Man Of The Moment
of his famous sporting brother. However, David said that he couldn’t think of anything worse than being crouched behind some wickets in the midday sun; he didn’t envy his brother in the slightest. He was happiest in his bedroom recreating movie posters by his own idol, American artist Bob Peak. It was only when he went to art college that his confidence took a bit of a knock, when he found that there were other students out there who were equally adept at putting pencils or paintbrush to paper. But maybe this is what encouraged him to knuckle down and be prepared to work for his success.
He recently celebrated 21 years and more in the business with the book, DD21. These signed and numbered limited edition copies feature more than 150 illustrations of women from the fields of film and fashion. But the images that lie within this glossy tome are only just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to what Downton has achieved. He is the doyenne of fashion illustration.
There have been many highlights in the fashion illustrator’s career, but when it comes to shows, he says that Galliano’s Marchesa Casati couture show in 1998 was perhaps the most memorable. “It took place at the Opera Garnier in Paris, there was a tango orchestra, maharajahs in diamonds serving champagne, and that was before the show began,” he says. “What followed was sensory overload and I don’t think that anyone who was there will ever forget it. It was the perfect illustration of the madness and beauty of couture.”
There’s no doubt that illustration fell out of favour somewhere along the line. So when we chat with him about his success and career, we want to know why he thinks he has become so popular once again. “Today, we are so saturated by photographic images that illustration looks increasingly refreshing,” says Downton. “Everyone thinks they can be a photographer today, in part thanks to the iPhone. You see them pointing everywhere! Although drawing predates photography by centuries, right now it looks, in a strange way, more modern. Illustration is more personal.”
This “madness and beauty” that he experienced at Galliano kept Downton enraptured. And like the child who once drew the movie posters, he’s still as star-struck. When he’s invited to sketch A-listers such as Cate Blanchett or Dita Von Teese, he panics. But when they arrive, the nerves go and he just sits down and draws.
Yet, he admits that drawing couture also comes with its own challenges. “They are all difficult and easy at the same time,” says Downton. “An illustrator is essentially an observer, not a creator. Fashion illustration is really about soaking up someone else’s creativity and reinterpreting it. I loved YSL, Galliano for Dior, and the maestro, Christian Lacroix. And today, I especially love the art and artistry at Schiaparelli.”
“We are so saturated by photographic images that illustration looks increasingly refreshing.” – David Downton
Downton in his studio
Sofia Coppola, 2012, David Downton