Creative Spotlight episode 185 features Rachel, who is an illustrator as well as a fashion design student at Parsons the New School for Design. Though mostly known for her fashion illustrations, she is capable of a wide range of styles and has worked with a variety of clients from individuals to small businesses to Fortune 500 companies. In studying and pursuing fashion design, she is able to merge her two loves to create an aesthetic that is her own. Read below for the full interview…
The University you attend needs no introduction. What is the most challenging aspect of being a student in fashion at Parsons?
Rachel: Personally, I found that the most challenging aspect of being a student in fashion at Parsons is learning how to manage your time. The curriculum is incredibly demanding.
What skillsets did you have to develop in order to work cooperatively with both Fortune 500 companies and small business owners?
Rachel: A solid foundation in technical skills such as sketching (both digitally and by hand), painting, marker rendering, and pen & ink are all important. I also feel like in this technology obsessed world we currently live and work in, it’s hugely beneficial to keep yourself up to date and comfortable with digital programs such as the Adobe Creative Suite. There are so many new platforms popping up now, like the app Sketchbook Pro for iPad, that I never considered as a medium for illustration. I had to learn Sketchbook Pro the week before I worked for American Express at NY Fashion Week. It is such a great program to sketch out quick ideas, I still currently use it for a lot of my work!
How would you define your style? If you could give women a fashion tip(s) to be fabulous, what would it be?
Rachel: I don’t really have one set personal style as I like to experiment with many different styles! I go on my mood for the day, or what I am currently inspired by. Sometimes I will see an image and it will just make me feel a certain way. Then I’ll run home and try to put together an outfit from what I have to best convey that mood I’m in. I would tell women to not think too much about how they look to other people, keep true to yourself and just be creative! Go with your gut and take some risks, you never know what you’ll end up with if you break the rules every now and then.
Have you had any direct experience working with Philip Lim? In your own opinion how has his influence in womenswear impacted your own thoughts on the current trends?
Rachel: I actually didn’t get a chance to work directly with Phillip Lim while I was at the company. However, because the studios are very open, I was fortunate to be able to be in the vicinity while some of the meetings were conducted around me with various other teams. Phillip is very involved in the design process of all of his teams and it’s nice to see that he’s always in the studio keeping in touch with the design teams. In my opinion, I feel like Phillip Lim womenswear cannot be described as “trendy” as it has a life of its own. It stays modern and true to his aesthetic while being appealing to women in almost any place of their life. I find myself incorporating Phillip Lim pieces into my wardrobe whether it be for a formal occasion or just on my every day trip to the grocery. It’s easy to wear and gives women a lot of freedom to personalize the pieces to their own style.
Focusing on your fashion illustrations, what is your creative process behind this? Does every illustration bear in mind that it could develop into a possible prototype; or is this purely being creative?
Rachel: It depends on the illustration project. If it is work for a client, there is usually a set of parameters and criteria based on what they are looking for that you have to work within. However, I always find it a personal challenge to still be able to exercise some creative freedom within the given boundaries. The other small personal projects I’ve worked on normally take shape when I get an image in my head, an idea, or something I can’t shake and then I start to try and work it out with the pen and pencil. It almost never turns out how I initially imagined it, but the image evolves as I work it out more and more. Some other projects start with a small prompt. For example, the image Inspired By Solipsist just came from my being inspired by the video and then wanting to capture one single moment from it on paper.
You exercise techniques from usage of color, to facial expressions. Are these factors key components to illustrating fashion?
Rachel: I believe so. A simple decision to illustrate a woman’s pose with her head tilted upwards or downwards can convey the mood of an entire collection and establish the feel of the clothes. It goes further as using these small notions to get across things like what type of girl your customer is, or what woman the clothes will appeal to. The clothes should always speak for themselves, and it’s a challenge to find the balance between the woman and the clothing. Most of the time, i work to keep the illustration balanced so that the woman doesn’t overpower the clothes and vice versa.
That leads me to my next question: What is more critical in capturing a design on paper — aesthetics or comfort level (on how it sits on a model)?
Rachel: I think both are important. Alluding back to what I said previously, it’s all about having an eye for balance. I believe that when you draw a woman in your clothing, you draw her as your ideal, she is the woman you see your clothes on. But at the same time, it’s important that she doesn’t look stiff. If she’s intended as your ideal customer, then she must look at ease and comfortable in the clothing you’ve dressed her in.
What are some of your favorite Asian films or anime?
Rachel: I grew up on Hayao Miyazaki/Studio Ghibli films. Totoro and Princess Mononoke have to be two of my childhood favorites. I grew up wanting to run into the woods and fall onto a Totoro belly! The dream[ laughs]. I love almost everything they put out. On a different genre, some of my other favorites are – Chocolate, Raid Redemption, In the Mood for Love, Kung Fu Hustle, and House of Flying Daggers. My family is from Hong Kong, so naturally I love Hong Kong cinema, especially some of those silly comedies.
What lies ahead of you when you are further in your career? Do you plan on staying in New York?
Rachel: For now, I plan to stay in New York. I lived abroad briefly in London and absolutely loved it there as well! I hope to someday find my way back to Europe, but for now I really want to establish myself here in New York.
Lastly, any advice to any creative that are around your age that might be struggling in the same position as you (about to finish school, scared of the ‘real world’, confidence issues, etc.)?
Rachel: Just be confident about your work. You are a creative and you have a vision. Being in this industry means you have to accept the fact that your aesthetic may not be for everyone, but at the end of the day, it’s what makes you an individual and being unique pulls a lot of weight. The real world isn’t so scary, it is what you make of it! Sometimes things don’t always go your way, but such is life. Be patient, life is long and you have lots of time to get where you want to be. I really believe that each experience, whether good or bad, can help you grow closer to the person you want to be.
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