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Joelle Chariau: Designing Fashion

Posted by Alex Bec,

Drawing Fashion at the Design Museum is an unabashed celebration of Fashion Illustration from the the last two centuries. The show is an absolute joy, and the curation is as astute as you would expect from the museum’s high standards. The collection of work has been put together over the past 30 years by Joelle Chariau of Galerie Bartsch & Chariau and we caught up with her to hear her incredibly well informed opinion of the medium on show.

Hi Joelle, the exhibition looks fantastic; I’d like to start by asking you how relevant do you think fashion illustration is in the modern world of film and photography?

I’m glad you liked the exhibition, I’m very grateful to the Design Museum for presenting the collection in such a perfect way. Fashion drawing (the contemporary artists and myself don’t think that the word illustration quite applies to their work) is still relevant today, but in a different way. It will never supersede photography that has taken over the role of illustrating a dress or the person wearing the dress, but because of this, it has evolved in a very interesting way, fashion drawings have become free-er, more abstract, more experimental , concentrating on the essence of a garment, on the spirit of a style. It gives therefore a kind of style commentary, which next to the photograph gives the magazines a tension, and possibly an aesthetical interest that they nowadays sadly very often lack. It is telling that except for an occasional Vogue feature, the magazines that publish fashion drawings today are the avant-garde ones (Purple, Dazed & Confused, Numero etc.)

Do you think the removal of a machine (ie. lens or video camera) between the person documenting a garment and the model make drawing more emotional than a standard photograph?

Emotions arise from beauty and there are also beautiful photographs. Sometimes a drawing can be more moving than a photograph. It is at any rate more efficient, owing to the fact that, because of its abstraction potential, drawing imprints itself on the mind and the memory of the viewer more easily than a photograph. If you think of the many beautiful adverts by Gruau, Cassandre and other great artists that now belong to the collective memory, at least in France.

Can you ever imagine photography or film being as seductive as the pieces featured in the show?

Personally I’m a great fan of film and photography, I would say yes, but it is not a question of either/or. I have found out that many photographers collect drawings because they find it interesting to see what drawing can convey and photography cannot. I once asked Gruau this question and his interesting answer was that a quite good photograph was superior to a quite good drawing, but an excellent drawing was far superior to an excellent photograph.

Do you think we should we still be teaching fashion illustration?

Definitely yes.

Can you name a few of your favourite pieces from the show that our viewers should look out for?

This exhibition is a collection of my favorite drawings. It is difficult for me to choose my favourite and it changes day to day. Gruau produced a number of exquisite drawings, I’m not sure I can choose one, they are all so beautiful…

Drawing Fashion runs though 6 March 2011


Posted by Alex Bec

Alex is one of the directors of It’s Nice That who now oversees our sister creative agency INT Works. For several years he oversaw the Monday Morning Music Video feature until it came to an end in 2014.

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