Two of my greatest passions are coming together this weekend for a three-day love in.
The Shop at Bluebird (retail porn for aesthetes) and the Fashion Illustration Gallery are going large on last year’s Fashion Illustration Gallery Art Fair (FIGAF), extending it over 3 days at the King’s Road emporium.
Last year I spent hours chatting to illustrators about their work, the overall vibe was very chummy and intimate – none of your usual fashion hauteur. This year, alongside the artists showing and selling their work, there are also a couple of talks and ‘in conversation withs’. The full programme with timings can be found here, including an appearance by Vogue’s former fashion director Lucinda Chambers on Saturday.
Artist-wise, I’m hoping to meet Martin Welch (who I stalk on Instagram) and grab a moment with the fab Gill Button. Artist numbers are up from less than twenty last year to almost thirty this year, so if you’re a fan or a collector of illustration this is a really good opportunity to meet the people behind the work, as well as other like-minded enthusiasts.
FIGAF came about as a response to the growing number of collectors interested in fashion illustration. As FIGAF founder William Ling says, ”You can buy the best in class at low prices and build museum quality collections. Collectors are recognising that the works by the leading fashion illustrators are culturally significant, visually exciting and have global appeal.”
He also acknowledges the increased visibility of illustrators on social media. The medium lends itself perfectly, not just to the visual vibrancy of Instagram, but also to the theatrics of Instagram Stories. When I hosted an illustrators’ discussion on this subject with Apple last year, the general consensus was that as an illustrator, you can build a decent following on Instagram without turning the camera on yourself. Just let the brush or pencil tell your story for you. The fans judge the work on its merits, not on press hype or numbers. “The most important artists in the field rise to prominence because of talent,” says Ling. “There is no industry hype.”
But as many illustrators tend to be rather camera-shy, a meet and greet like this makes for a great experiential retail event. It’s a rare chance to see the faces behind the work and the artists seem to really enjoy meeting their fans and collectors. And the added bonus is the setting. The Shop at Bluebird is an emporium for all sorts of retail delights, enhanced with FIG illustrations decorating the walls. Why not pick up a book, perfume or Peggy Guggenheim-esque sunnies alongside your Blair Breitenstein sketch?
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WORDS: Disneyrollergirl/Navaz Batliwalla
IMAGES: Top to bottom: Gill Button; Blair Breitenstein, Petra Boner, Rob Phillip, Rosie McGuinness, Tanya Ling
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