By  on February 22, 2008

NEW YORK — A designer's sketch can be as artful and expressive as the actual outfit it portrays.

"Fashion Illustration by Fashion Designers," a new book by Laird Borrelli, drives home the notion. Borrelli assembled some of the most creative illustrations by 50 designers, the result of which is like a colorful candy box filled with lively drawings. Some sketches are more polished, others are raw and almost primitive. Nevertheless, all submissions are full of character and emotion, revealing as much about the clothes as the personal nature of the creatives behind them.

"It doesn't have to be about the dress so much, but about personal expression of their hand on the paper," Borrelli, who is also senior features editor at Style.com, said. "No one ever gets to see these drawings, since they are not really intended for public view."

This is Borrelli's fifth book, and her third on illustration. She previously authored "Fashion Illustration Now" and "Fashion Illustration Next," which were compilations of works by professional illustrators. Her new tome, published by Chronicle Books and out in bookstores in mid-March, focuses on designers who still sketch their creations.

Over the past few months, Borrelli sent out letters asking designers to draw. After editing the entries, she ended up with works from more than 50, including Christian Lacroix, Karl Lagerfeld, Michael Vollbracht, Terexov, Antonio Berardi, Bruno Frisoni, Susan Cianciolo and Zac Posen.

In the research process, the author made an effort to not be too New York-centric. The book includes big names and lesser-known ones from Russia, the Netherlands, Belgium, Israel and Argentina, including Aitor Throup, Bas Kosters, Jens Laugesen and Molly Grad.

While some designers supplied older illustrations, "the intention was not to make it too much like a retrospective," Borrelli said. Finding suitable designers proved to be more difficult than one would think. "Not all designers draw, so it was quite a challenge to figure out who does," she said.

From Badgley Mischka's glamour girl to Denis Simachëv's wild Russian men, the drawings are expressive, which attracted Borrelli to the genre.

"A photo is more prose, and an illustration is more like fiction," Borrelli said. "When you look at a photograph, you might be aware of season, the photographer and the model. With a drawing, the designers tell a story of something that may exist in real life, without too many facts getting in the way."The author also interviewed the featured designers about their views on sketching designs. Borrelli said during the interviews, many designers referenced the same idols of illustration.

"The drawings of Yves Saint Laurent himself and Antonio Lopez had an indelible effect," Borrelli said. "Their names came up most frequently. Almost all designers pointed to those as being influential and iconic to them."

Borrelli is already on to her next project. She is working on a book on the cocktail dress, expected to be published by HarperCollins in spring 2009.

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