Man Of The Mo­ment

Harper’s Bazaar (Malaysia) - - Contents -

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

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