Like many of his predecessors such as René Gruau and Antonio Lopez, David Downton’s graceful illustrations have captured the beauty of fashion. Renowned for his drawings of women such as Cate Blanchett, Sofia Coppola and Lady Gaga, every line and stroke comes to life under Downton’s deft hands. It’s little wonder then, that Michael Kors has tapped on Downton’s skills for a capsule collection that features the latter’s elegant watercolour renderings of women splashed across a selection of ready-to-wear pieces and bags. “This is our first collaboration with an artist for Michael Kors Collection, and it is very personal,” the American designer explained in a release. “David captures people’s essence and style without feeling the need to draw every detail about them—it’s the magic of a great illustrator.”
Here, the artist talks about the collaborative process, getting his start, and the importance of having fun.
- Can you tell us about the process of creating these illustrations, from conception to final product?
David Downton: Michael and I were talking and it became clear that we liked and admired a number of the same women. He commissioned some drawings, not of specific women, but of archetypes. I have to say Michael was the easiest person to work with, because he knows exactly what he wants. I wasn’t directly involved in the design or application of the drawings onto the pieces, so it was a thrill for me to see them at Michael’s show for the first time. I was thrilled, too, that Thandie Newton (who I’ve also drawn for Claridge’s) was wearing one of the dresses at a movie premiere in London recently.
- What’s your favorite portrait from your book?
I couldn’t pick one! They are all a part of a continuum. I have worked with Erin O’ Connor for twenty years now and with Carmen Dell’Orefice for almost as long. They certainly represent a drawing ideal for me. Then again, I recently had the privilege of drawing one of my idols, Anjelica Huston.
How did you get your start?
I was good at drawing in a family of sportsmen. I suppose it made me stand out. I must have liked the attention, because I kept at it. Later, I honestly didn’t think I had many options. Drawing seemed to be all I could do. I began in the 1980s as a general illustrator, taking on every kind of job, happy just to be working. Fashion and portraiture came much later.
What came first – the love for fashion, illustration, or glamorous women?
Illustration, I would say. As a child, Disney animation was what made me want to be an artist. Then, the movie posters of Bob Peak and Robert McGinnis. I didn’t go to galleries, I went to the cinema.
What is your best piece of advice for artists starting out?
Be yourself. Not a watered down version of someone else. Take the long view, it’s not a race… most of all, enjoy it. Have fun. It’s allowed!