Let’s fast-forward to a history lesson: fashion illustration is a cornerstone of both the media and retail segments of the industry as we know it. The earliest commercially disseminated fashion images were capturing the looks at the Palace of Versailles during the reign of Marie Antoinette setting the court trends across Europe. When the world’s first fashion magazine Harper’s Bazaar was founded in 1867 it relied on drawings, because photography was still an experimental discipline. From Salvador Dali to Karl Lagerfeld, throughout the 20th century many iconic creators expressed divergent visions through fashion illustration.
When Instagram made fashion imagery wildly accessible to the public, innovative artists like Sara Shakeel and Helen Downie transformed the genre by embracing the immense sharing potential of social networking. Both were among the first to bridge fashion and tech trends. The prolific fashion arts entrepreneur Talia Zoref is taking the medium “back to the future” now with her first-of-its-kind NFT drop featuring 8888 unique pieces. An Israel-based Forbes 30 under 30 honoree, she has collaborated with MAC, Chanel, Condé Nast, and other power players depicting contemporary style icons like Beyoncé, Lady Gaga and Billie Eilish. Her latest Eyes of Fashion collection secures the legacy of luxury couture in the Metaverse. I connected with Zoref to discuss the beginnings of her career and the future of fashion media.
How do you see the role of a fashion illustrator in the age of social media?
Social media completely changed the industry. An illustrator doesn’t capture the looks off the runway in exact form as the photos are available everywhere immediately. My job is to create an interpretation, a portrait of a look the way I see it and give it a vibe. Now fashion illustrators are creative leaders making campaigns that stop the scrolling audience in its tracks. An art piece can bring something totally new to the table with unexpected color schemes or lines portraying and provoking different emotions. It all that depends on how you want to make the viewer feel. Fashion illustrations are also used as prints on clothes and other goods, for packaging design or as treasured mementos for a brand’s clients. It’s an always fresh and interesting approach.
What inspired such a massive (8888 pieces) creative effort?
Once I learned about the possibilities of partnering with a developer, I saw that the sky is the limit in the NFT world. It helped me expand my hand-drawn art into this amazing body of work I am proud of. I never thought I could create so much art in such a short time and for every piece to be so beautiful and articulate. What I love the most about this is that we are now able to do so much good and support causes we believe in. Our mission focuses on three key areas: fashion, art, and women empowerment through education. For me this is still a dream!
With the market embracing NFTs and digitization is the future of fashion virtual?
There is so much work to be done and it’s just the beginning! People are starting to build their fashion reputations virtually with NFTs. We see this happening with big brands such as Gucci and Balmain as well as individual consumers and style connoisseurs. With the trend towards remote work there will be more opportunities for people to socialize in the digital space. In the nearest future you will be able to walk into any fashion store and buy a physical bag to wear as well as receive an exclusive virtual version as a packaged deal. I believe the future of fashion will continue to have a place in the physical world but will also expand into the virtual realm.
The NFT drop sold out in two minutes! Congratulations, and what’s next for the project?
Thank you so much. We are working hard on getting it out into the fashion world. We plan to host events “in real life” and in the Metaverse to spend time together as a community. There will also be collaborations with different brands and artists as well as workshops educating women about NFTs and technology in support of women rights and women-led opportunities.
As virtual learning continues to disrupt the education industry, what has been the most valuable lesson of your time in fashion academia?
I attended George Brown University in Toronto and Shenkar College of Design in Tel Aviv. I didn’t realize fashion illustration existed as a profession prior to my design studies. People can learn anything online today and it’s absolutely amazing, because that enables more opportunities for more people around the world. I am happy that the Metaverse will make fashion studies even more accessible through the capabilities of the 3-D virtual world. However, it would be best to mix remote learning with in-person studies. One of the best parts about going to a fashion school is the opportunity to meet people and create together hands-on.
What’s the ratio of technical knowhow, business savvy, and luck to succeed in fashion?
I believe you have to be strategic. Being a freelance artist requires a mindset of an entrepreneur unless you work with a manager. Learn some design programs to digitize your illustrations to the next level or delegate this to someone who can. You need to be proactive on social media and you need to go to events to meet people in person. I believe luck happens when opportunity meets readiness. Even if an opportunity comes from luck, this alone does not ensure success. Success comes from consistency and determination. Personally, I started with no connections, so it took a while to get my first paid commission. I worked three years for free to get to places where I could make the right connections. I reached out to so many people until things started to happen. Now I’ve been in the business for ten years. I don’t know if I’d call this “luck”. I believe it’s about believing in your goals and taking action to “go get them.”
What has been the most surprising outcome of your success as a fashion illustrator?
When I started out, I never imagined I’d meet icons like Mariah Carey and Celine Dion to gift them my art! However, the most surprising outcome actually happened most recently. Since joining the NFT space, I had the most amazing encounters with so many talented developers and entrepreneurs from the tech industries. It is such a joy for me to see the tech, finance, and art worlds merge to foster such a creative space. This is why this NFT project has such a strong community component to support my mission to do good, to bring joy, and to inspire. We are all in this together on planet Earth.
How would you describe your own fashion style?
My own style is very practical. I am into big trench coats like my Burberry denim and iconic bags like a McQueen that I love. I enjoy wearing lots of powerful colors such as green, red, blue, and pink. I love wearing dresses with a pair of sneakers. Some of my favorite designers are leading classic brands into the future: Giambattista Valli, Virginie Viard, Pierpaolo Piccioli, Maria Grazia Chiuri, Kim Jones and the late Virgil Abloh. When it comes to the Israeli fashion scene, I love Yanky & Nataf, Maya Reik, Eti Kobo, Keren Wolf, Shahar Avnet, Dylan Parienty and Yaniv Persy.
What is the most pressing question on your mind right now?
Remote working and learning and the Metaverse are slowly but surely taking a bigger place in our lives. This feels kind of like the beginning of the Internet with all the untold potential. For the long term, I keep wondering how to promote more empowerment, inclusiveness, and sustainability within the fashion industry through projects like The Eyes of Fashion. I’m excited for the many positive changes to come.