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The Doyenne of Fashion Illustration


By: Jessica Michault

Gladys Perint Palmer is a living legend of fashion illustration. For more then forty years she has captured some of the most iconic fashion designs (and designers) with her distinctive colorful and charming drawings.

Her work has decorated the pages of The New York Times Magazine, Vogue, Elle and The New Yorker – just to name a few. And in 1998 the Fashion Book named her one of the 500 people of influence in fashion since 1860.

Here, Bal Harbour Shops asked Palmer about the job she loves, her favorite fashion moments and what she has up her sleeve next.

When did you first discover you wanted to be an illustrator and could make a living at it?
I was always drawing and frankly I never thought about money.

What drew you to fashion illustrations?
At St. Martin's (School of Art), at the end of our Foundations year, we had to choose our “major”. I enrolled in Illustration but switched to Fashion because I had done no homework over the summer. In Fashion I met my mentors, Muriel Pemberton who invented fashion education and taught me color & composition; and Elizabeth Suter who taught me to draw. Fashion illustration is interesting because colors, silhouettes, bodies, poses are exaggerated.

What is your creative process? Do you need to do your drawings in a certain place or time of day?
No. I just draw. Wherever, whenever I can. If I don't draw I get really ratty.

You once created your illustrations with paper and pen but now you use a tablet. How did that come about?
I started drawing on a borrowed iPad at the end of November 2013. I had been commissioned by the San Francisco Chronicle to send drawings from the Paris Haute Couture shows, in January 2014, for the online blog.

When I traveled, I used to draw on paper, lay down the illustration near a window in daylight, photograph it, download to iPhoto on my laptop, try to enhance it, and then email or post on Facebook.

In Paris, time is of essence, running between shows. Photographing a drawing in the evening is not possible because artificial light turned everything yellow.

A friend, Dawn Stofer, had been using Paper53 application for years and had been trying to convert me to the iPad was delighted, at last, to show me how.

One great advantage to drawing on the iPad is that I am covered by an Invisibility Cloak. I can draw in public and nobody notices.

I have sat on a ferry with passengers standing right over my seat who never noticed what I was doing. Had I been drawing in a sketchbook I would have attracted some unwelcome comments.

What fashion moments do you particularly love capturing?
The ridiculous, the sublime, anything over-the-top….

Tell me about your current role at San Francisco's Academy of Art.
On August 1 2014, I became Executive Director of Artistic Development, to bring the entire university - 23 academic departments - to the level we reached in Fashion (I ran School of Fashion for 19 years).

How do you feel about the current state of fashion illustration.. is it a dying art or has it morphed into some thing else?
This is a question frequently asked. It never died. I am busier than ever.

What is the best piece of advice/ guidance you have gotten in terms of work as an illustrator?
Draw, draw and draw!

You have done illustrations of almost everyone working in fashion. Is there someone, or something, you still want to capture with your pen?
Anyone with an interesting “jolie laide” (not pretty) face. I don't like to draw faces with operated noses or that have been lifted, pumped, filled-in and Botox-ed.

What are you currently working on?
Two books, You Are Not On The List and Designer Dogs and Couture Cats.


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