“The illustrator other illustrators call master,” designer Lars Nilsson said of man of the hour Mats Gustafson, who was signing copies of his coffee table book “Dior by Mats Gustafson,” published Feb. 21 by Rizzoli, at Galignani on Friday.
The celebrated Swedish artist started working in 2012 under Raf Simons’ tenure, and has captured since spring 2013 the spirit of each collection in a series of watercolor and paper-cut illustrations. “Even if it’s 70 today, there is a balance between the modernity and the romance that is still there. Dior looks forward with such love for women and this has been there since Monsieur Dior,” he said as he added a bow to the sprig of lily-of-the-valley that opened the tome.
Born in Sweden, Gustafson studied stage design before his illustrations caught the eye of local magazines then H&M before Grace Coddington snapped him up for British Vogue and launched his international career. The Eighties saw him working out of New York for publications — Vanity Fair, The New Yorker and Vogue to name a few — and advertising campaigns for Tiffany & Co., Romeo Gigli, Hermès or Yohji Yamamoto.
“In Sweden, we treasure light because we don’t get a lot of it and I include it in my work,” the artist said. “Whatever I observe, I look for the essence, to process and understand the design,” he added. A scarf draped on the shoulders becomes an almost abstract movement, the translucent overlay on a skirt seems to shimmer with out-of-frame lighting. The sheer luminous quality of watercolors gives his work an ethereal quality.
Among the crowd of fans admiring selected watercolors hung among the handsome hardwood shelves were photographer Brigitte Lacombe, former Elle France editor Claude Brouet and fellow Swede Nilsson.
Galignani is the oldest English bookstore in Paris — reportedly also the first on the continent — and is a favorite among fashion insiders.