Over the last decade, David Downton has established a reputation as one of the world’s leading fashion artists. His classically elegant, yet highly contemporary images have been a key factor in the revival of interest in the tradition of fashion illustration and David is a worthy successor to the great artists in his field including Gruau, Eric and Antonio. … “The modern day Gruau” – VALENTINO
In September 2011 he was appointed the first ever fashion artist in residence at Claridge’s Hotel in London. In which capacity he has been commissioned to draw the Hotel’s most illustrious guests from the world of style and fashion. September 2015 sees the release of his much anticipated monograph “David Downton: Portraits of the World’s Most Stylish Women”.
I’m honored to be in your latest book.
I am thrilled to have you in it! I can’t believe that we first met in London back in 1999. You had flame red hair and a new tattoo. Heady stuff. Then, we had another sitting a couple of years ago for Vanity Fair’s best Dressed List. The dance continues!
What inspires you?
The extraordinary people I meet across the drawing board. I honestly feel so lucky to be doing what I do, and every time I am faced with a new experience I say to myself “Look where drawing got me.”
Who are your fave illustrators?
My influences are the amazing 20th century pioneers of fashion illustration. I am thinking of Gruau in particular. And Eric and Bouché and Vertès. They were masters of line who held a mirror up to the times they lived in. Then, later on, I loved the work of Antonio and Viramontes. I have seen a wonderful Antonio drawing of you. Did you work with Viramontes too? I would love to see that!
Why do you think the art of illustration has come into focus lately?
I think so many more people are interested in doing it, in putting their own stamp on fashion illustration as an art form. It is an exciting time to be an illustrator, no question. Also, I think Instagram has had a powerful effect. It has enlivened everything and means that artists can find a ready audience. It has also created stars like Donald Drawbertson and Paper Fashion, and that helps everyone. Fashion illustration still fights for a place in high end glossy magazines (with some honourable exceptions) the difference is that now it is not dependent on them.
What makes a great muse?
Well, it’s not a passive role. The muse is her (or him)self at heart an image maker. It is a creative partnership. You have the same goal (a great drawing) and you bring out the best in each other. It is a duet.
Does fashion inform the drawing? If so, how?
Absolutely. Artists and illustrators are interpreters of the designer’s work. We react to what to what we see and must be respectful of it. Really it’s one art form describing another.
How does it feel to be the artist in residence at Claridges?
Pinch me! I have loved every minute of it. Claridge’s is a world apart and whenever I am there (typically once or twice a week) I enter their world and it’s so much better than ours. Claridge’s is my London home, my London office and my London dreamscape. You must come and see me there…
How did your collaboration with Vanity Fair came about?
I am not entirely sure. I just know that I got a call from Graydon Carter’s office and I came to New York to meet with them and we went from there. I must say the experience has been second to none. I was always a reader and have a collection going back to when it was re-vamped by Tina Brown. I love the writing, the high style and the low culture. The politics, the glamour and the drama. It has been a honour to work with them. A dream job.
What is next for you?
Firstly, I go to Australia in September to present a capsule collection of drawings from this year’s Haute Couture shows. Then, book launches in London, NY and San Francisco. Next year will be my 20th year of attending couture shows so I am planning a big exhibition around that. In the meantime am working on some magazine assignments, a project with Bryan Ferry and a theatre poster in Paris. Pinch me again!