This season, we've noticed somewhat of a shift in the interests of our contributing S/S 23 illustrators. While maintaining the beauty and wonder SHOWstudio believes fashion illustration can offer, our most recent illustrators have fed into a broader theme with their works utilising technologies and machinery to help assist them in their creativity. Whether it be going a step further to marry such technology with an art form as established and popular as drawing and painting like Arnaud Pfeffer or they've instead incorporated robotic-like structures and silhouettes into their works (Rashad Al Karooni we're looking at you)... intentional or not the face of fashion illustration is changing before our eyes, shifting and morphing into an indefinable form bigger than the pen and paper put together.
Intrigued by the fast-paced developments in technology and how they can be successfully merged with longstanding techniques humans have employed for centuries like pencil and paper, we interviewed both Pfeffer and Al Karooni to see what they had to say on their own work, as well as the changing world of illustration as we know it.
Asking both artists over email how they would sum up their styles, it was interesting to see the different ways in which they viewed their work. 'Flow, transient and ethereal' are the three pillars marking Al Karooni's self-analytical thoughts, juxtaposing Pfeffer's offering which was less rooted in the abstract and more in analysing the process's lurid qualities, describing his work as being grounded in 'materiality, process and experimentation'. Pfeffer, who illustrated our Milan collections, dedicates his practice to the relationship between illustration and technology (while also being an industrial designer on the side), choosing to champion processes involving mechanical structure and technicality; two tropes that have been perceived to be the antithesis of fashion illustration, up until now. 'I think we are living in an interesting moment in the world of illustration', Pfeffer divulges, 'especially with the emergence of artificial intelligence and image generation tools. I see them as great tools to work with. Just like mechanical drawing, the challenge now is to understand the sensitivity of these tools, particularly when generating new images, and the creative intention behind them, knowing how to make them resonate with more people. Intricate (and not to mention mesmerising), Pfeffer is truly one of a kind, existing in his own lane, living at the intersection of where various art forms meet in the name of fashion illustration. Part of a new guard of illustrators that hope to challenge and probe while practising different ways of seeing and thinking through their unique processes, he is undeniably part of a new guard, one that isn't saying they're 'done' with the pencil and pen but are looking to new technologies to emulate it. 'I find it very interesting to open up fashion illustration to other disciplines, where each universe can feed the other', Pfeffer informs me. 'I hope that the future of fashion illustration will be interdisciplinary, taking as many forms as there are personalities dealing with it.'
Despite Al Karooni's architectural background, the artist is open about not being overtly inspired by it when it comes to his designs. In short, the discipline may have fostered Al Karooni's interest in the process and technique, but it doesn't end there. 'I can't really pinpoint where my influences come from' Al Karooni revealed, admitting that his real passion grew with attending life drawing classes, where he found 'ways to catch the expression of something with as few lines as possible'. His untimely love for geometric shapes is also a fascinating one, telling me, 'my favourite approach has always been to draw a figure using geometric shapes, somehow the pressure feels off that way, and I guess I have run with that ever since.' The artist's dramatic use of shading to create more shapes by accentuating the unseen comes from unlikely teenage inspirations. 'When I was younger, I was always fascinated with graffiti and street art and I think there is something in that too, the immediacy of results and consistent flow with a spray can; I feel as though I use charcoal in a similar way.'
What ties Pfeffer and Al Karooni together isn't just their knack for thinking (or drawing) outside of the box, but it's also their backgrounds. Although both are equally talented in drawing, neither are professional illustrators by trade. While Al Karooni's background stems from architecture - semi-explaining his love of geometry - and Pfeffer's is in industrial design, both are key to understanding their different approaches in rethinking traditional illustration methods. Their thoughts on the future of the art form are also headed in a similar direction - an AI-led future that SHOWstudio shares in championing. Asking Al Karooni if he thinks new technologies have the power to change the face of illustration, his answer leaves no room for ambiguity. 'I think as designers and illustrators, we should not fear technology but rather be stakeholders in the conversation. When it comes to the long terms, I can imagine things like open source tools to draw and 3D print your own clothing using environmentally conscious materials' a democratic way of thinking to say the least, but will Al Karooni adopt these method in favour of his beloved charcoal? He's not so convinced. 'I also think augmented reality has a lot more potential from the perspective of designing in 3D however it will take a lot for me to put down my charcoal'.