Dominic Gomez
The Art of Fashion

The Art of The Rubenesque September 4, 2016

Many of us who work in or around the style and fashion industry instinctively acknowledge the ideal  “type” that informs most marketing campaigns. This is especially apparent in advertising art used to promote women’s apparel, accessories and beauty products. By art, I mean the visual components of advertising, especially photographs. In a Huffington Post article, Summer Rayne Oakes notes “Skinny girls look good in clothes, fit girls look better naked.” Of course what we are looking at is nothing new. For at least the last century garment designers, manufacturers and retailers set the standards of how best to display their goods for their consumers. From one (rather cynical) viewpoint, clothing looks best hanging flat and vertical: the designer’s vision fresh from the cutting table.

And when the need arises to show how these garments look and behave on its potential buyers, how else to maintain that smooth, flat appearance than on runway models with minimal curves, hips, thighs and upper arms. Some say the tipping point of the “human clothes hanger” was reached with Kate Moss and the sordid appeal of anorexic glamour.2008-09-17-images-kmoss1But what about (to use the archaic description) “pleasingly plump” women? There was a time when that body type was not only the cultural norm but also sexy as hell! The “Rubenesque” woman was first visualized by Flemish Baroque painter Peter Paul Rubens, who emphasized movement, colour, and sensuality. Unfortunately the Art of the Rubenesque is not much appreciated these days, although change is in the air. 

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Ermit and Sleeping Angelica by Peter Paul Rubens (1628)

 

To be fair, the international fashion community has tried to remedy the trend among fashion-obsessed teens hoping for unrealistic figures by nutritionally abusing their growing bodies. Starting in 2006, in response to the premature deaths of two young models due to eating disorders, several countries have passed bills prohibiting models to work if they have a Body Mass Index (BMI) below 18.5.

In her Facebook post, Seattle model and dancer Lacey Lonning reveals the heart-rending anxiety of models who do not align with fashion industry standards as they are dictated at present:

“There was a day I sat in my closet burning pictures of myself. I was 250 pounds, and I had lost all want to live and be this way. I love all people, no matter what they look like, for real, I LOVE people, and don’t believe in body shaming. Yet, I could not love myself. I went back to dance, and started eating better. I have always loved dance, and it made be feel beautiful. I, however, I had a crippling fear of being on stage, when I dance. I feel like a am baring my soul, raw for all to see. ( I was the third place for a scholarship Juilliard because I barfed on stage. IN FRONT OF THE JUDGES ) I had played with modeling when I was young but was told I was too big, I was too short.(California) I did have luck modeling in Hong Kong, and Japan, but still felt the horrible crush of what others thought I should look like. Fast forward to Seattle, 10 years later…… I thought to myself, if I could get on the runway, I could go out in front of people, and not be dancing. I was SO nervous the first time I came to a model casting. Ever since walking through that door, I have done nothing but grown stronger.”

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(Lacey Lonning in ad for AMDEF)

 

 

I am not a fashion photographer. I am an illustrator (artist, painter, draughtsman, sketcher) who specializes in depicting fashion. I am very well attuned to the preferences…requirements, even… put forth by fashion houses, designers, garment retailers, magazine and on-line advertisers. How I indicate the bodies of the models I use for advertising purposes is quite different from how I sketch bodies in figure drawing sessions. In fashion drawings, the ideal figure is long and lean, with legs that are sometimes twice the length of the average normal human being. In straightforward figure drawings and paintings, there is a closer physical match to the subject before me. I also draw people I see in my walks around Seattle as they actually appear. And not everyone looks like Gisele Bundchen.

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Society is again undergoing a cultural sea-change. Popular culture is especially being reworked due to the effects of the internet. Selfies, Instagram posts, Youtube videos and social media are leveling the playing field, democratizing what was once a hierarchy of style, fashion and hipness (i.e. cultural relevance).

The Art of the Rubenesque may just be coming back. Big time.

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The Underrated Underbelly of Seattle Fashion August 28, 2016

What comes to mind when you think of Seattle (if ever)? The usual cliches pop up up almost immediately: “Sleepless  In…”, coffee, rain, North Face de rigueur, coffee, weed friendly, bookish, did I say coffee? I meant to say Starbucks. But not fashion.

When it comes to fashion, Seattle (and the Pacific Northwest in general) is not seen in the same light (due to weeks-long overcast skies?)  as Milan, Paris, London, New York. Or Los Angeles for that matter. But the perception is changing. And the change is not because of proclamations by the fashion capitals of the world. It’s coming from Seattle’s own underbelly of local style and fashion.

13412074_1710943702493888_6965484655524224133_oTo illustrate my point I’m including excerpts from an essay by Ryan Muller. Ryan is a Seattle-based entrepreneur, arts and culture mover and and shaker, and fashion egalitarian. Ryan is one of the originators of Chance Fashion, a non-profit  organization dedicated to providing resources & opportunities to fashion artists of all skill levels (designers, models, hair and makeup artists, photographers):

Passing the Torch: 7 Years of Fashion

 by Ryan Muller

I have always joked that I am not the fashionable type; my general wardrobe is jeans and a t-shirt, I don’t have piercings or tattoos, I don’t style my hair, I don’t even wear hats or accessories. At a glance, observers may not understand how it is that I am the founder and president of the country’s longest running monthly fashion event. It is simple really… I am in it for the artists.

Nevertheless, how we choose to dress and present ourselves to the world is a reflection of ourselves; it is how we construct our own vision. I’ll wear a suit for the proper occasion, but in my daily life I prefer simple clothes. No logos, nothing loud, I am known to blend in and stay “behind the scenes.” I may not be one to practice the art of fashion, but the simplicity of my dress most certainly speaks to my character.

I am not in the majority, however, as I am surrounded by a plethora of aspiring fashionistas. In this era particularly, social media has allowed anyone to participate in fashion, whether it be through a blog or Instagram account with daily publishings or just to follow the latest trends.  Most of the time these individuals are on the outside looking in, hoping to catch a taste of the glamorous fashion life depicted in mainstream media.

In the world of fashion, people are constantly being told they are not good enough.You’re too short, too thick, too inexperienced, too underprepared, etc. These are the reasons given to so many aspiring fashion artists as to why they cannot participate in a fashion event. This practice of exclusion is prevalent in the fashion industry, as demonstrated in marketing strategies, reality TV shows, and ubiquitous images of unrealistic beauty.

Throughout my first two years producing AMDEF (Art Music Dance Entertainment Fashion) recruiting fashion artists was difficult. If I asked someone to model or showcase the clothes they make, their response was almost always, “I can’t participate, I don’t meet industry standards.” The stigma of being ineligible for fashion events was so strong people would cut themselves short before giving themselves a chance. At this point it became clear to me that an alternative fashion platform was needed.

Fashion is an art, and no art should be exclusive. The demand for a more inclusive fashion industry is evident in the counterculture. The rise in alternative outlets such as cosplay conventions, Burning Man hand-crafted costumes, and recycled fashion art shows that people are willing to participate in fashion in any way they can get their hands on it.

Throughout the seven years I have spent producing consecutive monthly fashion shows in Seattle, I have witnessed several shifts in the cultural perception of fashion: the frequency of fashion events in the city is increasing, the number of independent designers is increasing, and, dare I say, people seem to be dressing more fashionably (Is it finally goodbye to the era of flannel Seattle?).

On this note, I am pleased to announce the beginning of a new era in the Seattle fashion scene, as the next generation of fashionistas take the reigns of Chance Fashion. I’ll still be behind the scenes as president, executive director, and fill-in-the-blank staff member, but as of recently we have grown to the point where I can step back and let the organization run itself. In 2015, the Chance Fashion Board of Directors grew to ten members, our production and marketing team has grown to over 20 volunteers, and our Olympia chapter is on course to produce quarterly shows.

The Formation of Chance Fashion

Chance Fashion is produced by Active Entertainment , the company I created nine years ago with the purpose of stimulating relationships within the artist community and creating new ways to advance the art culture. This was achieved mainly through AMDEF, our annual collaboration of art, music, dance, entertainment, and fashion, as well as working with various musicians and performers to produce random concerts and variety shows. The relationships built throughout the early years of Active Entertainment laid the groundwork for the formation of Chance Fashion.

In an effort to branch out to the fashion community, I teamed up with Gabe Choy, owner and director of Seattle Fashion Week at the time, and Bob Tomazic, general manager at what used to be Heaven Nightclub. Our goal was to create a monthly event that would provide local fashion artists an opportunity to get together, practice their trade, and develop their local fashion community. After spending adequate time conceptualizing, I began reaching out to all the fashion artists I knew to better understand their needs and gather their input.

By June 2009, Chance Fashion was officially launched. Back then, models could walk in off the street, get their hair and makeup done, and shoot with any photographers available. At the time, we had so few photographers Bob had to turn on the strobe lights to make it appear busy in photos. I kept myself busy by circulating the venue making sure everything was in order. I kept by the door to register and direct all incoming talent and guests, then would run backstage to be make sure designers, hair and makeup artists, and models knew how the runway segments would be executed. I’d briefly chat with the DJ, general manager, and host on timing, then shoot back to the front door to not miss registrations. It was hectic at first, but the benefit to doing a show every month allowed us to constantly evolve our production procedures.

In the beginning, I literally did it all. I was the producer, promoter, backstage manager, runway coordinator, and the door guy. Coming into this I had some experience as a producer, but fortunately some of our first featured designers knew more about fashion shows than I did, so I was able to draw from their experience. I spent time after the shows talking to them and learning how to further develop the events.

Chance continued this way for some time. After every show I would follow up with the artists and use their feedback to improve the next show. We received both negative and positive responses, but we just kept going. Eventually we had a runway coordinator, then a backstage manager, then more hair and makeup artists, and every month we would creep closer to having a fully functional production team.

A little over a year after Chance began operating, Heaven Nightclub closed, leaving us without a home to continue developing the event. But because we saw the progress we had made within our community, we weren’t willing to give up quite yet. I’ve always said to myself, “If I go a year without seeing progress, I might consider quitting.” We endured a year of struggling with venues until we finally came to find a new home at Neighbors Nightclub.

The issues we encounter most frequently usually pertain to the common perception of what the fashion industry is “supposed” to look like. I’ve been told a list of things I would never accomplish with Chance, all of which we’ve done with the grassroots support of independent fashion artists:

  • Achieved a designer’s creative direction with inexperienced models
  • Packed the house with unknown talent
  • Compensated talent off ticket sales
  • Generated quality photos with inexperienced photographers
  • Generated sales for designers
  • Generated paid work via exposure

We accomplished all this in nightclubs, something people also told me wasn’t possible. And, I apologize for the mini-rant, WE BROUGHT STRAIGHT PEOPLE TO A GAY BAR! Even in 2016 there are still people who avoid our fashion shows because they’re afraid of being at Neighbours.

Fast Forward

Fast-forward a few years and it is clear why the perseverance was worth it. Chance has found its stride at Neighbours, our staff team is growing, we’re jumping hurdles left and right, and our production process is under continuous refinement. We had discussed making Chance a non-profit for about two years, but it finally became evident that it wasn’t just a good idea, but a necessity. With an average of 50+ staff and talent volunteering their time to produce each monthly event, it made sense to move in that direction. The process of applying for the license, getting it approved, using it, and generating the accounting data needed to officially apply to become a 501c3 all took place over the course of a few years. Though we are still working out some kinks, it has given us the opportunity to receive donations and acquire a larger staff team through the board of directors.

By 2014, Chance had become a well-oiled machine. We had produced events in San Francisco and Portland, brought in designers from all over the country (and now all over the world), and we had produced some highly successful events at some of Seattle’s most fashionable event spaces. We had even received two grants from the Office of Arts and Culture through their smART Venture program, and were invited to showcase at City Hall for their annual Create | City event.

In 2015, Chance underwent an enormous growth spurt behind the scenes. With two successful fundraising campaigns and our new non-profit status, we were able to acquire a new website, new runway, new technology services, legal support, and funds to help cover overhead for our larger productions of the year: the Artist of the Year Awards, the Swimsuit Show, and the Evening Gown Edition coming up this November.

Chance Fashion’s effort to create a more beautiful and accepting culture through the art of fashion has become contagious, and the reigns are slowly passing into the hands of a new generation of fashion leaders.

Moving forward, our current goals include implementing our new technologies, acquiring more production tools, recruiting more staff, further developing our teams, and preparing all the new staff for another year of progress in 2016. What better way to celebrate the accomplishments of Chance Fashion than to showcase the spectrum of diversity within our community.

 

 

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Personal style comes from the heart. July 12, 2016

 

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In the late 1960’s Janis Joplin sang her heart out: “Take another little piece of my heart now, baby! Break it! Break another little bit of my heart now, yeah, yeah! Have it! Have another little piece of my heart now, baby! You know you got it if it makes you feel good!” That’s the idea of my art above. We often give up something precious to us for the sake of something (or someone) else, hoping to find happiness or a deeper fulfillment in life.

 

And of course, this is not always the best action to take. In the doubled heat of suffering and the desire to remove suffering we more often than not take the path of least resistance. This is natural. Even animals, given the option fight or flee, find it easier to run away from a potentially bad situation. Who can blame them? Or us? In the immediacy of a crisis there is no time to gauge the future effects of a fast choice. We must confront those at a later time, and live with them for a long time thereafter.

Binge shopping comes to mind. And, while we’re at it…fast fashion.

The immediate effects of quickly buying an item of clothing to satisfy an urge to own some current fashion look can be addicting. But how long will that satisfaction last? Such is the nature of fashion.  But fashion changes, and rather quickly at that. So we are stuck between a rock and a hard place. To buy or not to buy. That is the question. Our fashionable friends and the clubs and parties we’ve been invited to tempt us to buy that dress NOW! But when the afterglow is over, what to do with that garment next?

I’m not attempting to pass judgement upon the likes of H&M or Zara. They are legitimate businesses and have every right to pursue profit. But there is an innate wisdom and creativity most people have but generally do not access when it comes to style and fashion. Janis Joplin had it big time.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Haute Couture is Fine Art. (As an artist, I can relate.) June 19, 2016

Hi guys, today we are going to address a rather sensitive area. Nothing makes me loose interest faster in a brand than when I read its description self-labelling itself as a Haute Couture brand. I know how tricky it is to find your own brand segment. But you should be careful with the Haute Couture label and here’s […]

via MARKETING: Criteria To Check Before Calling Yourself A Haute Couture Brand — FXF – The blog

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Categories: Uncategorized

Art As A Survival Technique March 22, 2016

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One of the features unique to being human is visual discernment, a key element of art. We often take what we see for granted, which is what all animals do. Something moves in the corner of our eye and we take flight. Or we chase it because it may be a source of protein.

But evolution has moved the human species beyond simple knee-jerk reactions. We now assign higher meanings to what passes before our eyes. Shapes and forms no longer signal just something to eat, run from, or mate with. They now represent abstract notions such as truth, beauty and goodness.

Some of the earliest abstract images created by humans represented things from their immediate surroundings:

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The uniquely human ability to observe and report (graphically) natural phenomena is the basis of culture. I’m a visual artist, so I won’t even go into the shapes and forms of the printed word that are the tools of writers. Or the shapes of notes that are transformed into the sound of music.

Drawing is a product of seeing. In a way it is our first attempt to create order out of chaos. To make sense of the world. Our prehistoric ancestors had no choice but to “create” techniques to survive the chaos of the natural environment. The role of visual art, especially drawing, has not changed much in the 40,000 years since those first  attempts by humans on cave walls. Those of us who have found our niche as visual storytellers continue to play a major role in culture, in society.

We make sense of the world not only for ourselves, but for our fellow humans. But it can be a thankless job in today’s market economy. As Madonna used to sing, “The boy with the cold hard cash is always Mister Right, ’cause we are living in a material world.”

For many of us today, the world can only be understood through what we buy and own. Advertising keeps that activity moving along. And as an advertising artist, that’s alright with me.

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Drawing Is Seeing: Art as a way to change yourself February 15, 2016

Drawing is seeing # 2

Drawing is Seeing # 2

 

This is the second of a series of art that I’ve created as visual meditations for your viewing pleasure. The idea is to allow you, the viewer, to make your own interpretation of what you see.

Be the one who determines your own reaction as you make your way through these picture posts. Create your own story about what you see as the picture on the right interacts with the picture on the left.

Hopefully these works will spark new ways for you to grasp and appreciate what’s around you. See more of my work at Bechance.

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Drawing Is Seeing: Refreshing your viewpoint. February 4, 2016

Drawing Is Seeing” is a series of visual meditations for your viewing pleasure. It is my re-boot of Milton Glaser‘s visual book, “Drawing is Thinking”  (Overlook Press, 2008). The concept of a visual book (one without text, rhyme or reason) is not new. But the images for it and the relationships between them are unique to the artist who uses it as a medium. And in this case, rather than a physically bound volume, you’ll be viewing a virtual visual book on your computer screen or mobile device.

Any text needing to be read will be offered at a bare minimum. The idea is to allow you, the viewer, to make your own interpretations of what you will be seeing. You will be the one to determine your own experience as you make your way through these blog posts. To make your own judgement calls on what you see happening, or not happening. Your journey will be aided by the format of the images presented. Most will be two placed side by side. Occasionally there will be three. The important thing is the development of implied ideas that occurs in your mind between the pictures you will be seeing.

To perceive something is to apprehend it with one’s sense of sight, through one’s eyes. To mentally register its form, color, texture, movement. And in this way, to categorize and file it away in one’s mind for future reference. This is what an artist does when he or she draws. But to perceiving something is not always actually seeing it. To go beyond the mere visual recording of a thing. Seeing something more clearly and on a deeper level (than its surface qualities) is a function of a person’s more spiritual nature. It arises from one’s subjective realm. That same dimension of life in which one’s overarching values (of the world and one’s place in it) are formed. 

The drawings, paintings and other artwork you’ll be encountering in this blog will hopefully  spark some novel ways for you to see the things around you. Enjoy!

 

Drawing Is Seeing 1

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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January 26, 2016

tres nuns unaltered

Here’s a recent interview of me about my work by Seattle Fashion blogger MAPLE Leopard:

 

Tell us about yourself and how did you become a fashion illustrator?

I’ve been drawing people for as long as I can remember, either making them up or copying super heroes from comic books. My interests in design and the human body could have led me to become an architect or a doctor, but I went with fine art. I learned advertising art skills from some of the best professionals in the business at the Academy of Art University in San Francisco, where I’m from originally. One of these classes was Fashion Drawing, with Justine Limpus Parish (presently associate professor at Art Center College of Design).

This type of illustration is rarely used today. Photography is almost exclusively the choice by the major fashion glossies. But drawing is more my forte, so I maintain a portfolio that shows my best paintings and drawings to prospective art buyers.

 

How do your sketches (pieces) come together? What techniques do you use?

I start with a pencil drawing on an 18″ x 24″ piece of paper of a model wearing a designer outfit. I prefer to draw from life but can draw from photographs (either my own or those of photographer friends, or from magazine shoots) if that’s not an option. I make several sketches of different poses and select one that best shows the unique features of the garment. (This is important if the outfit has a particular silhouette, line or movement that the designer has incorporated into the piece.)
I can then add a little color or background, or scan the line drawing and print it out on a material that I can use wet media on. Currently I use pen and ink and watercolors highlighted with color pencils.

 

Which designers are your favorite to illustrate?

I don’t have any favorite designers at the moment, but I like the work of Valentino and Oscar de la Renta. There’s something about their understanding and appreciation of the female form that goes well with the way I draw. The main thing is how a model’s attitude and pose combine with an interesting or sexy garment.

 

What qualities do fashion illustrations have that photographs or film don’t?

A drawn or painted image has the potential to take viewers to a whole other level than a photograph. Photographs do have the ability to instantly capture a fleeting moment (the two-second “vogue” on the runway), but an illustration can extend that moment in time and in one’s imagination, like a short story or a captivating movie.

 

Where do you get your inspiration?

I get my inspiration from people I observe around me, as well as from the work of photo stylists working in conjunction with photographers in forward fashion magazines. I also keep looking at the work of other illustrators, past and present.

 

Which other image makers do you admire?

I admire the work of a couple of current fashion illustrators: David Downton and Mats Gustafson, who seem to work on opposite ends of the picture-making spectrum. Illustrators from the past that I admire are Antonio Lopez, Renee Gruau, George Stavrinos. I also like the visual concepts Diana Vreeland came up with when she was with Vogue, as well as the many fashion photographers such as Richard Avedon, Irving Penn, etc.

 

What advice would you give to any upcoming fashion illustrators?

My advice would be to continue drawing and painting on a daily basis, even if you only have a short amount of time to do it. Also, look at a lot of fashion imagery, especially those in large print magazines. And keep in mind that illustration, especially fashion illustration, may not provide total financial security. You may have to keep your day job for a while as well as learn and nurture other skills pertinent to the fashion industry. Drawing is seeing, and seeing in itself is the basis for that sense of aesthetics that drives fashion.

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Art Music Dance Entertainment Fashion November 24, 2015

AMDEF

Seattle is a city that pushes the cultural and political envelope. I moved here in 2003 from San Francisco, long known as “The City That Knows How” and “Baghdad-By-The-Bay”, among other noms de guerre. Keeping in mind that the “The City” is just across the Bay from “Berserkely” (Berkeley) and “Bump City” (Oakland), the “Emerald City” (formerly “Jet City”) was not a major culture shock.

In fact, Seattle feels reassuringly like the northern extension of a geographic mind-set that stretches from the SF Bay Area through “Portlandia” (keeping it weird) on into Vancouver, B.C. Think cultures without borders.

If the lay of this land looks somewhat familiar, it was first envisioned by Ernest Callenbach in his 1975 classic “Ecotopia”. He described the political, cultural and economic secession of the northern West Coast from the rest of the United Sates. A few years later Seattle University professor David McCloskey coined the term “Cascadia” to describe a real-world culture that embodies the ideals of the fictional Ecotopia. Cascadia (Land of Falling Waters) is not just the environmental ecology of a geographic region but also a socio-cultural understanding nurtured by it.

Which brings to mind the annual confluence of Art, Music, Dance, Entertainment and Fashion in Seattle known as…AMDEF.

AMDEF presents a series of collaborations by artists, musicians, dancers, entertainers and fashionistas that challenge their creativity and talents to work together. Through a process of partnering talented individuals from very different creative disciplines and providing them the venue and resources to co-create unique performances at AMDEF shows, the producers hope to strengthen the Greater Seattle Area’s creative communities by exposing both artists and attendees to new mediums of entertainment.

As one of AMDEF’s contributing artists I’m happy to be a part of the “Cascadian” point of view!

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The Case For The Art of Fashion October 7, 2015

gatsby girl

Clothes are dynamic flexible objects with a personality photos cannot bring out.” Alf- B Dagsvold, CEO ItsMeSee

There is a reason why fashion runway shows have such visceral appeal. The clothing we choose to wear “fulfill their destiny” (if you will) not by hanging in closets collecting dust. They enhance and complete our perceptions of ourselves so that our friends, co-workers, associates can see us more completely. More as we really are. Or at least as how we like to think we are.  Fashion and style are individual choices. They have personality and are most becoming when their “personalities” match our own. And vice versa. (This has always been haute couture’s raison d’être.)

And because people are dynamic and flexible and move when going about the business of daily life, clothing is best studied and taken under consideration for purchase when they are observed on the fashion runway.

I’ve nothing against photography as a marketing tool for the apparel industry. I have many friends who make their living as fashion photographers. But sometimes a photograph, even taken by the most esteemed cameramen (and women) in the business, doesn’t quite capture the personality of the garment. On the other hand a free-hand sketch of a garment on a model…a fashion illustration…can convey the palpable impression of a living experience. It becomes more than a frozen document.

 

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