July is nearly upon us, marking the beginning of summer in full swing. Before this happens though, we are proud to present our 15th edition of ‘Illustrator of the Month’: A series dedicated to feature our talented and diverse AOI members.
This month, we bring you Illustrator Francesco Lo Iacono – An Italian Fashion Illustrator based in London. With quick yet precise brush strokes, his exquisite watercolour drawings bring to life models and garments on a regular basis. With a distinguished skill in live drawing, his impressive client list includes brands like Dior, REDValentino, Ted Baker, Selfridges, Harvey Nichols, and many more.
Additionally, Francesco runs a successful Fashion Live Drawing class in Cass Art Islington, showcasing new designers and models on a monthly basis. While his classes are taking a summer break, we take the opportunity to ask some questions to Francesco about his background and practice.
How did you get into illustration and what made you choose to specialise in Fashion Illustration?
I have been drawing as long as I can remember. Like many other illustrators, my school books were filled with lots of sketches.
But I got into fashion quite late, mainly while I was studying for a Masters in photography and started developing an interest in fashion photography. So, at some point, it seemed quite natural mixing drawing with fashion. I then moved from Italy to Paris and worked for a trend forecasting agency for a while, in the womenswear studio team. This experience was extremely valuable, as I had no proper education in fashion and I was very eager to learn. It was an important period that paved the way to my career as an illustrator, as I met other creatives working for the same agency as freelancers. While I was still working for this agency, I opened my blog exclusively dedicated to fashion illustration. Everything developed naturally from there.
Photograph (c) Alberto Romano
You are often invited by fashion brands to live draw during backstage fittings and events. How did you start doing them?
When I was living in Paris, I attended several shows during Fashion Week. Even though I was often working as a photographer, I was always thinking how precious it’d be to be able to sketch live from the catwalk or backstage, while the garments are at a few inches from you.
I think I first started because I always thought that sketching from a live source and sketching from a photograph are two very different things. I wanted to get confident enough to deliver something good in such a short amount of time, so I didn’t start live drawing specifically for events until the last two and a half years.
To this day, sketching live during a show is probably the most exciting thing to do for me as an illustrator.
What’s been your most exciting project to date?
So far I have been very lucky to be able to do very interesting projects, working each time with different clients.
If I had to pick, probably my live coverage of the Spring/Summer 2019 Off-White fashion show in Paris – It was one of my most memorable moments to date.
In this case, I approached the Off-White team with the idea of having me sketching live backstage, to create an exclusive illustrated view of their new collection. They really liked the idea and they also invited me to the fittings, a few days prior to the show itself, to do some preliminary sketches.
Being able to attend the fittings allowed me to approach the new collection with more time than usual (as I mostly sketch only during shows and backstage). I was able to have a preview of the collection, the colour palette, the details of the garments and accessories, sometimes edited or created under my eyes.
A couple of days later, on the day of the show, I started doing some sketches of the models’ faces already during the rehearsals. I ended up doing more of my illustrations while models were in line, right before hitting the catwalk, fully dressed and with make-up on.
You tutor a successful Life Drawing class at Cass Art Islington, featuring designs by emerging Fashion Designers. What’ve been the most challenging and gratifying aspects of running these sessions?
I am very happy I decided to start this class, as so far it has been a very lovely experience.
I’d say the most challenging aspect is setting up everything, because it always takes time to find the right designer and model and making sure they are available.
Every other moment of the class has been just amazing, thanks also to the Cass Art team that have been so delightful to work with.
I really love to exchange with the attendees and I try to take enough time to speak to each of them, because everyone comes to my class with different art backgrounds and expectations. I do hope the class is enriching for everyone who is attending as it is for myself!
What key advice would you give to emerging Illustrators looking to enter the fashion industry?
I feel like I am still learning myself every day. I think everyone who wants to work as an illustrator needs to be hard-working and very patient.
There are no short cuts, it takes a lot of time and effort. But if (like me) you really love it, if it is your dream, then you will find your way to it.
Are you working on any exciting future projects?
I am currently working on a very special personal project as I wanted to focus on something just for me, like a challenge.
I am illustrating the whole Autumn/Winter 2019 Gucci collection, posting each look daily on my Instagram Stories. This is an ongoing project since a few months ago.
I have also other projects going on during London and Paris Fashion Week hopefully.
Many thanks to Francesco for taking part in our interview!
See more of Francesco’s work on his Website and Instagram. Keep an eye out on our Events page for any future Cass Art Life Drawings sessions too!
And catch last month’s members feature on Illustrator Laura Callaghan.