Q&A with Brandon Graham of Would You Rock This, the Fashion Illustration Community
In four short years, Brandon Graham, Founder of New York-based Would You Rock This has created a design community of illustrators and creative professionals that highlights the beauty of fashion illustration while giving commercial opportunities to emerging talent. From organizing monthly Fashion Drawing Session Meetups to sending talent out on jobs for Bergdorf Goodman or to cover New York Fashion Week runway shows, he's making his mark on the fashion and art industries. We had a chance to learn more about him and the global community that he's built.
Tell us about your background?
I graduated from Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) with a degree in fine arts and fashion design. While attending VCU I would come up to New York during the summer to intern at Armani Exchange and John Varvatos, then began an 8 year professional career designing for Nike and Levi’s primarily and a short stint designing a menswear capsule collection of my own.
Why did you start Would Your Rock This? and when?
I started WouldYouRockThis.com (WYRT) in 2010 to promote the art of fashion illustration. The goal of the site was to be a platform to showcase the personal, commercial and editorial applications of fashion illustration. I never knew there were artists who focused specifically on fashion illustration, where under contract with retailers, worked exclusively with designers, or did live personalized fashion illustrations at social events. I wanted to tell their story, exhibit their artwork and continue the narrative of the artform.
How has it evolved and how would you describe it? What are all of the offerings?
WYRT has evolved by first being an online space where people could see what’s happening in the world of fashion illustration. Then, users were given the ability to vote on illustrated designs they would “Rock” (another way of saying I’d wear that) or cast a vote saying it’s “Not My Style.” We found later that some users preferred to cast votes based on how the figures were drawn and the color renderings. Fashion illustrators, companies, and art directors started using the voting results as a general guide as to how the public may react to an illustration style or how a specific illustration may play out in a commercial setting. Since fashion illustration is tied so closely to art and commerce, I felt those statistics were important to share. Today WYRT offers PR to fashion illustrators, provides artwork for retailers and designers and produces workshops for artists.
How does it feel to build a fashion community?
Building a fashion illustration community has been so rewarding. I’ve been able to meet so many talented emerging and professional fashion illustrators, illustration agents, creative directors and designers. People have approached me after events and said, “I never knew a community like this existed,” and they wished they’d never stopped doing what they loved [drawing], and were inspired to pick it back up again and find a boutique or magazine that might be interested in displaying their artwork.
Do you do WYRT full time?
Yeah, WYRT is my full-time gig. I’m always reviewing portfolios, searching the net for things associated with fashion illustration, producing events, researching or doing PR for artists. Developing relationships with designers, retailers and publications is key to what I do because those are the main components to making everything work.
Who are your favorite illustrators?
I have so many favorites - and for different reasons, not just their ability to draw. I’m fascinated by artists who may not be considered as having the best draftsmanship or technical skills, but they are excellent at conveying an emotion or marketing themselves, and with that they are still able to find a customer or people who appreciate their work. The public connects to the work of certain illustrators for a variety of reasons, but for me it’s difficult to pick favorites.
Is there a distinction between Fashion Drawing Sessions and WYRT?
The WYRT website and the WYRT Facebook Page shows you artwork by fashion illustrators from all over the world. The Fashion Drawing Session is an active community of fashion illustrators and fans of the artform that are based in New York. By joining the community you are alerted about events where you can draw from live models styled in designer outfits, participate in hand drawing and computer aided design workshops and find out about open-calls for fashion illustrator assignments and exhibitions.
Video | Fashion Drawing Session Footage
The collections by emerging designers like Charles Harbison, Aristotle Rosario, and Lucina Lu have been featured at the Fashion Drawing Session. Designers lend us their clothes to be drawn by the illustrators and also use the Fashion Drawing Session as a creative outlet to speak about their latest collection. We’ve been fortunate enough to have more established designers like Brian Wolk and Claude Morais of Ruffian stop by to share their collections with us also.
What's the future of WYRT?
The future of WYRT is to keep fans of fashion illustration updated on what’s happening in association with the artform, produce more fun and engaging events and continue providing opportunities for artists to exhibit their work.
What's next for you?
First, I’m working on setting up a small gallery dedicated to fashion illustration near the Herald Square area here in NYC. Second, I’m in talks with former WWD fashion illustrator Robert Passantino to schedule a time and date for him to tell his amazing story before an audience of artists this fall.
Any plans for NYFW?
I love sending fashion illustrators out to cover the shows during NYFW. Some artists draw at the shows and others take photos of the models and complete their drawings at home. This season I’m curating and producing the fashion illustration component of the Cesar Galindo fashion show at The Hudson Hotel. So I’ve been combing through portfolios lately and reviewing lists of people I’ve worked with or know of who can draw well at live events. Cesar is doing a presentation style fashion show and will have about 15 fashion illustrators placed throughout the presentation to capture the standing models in an illustrative format.
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