was one of anarchy and outrage - sadomasochistic black bondage trousers, T-shirts with explicit slogans, mohican hairstyles, safety pins and body piercing. It was the first street movement that gave its female members equal importance in terms of dress, challenging all previous concepts of femininity with its deliberate, slovenly unattractiveness.

Vivienne Westwood continued to push the boundaries of high fashion, blending historical references and traditional techniques and fabrics with ever-evolving concepts of female identity and eroticism. The 'new romantic' look, based on the London post-punk club scene of the late seventies and early eighties, was transposed by her into couture. Westwood remains at the forefront of the dynamic contribution British fashion designers have made to the industry, a contribution that has seen many of them head up major Paris couture houses: John Galliano at Dior, Alexander McQueen at Givenchy and Stella McCartney at Chloe. All trained at British art colleges, and have made fertile use of the inspirational influences provided by London's underground scene.

In the commercialized mainstream fashion industry the economic boom of the early eighties brought with it the 'power dressing' symbolic of that decade. Referencing forties glamour, the archetypal suit with its short skirt and heavily padded shoulders combined sex and business, while the puffball 'pouf skirt (popularized by the French designer Christian Lacroix) typified evening glamour. Power dressing was taken to its extremity when underwear became

Stephen Stipelman
Vivienne Westwood, Cover of Fashion Flash, November 1981. Courtesy V&A Images.

The text underlines the importance of street fashion in London, linking it with Vivienne Westwood's latest collection, Savage. The illustration depicts the anarchic spirit brought by British subcultural fashion into the wider arena.

Steven Stipelman
Steven Stipelman, Tweed coat and separates for Women's Wear Daily, 1984. Artist's Collection.

Stipelman exaggerates the oversized, padded shoulders typical of 1980s 'power dressing' and highlights the textures of fabrics.

a feature of outerwear, expressing a new kind of female emancipation: an overtly sexy look that was both a challenge and a threat. The gold, pointed-bra corset by Jean-Paul Gaultier worn onstage by Madonna on her late eighties tours exemplified this look. Skintight leotards and leggings also revealed the body as the aerobics craze got under way. Garments such as these, previously worn only by dancers and sportsmen, were closely followed by the unisex tracksuit and trainers. All entered the everyday wardrobe for good, with sportswear brands such as Nike and Adidas claiming their own territory on the high street.

A counterpart to the provocative, flamboyant look of the 'yuppie' decade was the sophisticated, pared-down elegance that became the signature, from the seventies onward, of American designers such as Geoffrey Beene, Halston, Calvin Klein and Donna Karan. Luxurious fabrics and a restrained palette were used to create versatile wardrobes for career-minded women, emphasizing the status value of simplicity. This concept was also employed by the Italian designer Giorgio Armani, whose 'soft dressing' eschewed eighties excess. His virtually anonymous look is the opposite of the flashy logos and decadent appeal of his fellow-countrymen Gianni Versace, Franco Moschino, and Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana of Dolce & Gabbana.

Ralph Lauren, whose Polo label was launched in 1967, developed the American preppy look, later basing his collections on a nostalgic reinterpretation of classic menswear and country clothing and on early twentieth-century cowboy style. Furnishing his outlets in the manner of an English gentleman's club or a prairie ranch-house in the Midwest, he marketed not only clothes, but also an aspirational lifestyle, providing home accessories and furnishings to match. He was part of a trend that continues today, with fashion designers branding their own ranges of homewares, from bed linen to wallpaper to china, underlining the fact that fashion is no longer just about clothes, but pervades every aspect of contemporary culture.

The influence of Japanese designers on Western fashion was felt from the seventies on. They brought a blend of their own cultural minimalism, traditional textile motifs coupled with the development of radical new textile technology, and a new intellectualism. Kenzo Takada, Kansai Yamamoto and Issey Miyake were followed in the eighties by Rei Kawakubo of Comme des Garçons and Yohji Yamamoto, both of whose fondness for black, unstructured layering exploring concepts of body image, ethnicity and gender, was highly influential. Deconstructed clothing - the antithesis of fashion as Christian Dior understood it - was promoted by a group of Antwerp designers, known as the Antwerp Six', including Dries van Noten, Anne Demeulemeester and Martin Margiela, whose late nineties collections expressed themes of decay and destruction, while at Givenchy Alexander McQueen often uses motifs of threat and anxiety in his glamorous yet edgy designs.

Ruben Alterio Illustrations
Ruben Alterio, Armani for Mirabella, III, 1997. Crayon and watercolour Courtesy Galerie Bartsch & Chariau, Munich.

Giorgio Armani's 'soft dressing' is echoed in the delicate treatment of Alterio's illustration.

In the mid-1980s, fashion began to react against the decade's conspicuous consumption and to reflect new concerns about the environment and globalization. It entered the political arena when Katherine Hamnett famously wore her T-shirt emblazoned with the logo '58% don't want Pershing', from her 1984-85 Choose Life collection, to a reception hosted by Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. The rainbow ragbag clothing of new age travellers and environmental protesters who revisited the hippy style of previous decades reflected an increasing awareness of, and demand for, organic materials and a moral stance against the exploitation of labour in Third World countries. By the nineties, the questioning of the cultural and political status quo could be found in grunge, a look based on thrift-store chic, while the transgressive appeal of 'heroin chic' was portrayed in magazines by photographers such as Corinne Day.

During the second half of the twentieth century, fashion illustration struggled to survive, until, in the eighties, it underwent a renaissance. A new generation of artists was given an outlet in magazines such as La Mode en peinture (1982), Conde Nast's Vanity (1981) and, more recently, Visionaire (1991). Some of the credit for illustration's revival must also go to advertising campaigns, notably that launched by Barneys in New York, which showcased Jean-Philippe Delhomme's softly humorous paintings captioned with witty text.

Despite the lack of illustration as a dedicated element of the fashion curriculum at art colleges - notable exceptions being Parsons School and the FIT in New York, Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design (formerly St Martin's School of Art), London, and the London College of Fashion - many students now choose illustration as a career, including those who approach it from a graphics rather than a fashion training. St Martin's, the alma mater of so many currently successful designers, has prioritized drawing since its fashion course was first founded in 1931 by Muriel Pemberton, herself a gifted artist. Placing emphasis on the importance of drawing from life and under the inspirational eye of tutors such as Elizabeth Suter, Colin Barnes and Howard Tangye, the college has consistently produced fashion illustrators of note, including Gladys Perint Palmer, Jo Broclclehurst, Claire Smalley, Shari Peacock, Jason Brooks and Julie Verhoeven. Brooks pioneered the use of computer-generated fashion illustration while Verhoeven has explored the possibilities offered by interactive computer-generated images. With influential publications such as Wallpaper, 'lifestyle' illustration has come to the fore, encompassing all elements of fashionable living, now inseparable from fashion itself.

The versatility, accessiblity and, above all, familiarity of computer images in this age of visual overload have enabled a new relationship between viewer and the drawn image, locating them as intermediaries between photography and art, while many artists have dissolved

Ilustrador Jason Brooks

Jason Brooks, Puscha flyer, 1996. Pen, ink and Adobe Photoshop. Artist's Collection.

This flyer, for a popular London club, is a line drawing digitally manipulated to produce flat panels of colour.

the boundaries between what might be called 'fine art' illustration, photography and computer graphics, combining all these elements successfully in their work. While the computer graphic has come to dominate alongside photography all aspects of visual media, it is perhaps ironic that a period that has seen the emergence of tools such as Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator has also witnessed a revitalization of traditional art-based forms of fashion illustration.

'Traditional' handworked illustration has continued to enjoy a revival at the turn of the millennium, with fashion illustrators often looking back to the masters of the past for stylistic inspiration. René Gruau continued to draw with vigour and dynamism until his death in 2004. His has been an ongoing influence, acknowledged by artists such as David Downton, whose own supremely elegant and always informative work sometimes echoes that of the stars of the interwar years, Eric and René Bouët-Willaumez. François Berthoud, whose career began in the early eighties, uses laborious linocut, enamel drip and folded paper cut-out techniques in his work; Visionaire, an exclusive limited-edition album that combines art, illustration and photography and is reminiscent in spirit of those produced in the early twentieth century, has devoted a whole issue to his work. Michael Roberts, since 1997 fashion director of The New Yorker and an influential stylist and photographer, uses the time-consuming technique of collage -a myriad tiny paper mosaics - to construct his witty images. He views his use of this laborious technique as a compliment to the intricate work of the designer whose garment he is depicting. Mats Gustafson also employs conventional techniques, lending his watercolours and pastels a hazy, dreamlike quality, while many 'fine artists' (if such a category still exists) have been commissioned by designers and magazines to illustrate fashion. David Remfry's 2003 advertising campaign for Stella McCartney and Grayson Perry's spread on the 2005 Paris couture shows for Spoon magazine exemplify this trend.

Despite all expectations, fashion illustration that is grounded in artistic practice employing time-honoured methods has managed to survive alongside that mediated by more modern processes. The representation of fashion during the last half of the twentieth century has relied heavily on photography, which has increasingly prioritized image over content. Fashion editorial spreads in which the input of stylist and photographer take precedence over the clothes, and which are frequently loaded with imagery that reflects concepts of glamour and celebrity, or the postmodern obsession with feelings of alienation, unease and introspection, seldom show clothes in any detail. The art of reading a drawn graphic image, in whatever medium it is executed, demands more from the viewer, yet represents the very function that illustration of this type should perform. As one illustrator has put it, the job of the fashion artist is to 'tell the story of the dress'.

Pack ing and delivery charges arc shown in brackets.

Steven Stipelman

or go all out fora hole-in-one.

Dacron/cotlon DAKS shorts (S) in pale blue £5.0.0. (5 ). Navy lisle cotton sliirl CI") sizes 3S 46. £1 9.6. (51 ). Rubber soled lightweight unlined tie shoe (U). £6.5.0. (5/ ).

Pack ing and delivery charges arc shown in brackets.

Was this article helpful?

0 0
100 Fashion Tips

100 Fashion Tips

One of the most important things you need to take note of about becoming fashionable is to get fitter. Therefore, if you are carrying some extra pounds, then you should lose some of it soon. You can do it through dieting, working out, or a good combination of both. Find more fashion tips like this one within this guide.

Get My Free Ebook


Post a comment