Fashion Illustration for the Modern Mind

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Dior A/W15© Mats Gustafson, Courtesy Rizzoli

Swedish illustrator Mats Gustafson talks us through the contemporary elegance of his illustrations for Dior

Mats Gustafson was in Paris for just enough time to recover from Stockholm’s icy breeze, throw a soirée for his new book Dior by Mats Gustafson, and see Maria Grazia Chiuri’s latest collection for the house. Gustafson brought his inimitable style of illustration to the fashion brand just as Raf Simons joined in 2012. Though Gustafson denies any knowledge that Simons requested him especially, his refined and almost abstract forms fit perfectly with the striking modernity of Simons’ designs. The images that grace this book offer a hand-wrought celebration of fashion illustration, in a world where photography has long been the dominant language of its visual culture. Gustafson’s clean and clear rendering of catwalk looks spans the old and new, from the archives to Chiuri’s S/S17 debut collection. And a quick scan through this series of dreamlike watercolours will bring an elevated, elegance to your Monday.

Gustafson forged his career providing illustrations of the collections to Grace Coddington at British Vogue, Anna Wintour at US Vogue and the late, great, Franca Sozzani at Italian Vogue, which he tells AnOther might be the “longest, and maybe the most creative and productive collaboration” he’s enjoyed. Now he follows the legacy of fashion’s most storied illustrator, René Gruau, whose graphic portrayals of the Dior codes changed fashion advertising forever. It’s quite the responsibility: “Oh I get sweaty just thinking about it,” Gustafson says. “To me he’s the ultimate fashion illustrator of course, but it’s of another time – a different context.”

Gustafson’s cool palette, washes of colour and black ‘highlights’ (from cut-out couture tops to thigh-split skirts) all capture a feeling of modernity. It’s his process of minimising and streamlining that makes this possible: “I start with more components and then I work and work and work by eliminating or reducing and I get to the essence somehow. [...] But I’m drawn to that, trying to simplify and reduce.” And with this, Gustafson provides just the freshness that today’s Dior woman needs as the brand moves into its new chapter. “This is the third collection I see by Maria Grazia,” Mats says of the A/W17 collection that had shown earlier that day. “And it’s interesting of course, as she’s a woman designer. The femininity is so obviously there. Dior has always been about femininity but this is Dior femininity by a woman… I see it as an extension of the foundation that Christian Dior himself had created.”

Dior by Mats Gustafson is out now, published by Rizzoli.