THE ILLUSTRATED WOMAN
Byline: Andrew Flynn
Call them what you like, artists, illustrators or sketchers. Through most of its history, WWD relied on these talented people to show what was happening in fashion. During the early years, recognition was minimal; a typical credit said simply, “Drawn by a Women’s Wear Artist.” It wasn’t until the Sixties, when John Fairchild was reinventing the paper and turned to art director Rudy Millendorf for the redesign, that the individual artists and their various styles were brought to the forefront. For nearly three decades, fashion illustration enlivened and enriched the pages of Women’s Wear Daily.
Steven Stipelman drew this rich and sultry woman for a fall cosmetic supplement in the early Eighties. An aura of haute elegance delivered with confident ease characterized his work for WWD. “I was very lucky to have worked during the period of great clothes and great designers,” says Stipelman, now a professor of fashion art at FIT. “Many times, I had to do the actual drawings at the shows as the models were coming down the runway. I really had to not only understand the designer’s vision, but in a few lines evoke the accuracy of the garment and the mood of the woman wearing it.”
Robert Passantino introduced a whole new look with his clean, simple lines and his skinny, long-legged, doe-eyed girls reminiscent of the Twigs, Shrimps and Moffets of the day. The illustration here graced the cover of a 1970 hosiery section. At this time, Passantino developed a happy “shoe fetish.” It seemed that no matter what the assignment, he could always work in his own whimsical footwear. These creations were so good, Capezio asked if he’d be interested in a design position. He declined, and today continues to illustrate in his first love, fashion, in addition to branching out into general areas.
Kenneth Paul Block’s style, always chic and sophisticated, conjures up Babe Paley, Gloria Guinness and Jacqueline de Ribes. Hired by art director Ermina Stimson, Block more than anyone was responsible for the shift in perception of the WWD illustrator from technician to artist. He drew virtually everything. From fashion to celebrities to interiors, there was nothing he couldn’t do, always bringing his impeccable style and particular genius to the subject. Here is the page-one drawing from Oct. 27, 1982, a preview from Calvin Klein.
Robert Melendez just loves to draw. A consummate artist, he can do anything anytime, anywhere, while always bringing his own brand of wit and charm to the project at hand. This cat pack of girls clad in snake prints was done in 1970. “WWD was like an art factory then,” Melendez says, “a free rein of creativity, with everyone feeding on the inspiration of each other. It was a lot of fun.”
Before Steven Meisel was Steven Meisel, he was a cub illustrator in the WWD art department. As fashion is always looking back to go forward, so was Steven. While his style seemed reminiscent of the previous decade, his foresight in ultimately exchanging his pencil for a camera was anything but. His illustrations (and later, his first fashion photos, shot for WWD) chronicle the development of the discerning eye that would make him one of the world’s greatest fashion photographers. Here, his page-one Blassport advance from April 5, 1977.
Kichisaburo Ogawa came to Women’s Wear from Japan in the Seventies. With his light touch and almost Art Deco- like quality, he added yet another dimension to the paper’s drawings. This example was featured on the cover of a special section on holiday cosmetics in 1984. After several years of teaching in New York and Japan, Kichi is now exploring computer- generated illustration.