photography by shaniqwa jarvis
interview by yasmin coke
LFW The Daily proudly presents a back-of-the-Mercedes interview with guest live catwalk illustrator David Downton.
YC: Let’s start from the beginning, when did you start illustrating?
DT: I started to draw when I was really young. My brother is a sportsman and so was my father. My skill has always been drawing. Later on when I went to school I realised that drawing was all I had and that I would make my living from it. I didn’t feel confident enough or talented enough to be a fine artist so I decided to be a commercial artist. Passion came a lot later.
YC: How did you get into fashion illustration?
DT: I used to say that fashion mugged me in a way; I was happily working away doing everything that I was asked to do, across a whole range of things. I was doing cookbooks, teenage fiction, posters and menus and there wasn’t really anything I hadn’t tackled and that included fashion. I always rather enjoyed it, but I certainly didn’t see myself as a fashion illustrator. I was a general jobbing illustrator, who was happy to be working. I did a fashion commission at the FT in 1993 and after that they called with another job. They asked if I wanted to go to Paris to cover the couture shows and I said yes, of course. I didn’t know much about couture and I’d never seen a fashion show. No warm up, I just went straight into it.
YC: What do you love most about London in comparison with other cities you illustrate in?
DT: London is great because it’s home and you trip over everyone you know. There is always a feeling of energy and even in pessimistic times you have to be optimistic. I think all the clichés are true that London is creative and has a unique energy. It’s the birthplace to some of the very best creative talents.
YC: What inspires you when you illustrate?
DT: I don’t know how it happens; the decision is just made for me. It’s a mystery! I do know that when it comes to fashion illustration, I don’t always go for the obvious trend or the most spectacular. A lot of influence comes from who is wearing the clothes and how it reacts to their body.
YC: Your illustrations are quite classic, has there been a particular collection that has complemented that?
DT: I have to complement the collection. I think the best illustrations arise with the great work from both illustrator and the designer.
YC: What are your essential tools?
DT: You need your own space, rotary ink and black ink. Inspiration is key, although I’m not always inspired, or on the ball, but you have to keep going until it comes.
YC: Do you have a favourite designer?
DT: I always loved Lacroix so much, he was a magician.
YC: Is there a designer that you haven’t illustrated that you would like to?
DT: I’ve never illustrated Alber Elbaz at Lanvin, which I’d like to do. I also haven’t illustrated many New York designers.
YC: You’re the first artist in residence at Claridges, what does that mean to you?
DT: It feels pretty damn good to be the first artist in residence at Claridges. You know they say that good things happen to good people, but I’m not sure that I was ever that good to get this as my gig! I get to draw the most iconic guests of the hotel. Ultimately, the drawings will be on permanent display, the idea of using drawing instead of photography. Claridges support drawing in a world that’s gone crazy for point and shoot photography.
YC: Whats the cheekiest thing that you’ve done in the back of a car?
DT: I drew Erin O’ Connor changing into a ball gown in the back of the car between shows.
Mercedes-Benz, whose fashionable fleet of cars ensure London Fashion Weekers get around in style, is celebrating its LFW affiliation with the launch of Voices of Fashion, a daily blog with exclusive LFW updates and interviews with the designers and other stylish sorts who make the fashion world go round. See voicesoffashion.co.uk