HOW TO BUILD A PORTFOLIO
I have been working in the fashion industry and specifically as an illustrator for several years now. I have had the pleasure to work with designers, luxury department stores and magazines including Christian Dior, Louis Vuitton, Gucci, Fendi, Selfridges, Vogue Japan and more.
I am often asked by other illustrators how I have been building my career and what would be the first steps to take in order to become a fashion illustrator. I have no doubt that to succeed as a fashion illustrator you need first to create a strong and powerful portfolio.
I am sure many of you are now thinking that this is quite conventional, still, I think many creatives often underestimate the value of their portfolios.
In this post, I will give you my tips on how to put together an effective and successful portfolio, without taking anything for granted and based on my personal experience.
In a nutshell, your portfolio should be a representative selection of your best work. At first glance, your portfolio should act as your business card and it must reflect who you are and what you can do and accomplish for your potential clients.
In order to be a successful portfolio, it should speak for itself, clearly and instantly.
Remember to keep the quality of your portfolio at the top. Your folio needs to include only the best work you have done. When putting together your portfolio I would say that “less is more” is definitely something to keep in mind. Only your most stunning work should be presented and I suggest showing something between 10-15 images tops.
Your portfolio doesn't need to show growth, you don't need to include your old work to show how your style has progressed, on the contrary show only your stronger images. Remove any weak illustration and if you are in doubt about including a certain image, this maybe already means that it's not strong enough to be part of your portfolio.
Your portfolio should show also a consistency of style. You should be able to be versatile, approaching different areas and themes and still be recognizable. I know that the issue of style is often debated in the illustration community (and something I also approach on the pages of my book) still, versatility is often underestimated by many fashion illustrators.
Although many artists have been establishing their niche, I personally think that it can be more rewarding and fun to have a few strings to your bow, meaning more resources and more possibilities.
Under the “fashion illustration umbrella”, there are many themes and areas that can be developed and your portfolio should reflect that as well. Think already about womenswear and menswear and how for each category you should explore more options. Fashion can be presented in many different ways: emblematic runway moments, detailed close-ups or a more editorial approach in which your figures interact with the background. Think then of different ways to approach fashion in order to create a portfolio that's original and less repetitive. And as I said earlier, you could explore all that for women as for men.
Accessories have also a coveted spot in the fashion industry (think how some bags are now iconic in the fashion sphere and symbolic to specific fashion houses), that's why you may want to introduce them in your portfolio. Once again, accessories could be presented in a more conventional way, as part of a composition or engaging with the human figure. Jewellery also represents a whole micro area to explore in a similar way.
Other areas of interest that gravitate around fashion and that you could take into consideration are beauty, lifestyle and portraiture, which can, of course, be dealt with in very different ways.
I have for example conceived the twenty tutorials of my book so that when completing every single one, you will put together a well-rounded portfolio that investigates womenswear, menswear, accessories, beauty and more.
Exploring all these options will allow your portfolio to be vibrant and less predictable, showing your potential clients all that you can achieve.
That's why in order to be a professional illustrator I think your portfolio is your most important tool, only if you show enough of your creative spectrum you will gain the trust of your clients and secure their commissions.
Remember also that your portfolio is a constant work in progress, meaning that as long as you keep drawing and creating, you will for sure create more exciting work that you'd like to include in your portfolio. This means that you will remove some images in order to make some room for new and more interesting work.
I hope that through this post I was able to give you enough advice to make your first steps and break into the fashion illustration industry.