An illustration is a distinctive drawing using various media that depicts a status, whether it was a statement in response to situations, an expressive mean to convey ideas, or a mere form of artistic creation. In the history of fashion, illustrations were used to reflect a designer’s vision of what the new trend should look like. It was also a way to experiment the colour combination, choice of fabric and accessories visually before proceeding with the process of making the actual garments.
Illustrators initially used the common forms from sketching, drawing and painting, moving to publishing fashion engravings that were more accessible to the public. These drawings were developed and refined to present the final design and set the trend. However, with the rise of fashion photography, illustrations became more of preliminary studies, and the final design was replaced with the photograph.
As for fashion itself, it went through stages of progress that were slow at the beginning, but then the pace started accelerating during the 15th century. Fashion became a statement and a response to the then current social, political and economic changes. Through fashion trends depicted in paintings and photographs, historians were able to set the date and relate the artworks to a certain timeframe or period as well, turning the illustration into a document that records a moment in history.
Fashion illustrations are now not only used to present a garment or create a style, but they have transformed to become a form of art. Illustrations, whether still on paper or digital, interpret the vision of the illustrators themselves, and they no longer merely translate the designers’ concepts. They communicate ideas to the perceiver, through becoming the outcome and not only a stage in the process.
Many artists in the United Arab Emirates adopted this shift, and employed the illustration as a method that blurs categorisations of what should be defined as art and what should be cannoned under fashion. Artists here transformed their artistic creations into functional clothing designs that combine the traditional forms with the contemporary feel. The Lines and Stiches exhibition, organised by the Department of Culture and Tourism - Abu Dhabi, is a result of an open call that was sent out to artists, illustrators and designers alike. This exhibition aims to present the transitional phase from artist to designer and vice versa through the process of illustration. It is also a space to exhibit fashion illustrations as an integral form of art to the community, and another record of the fashion illustrator as the artist, and the illustration as the artwork.