It may surprise you to learn that fashion illustrations are among my very favourite things, aesthetically speaking, ever since I flicked through 100 Years of Fashion Illustration by Cally Blackman and was bewitched by how completely a moment in colour and cloth could be captured. It wasn't long afterward that I came across a folder of sketched 'looks' from the 1930s at a vintage fair - all so stylised and graceful, I was on a student budget and the price was a little rich for my blood but I have never forgotten them.
Very recently I came across an illustrator whose work is infinitely more contemporary but retains all the elegance of those 1930s sketches and have since been glued to her blog - Helen Simms. I'd recommend whipping up a mug of whatever your preferred brew is and then popping over to enjoy her pieces, you could end up lingering there quite some time if you're anything like me - and proper refreshment is always a winner. In addition to her beautiful blog Helen also runs an Etsy shop filled with prints of her work, alongside originals - she very kindly offered me a chance to choose a print to review and I was immediately stuck between a rock and a hard place - I was enchanted by them all. The vivid green of this interpretation of an Elie Saab collection initially held sway before I looked more closely at the print photographed above, she stood out as almost my exact definition of female poise with her passing resemblance to Audrey Hepburn! It is her open expression in the glance over her shoulder, as though she has been preserved in a thoughtful moment, that made the decision for me.
As soon as she arrived in the post (speedily and very well packaged I may add!) I was on the hunt for the right frame, there are dozens in a box I was given by T's Mum and yet none of them seemed quite right. I hit the shops (print in bag) and still couldn't find a frame that would be simple enough to let the image speak for herself but give a bold enough border to contrast - plain black didn't seem to cut it. For the moment she is delicately clipped and hung as is, in my living room, and I frequently stop whatever I am doing to just enjoy looking at her. I have a runaway imagination and a tendency to invent a story at the drop of a hat, but I was curious as to what led Helen to create her so sent a few questions her way . . . . . .
What inspired you to create her?!
Helen: Well, funnily enough the illustration you chose was created to accompany a blog article I wrote about the fact I am going grey! I hope that doesn't put you off it in any way!
No but seriously, for some reason or another, I love drawing women - whether that's in the form of a portrait or as part of a fashion, beauty or lifestyle illustration. I suppose all illustrations develop their own style and my work is often about line and tends to be quite minimalist (if that's the right word) . When creating works I try to figure out just how little I can get away with and still capture what it is I'm trying to represent - figuring out how much can be pulled back. I think this piece is a lot about that conversation I'm having with myself in many ways!
What do you love most about fashion illustration?
Helen: That's a tough one! From quite a young age I always thought I wanted to become an artist and I thought that would be in the form of a fine art painter but a couple of years ago I began to pay more attention to illustration and suddenly something just clicked! There's often something very playful about it and to me, that's really important. I also love that it's such a diverse field and that there's room for so many different styles of illustration.
Do you have any thoughts on turning your passion into a career?
Helen: There's a quote taken from Confucius that I often hear that states "choose a job you love and you will never work a day in your life" and I really agree with that. I would create illustrations whether I got paid or not so if you have a passion, why wouldn't you try to make it your career? I'm not saying it's easy and believe me I've had to give myself a few pep talks to keep going but you do only live once so I think it's so important to love what you do. I have friends who hate their job and I just think, what a waste!
As a side note I recently read Paulo Coelho's 'The Alchemist' and it absolutely blew me away! If anyone has a dream they haven't quite reached yet I'd thoroughly recommend it!
I have felt so inspired by Helen's work over the past few weeks, both through her blog posts and the piece I have in my own home that I just had to share her work with you, I hope you enjoy it as much as I have!