Sharan Ranshi is lifting the long-limbed, sketched fashion model into the world of fine art.
It’s a new life for the fashion illustration: one that abandons the stark white page and lands the drawn women in a color storm of living room luxury, giving them moods and personalities that make the women themselves a thing of interest — not just the clothing they’ve been sketched into.
“I started off doing fashion illustration and it developed more into a portrait where, obviously, the clothing is important, but so is the background,” Ranshi tells WWD from her home in the U.K. “So, it’s like a complete painting, whereas a fashion illustration can be more of a sketch or a faster-paced drawing. This takes me some time to do and I really think about what kind of a woman would be wearing the clothing, what situation I can imagine this woman sitting in, what kind of interiors. And it’s usually stuff that’s inspired me.”
Most of Ranshi’s work features women in various states of repose in sculptural chairs or chaise lounges, in at-home settings where wallpaper, rugs, lamps and tables are parades of multihued prints, and flora often makes an appearance on end tables or coiled around the subject herself. The clothing, always prominently presented in various prints, is current, sometimes off the runway, sometimes a piece from a specific designer or collection, always chic.
The British Indian artist gets her inspiration in part from her background — not just as a Central Saint Martins graduate in print design, or from having spent four years living in India where her painting began — but also as the child of Indian parents who were raised in Kenya following the 1947 Partition of India, before moving to the U.K., where Ranshi was born and raised.
“All of those prints and those colors, it really comes from that heritage, that really sort of mixed heritage which is why I really love mixing prints,” she says. “It’s all to do with that mix of cultural influences. And I love picking up influences from everywhere but that definitely heavily influences the way I work.”
Sometimes, Ranshi’s inspiration comes straight off the fashion week runways.
This spring 2023 showing, both big and smaller designers alike gave the artist fodder for future work.
“I really liked somebody like Kevin Germanier…I think he used recycled toys for his collection this time, but just the colors I thought were brilliant. And Valentino is always just really classically beautiful shapes, which is always inspiring. And colors, his use of color I just think is brilliant,” Ranshi says. “I [also] love all of the smaller up-and-coming London designers. There’s a guy, Ed Curtis, who does these hand-drawn swirls onto T-shirts and I really want to do a painting with one of his T-shirts in it because I just think he’s brilliant, I love what he’s doing.”
When it’s not coming from fashion week, Ranshi finds inspiration everywhere.
“I’ll see all of these amazing creations and that inspires me or if I’ve seen an incredible print somewhere, it doesn’t have to be something that’s on a fashion item, it could be a piece of fabric on a sofa or a curtain I’ve seen,” she says. “Or I’m inspired by certain colors then I create my own print.” As far as furnishings, Milan’s Nilufar Gallery for designer and vintage furniture and home décor are where some of her painting’s pieces can be found.
Everything Ranshi does is hand drawn because she says she’s “old-school like that,” and her medium is either acrylic, water color or gouache on paper. Reproductions are giclée printed onto museum quality fine art paper she says is so good, “sometimes I have to look and think which one’s my print and which one’s the original.”
While the artist does commission work for individuals, she’s also working directly with designers and labels to bring their pieces to life in new ways. Saloni is one whose dresses have landed right in Ranshi’s domestic scenes.
“I love her dresses because it’s lots of beautiful prints and she gives me free reign, really, to do whatever I want, which is really nice,” Ranshi says of the label’s founder and designer Saloni Lodha.
In some cases, she paints products she likes into her pieces, like Olivia Morris at Home’s beloved Daphne bow slippers.
The artist works on a small scale (A3 paper size, 11.75 inches by 16.5 inches is her biggest) partly to give the greatest attention to detail and partly because of where some of her influences lie.
“I really love Persian miniature painting, Indian miniature painting as well, so that really informs my work in terms of modern influences,” she says.
But Ranshi’s process, particularly when it comes to capturing the mood of her fashion portraits, is a selfish endeavor, the artist admits.
“It’s got to be something I love,” she says. “I almost imagine how would I feel, what kind of room would I be sitting in if I was wearing this fabulous clothing surrounded by these fabulous interiors.”
The ideal client for her work?
“I would love Dries Van Noten, Nina Yashar [of Nilufar Gallery in Milan] and India Mahdavi [architectural designer] to own or commission artwork from me, as I think they all have impeccable taste,” Ranshi says.