Meet Monica Lee – Fashion Illustrator
During LFW, chance meetings are often all about where you happen to be sitting. At Fashion Scout, aside from the bank of photographers and the odd scribe, I was bewitched by a woman with her Ipad Pro ‘sketching’ the catwalk designs on the FROW bench next to me.
Maybe I am old school, but I could not help being intrigued by these fashion life drawings traditionally illustrated yet now digitally captured. Single-line color definitions conjuring up memories of the exquisite free-hand designs Yves Saint Laurent effortlessly produced (back-to-back without blue pencil once leaving the paper) captured on video in the studio of his home in Marrakech, and now within a new, digitally purposed environment from the hand craft of Massachusetts based Monica Lee.
(Image left: Paul Markevicius far left ponders Leaf Xia's latest collection while Monica quickly sketches next to him.)
A cool design signifier for a brand perhaps? The stylistic representation of Monica’s illustrations provide a unique hand-drawn appeal to any fashion garment design, capturing the humanistic quality of ‘being there’ at the catwalk and the immediacy this conveys. As with the journalistic requirement to rapidly annotate impressions from the catwalk as they come at you, Monica’s illustrations convey the essence of silhouette and palette, with enough detail to capture key design features and signature looks in the blink of an eye, literally. It’s an extraordinary skill seeming to intuit the garment in a way that feels more in-tune with the original design inspiration than the photographic image, with its over-subscribed immediacy too readily available to be objectively appreciated.
Monica’s illustrations may evoke classical Vogue illustrations from as far back as you want to go to appreciate haute couture styling, yet equally brought to life on the Fashion Scout catwalk in a contemporary way for any designs. Hard not to be an instant illustrator groupie, delighting in the deft touch of Monica’s Apple pencil, (the newly released star performer from the orchard) as she painted Leaf Xia’s AW16 collection, New York based Chinese designer, onto her Ipad canvas, with Adobe Draw and Vector files making up the supporting cast. Easy peasy apple squeezy.
Monica’s freelance illustrator skills and professional ambitions are aimed at the larger, luxury end brands, cultivating unique relationships and exclusivity through her own signature style. It’s an intriguing proposition: the opportunity to use her talent and promote the brand story in a global fashion arena that is by definition, visually determined in a new way. Her hand-drawn signature styling easily positioned within hi-end fashion magazines the traditional home of fashion illustrations. Monica Lee adds an artistic layer to the Instagram world we now habituate.
There’s a sense of seeing-is-believing with her on-demand illustrations and the creative potential it affords particular fashion houses willing to use their imagination to adopt them as part of their brand positioning.
Monica is no ordinary creative and fulfills a number of parallel professional endeavors. She delivers ‘Smart Creative Women’ podcasts (huge following stateside where she hails from). “A weekly coffee chat coaching for creative women.” And her current focus didn’t just happen out of nothing. “I went back to school after 16 years to learn Photoshop, having been traditionally trained as an illustrator.”
Three weeks prior to LFW, Monica saw Fashion Scout (FS) on social media and thought why not give it a go and hop across the pond. To their credit they responded quickly and positively with as many FROW’s as she wanted. This act of London-bound spontaneity is in harmony with her. “Suddenly becoming conscious of my own brand, using drawing and creating a following.” She also just happened to launch her own bag brand recently. Monica’s all really rather got it going on it seems. I hope the fashion world in its infinite variety of wisdoms has the good sense to know a good thing when it sees it. And use it.
By Paul Markevicius
All illustrations by Monica Lee