The Genteel
September 28, 2020


Joel Yum: For those who don't know, what is fashion illustration? 

Isabelle Choi: To me, fashion illustration is incorporating fashion in some shape or form into your drawings. 

There are different types of fashion illustrations. There are technical fashion illustrations, where designers come up with designs and sketch them out. Some illustrators who are not designers may draw garments by other designers. For me, I don't necessarily draw existing garments. I just see how I feel depending on what I am inspired by at the moment and I will create something of my own.

JY: How and when did you first get into fashion illustration? 

IC: I have always been very passionate about drawing, sketching and illustrating since I was very young. I never thought that I would be pursuing it. My parents really didn't want me to go in that direction but it's a passion that you have and you can't get rid of something like that.

I actually started out drawing cartoons and Sailor Moon! That's the way I got into practising and drawing figures. It's only been in the last few years that I've been very inspired by [the fashion] world and I have been incorporating [fashion] into my drawings ever since.

JY: Do you do any designing along with illustration? 

IC: I do sometimes, not always. Sometimes, the things that come out of my head cannot really be produced into tangible things, but I do like to design. In my spare time I do some [fashion] designing, but I haven't actually fully sewn [any pieces] together yet.

JY: When it comes to your illustrations, are there any underlying concepts? Any themes or moods that you like to portray?

IC: It really is in the moment - creativity comes and goes. My work is a very personal thing and it reflects what I'm going through in my life at the time. 

When I'm not illustrating, it means I'm not really going through anything! But I'm always going through something. It's a very good way for me to relieve any stress. Sometimes, you just want to draw, you just want to do it, so you do it.

JY: What different types of mediums do you work with when you're illustrating?

IC: I like to experiment with different types of mediums, but I mainly work with inks and watercolours on different types of paper. My favourite is the heavier watercolour paper.

JY: You mentioned that you scan [your drawings] into Photoshop and trace over them or overlay another digital process onto your analogue? 

IC: Yes, so rather than drawing with pencils and inks on paper, I want to take [my work] to the next level, try something I've never done before and translate [my drawings] into a completely different medium.

I sketch out my drawings on paper, then I scan them in [to Photoshop]. I patch up any details, fix it up a little bit, re-draw it in Photoshop - that's when my work becomes more complete. Then I would give it to my laser printer. So that's where the new medium comes in - using a laser facility to translate my work onto laser cut pieces of wood panels.

It's a long process but it's a lot of fun. It's nice to see your work in a different light, and try different things - experimenting has always been one of my favourite things.

JY: Besides personal things you're going through, does anything else inspire your creativity when it comes to fashion illustration?

IC: Everything! The music that I listen to is very, very important. It's funny because when I'm doing a piece of work, I have my music on repeat. The same song on repeat! I know my neighbours probably hate me for it, listening to the same song over and over again, but that's one of my working habits /quirks.

I always try to keep my eyes open and observe what's going on around me and not just in my immediate environment. Everything and anything. Even the things I eat sometimes - I'm a big food person. Everything!

JY: Who are some of your favourite fashion illustrators?

IC: I have been greatly influenced by Aubrey Beardsley. He did a lot of ink drawings back in the day. Audrey Kawasaki - she's a Japanese illustrator - beautiful, beautiful work. Laura Laine - she's a fashion illustrator. Her work is very detailed and it emits that sort of emotion, melancholic feel - that's what I would like my work to reflect. I want someone to look at it and feel something. I always try to put meaning behind my work.

JY: What's your outlook on the current state of fashion illustration?

IC: People have been turning more to digital media such as illustrations through vector art on [Adobe] Illustrator, and using the tablet to create digital works of art.

There are definitely still people who like to keep with a very tangible medium. I like the feeling of sharpening my pencil and getting smudges on my hands, even though when it happens, I hate it! It's that feeling - kind of like when you open a book and read it, holding the pages in your hands. I like the feeling of having full control of my mediums.

JY: You have an exhibition coming up soon?

IC: I do have an exhibit coming up. It's April 10 to 12, 2012 as part of Mass Exodus, Lucid 2012 at Ryerson University. That's where you can catch the first view of my laser cut artwork.

Images by Isabelle Choi. Interview by Joel Yum. For more Isabelle Choi imagery, head over to The Image Interview.



Sign up to receive a weekly dispatch from The Genteel.

About Us

The Genteel unearths the forces shaping global fashion and design through the lens of business, culture, society and best kept secrets. 

More about us

Our Contributors

A worldwide collective of contributors currently form The Genteel. On a daily basis our team dispatches thought-provoking and insightful articles from the streets of Oslo, Toronto, Beirut, Moscow, United Arab Emirates, Seoul and beyond.