Please introduce yourself and your career as a fashion illustrator.
My name is Mengjie Di. I am a fashion design educator and freelance illustrator. To briefly introduce my background, I received my M.F.A in Fashion Design from Savannah College of Art and Design in 2011. I currently work full-time in SCAD’s School of Fashion. In addition to teaching, I collaborate with numerous companies and designers such as WGSN, Paris trend companies Promostyl and Actustyl, Nelly Rodi trendlab, London high street fashion brand- River Island, New York designer Angel Sanchez, and global high fashion online store, Farfetch. My work has been published online and in books such as The Greater Book of Fashion Illustration by Martin Dawber in UK, Basic Fashion Design 07: Menswear, Fashion Design—The Complete Guide by John Hopkins in UK, and FIGURINES de MODA – Tecnicas y Estilos by Anna Maria Lopez Lopez in Spain. In 2014, I was invited to participate in BFIT “The Future of Now” International Youth Design Exhibition at Beijing, China.
You onced described the process of developing an illustration for global trend agency, WGSN. It was interesting to hear how a fashion illustration from a trend agency is a collaborative effort. Could you explain that process again?
I am very grateful to have the opportunity to work for many great global trend agencies such as WGSN, Promostyl, Actustyl, Nelly Rodi and I just signed a new contract with Peclers in Paris. My role encompasses just a small portion of the trend agency’s project but it requires a lot of planning and I thoroughly enjoy the work. On occasion I will be asked to illustrate various themes in a tight timeline. Since I have a full time job, proper time management is crucial. I must deliver the project on the deadline in order for the graphic designers and other team members to put the project together. I work closely with the designers. They send me detailed design briefs including silhouettes, accessories, hairstyles, and makeup. This helps to better portray their ideas and what look they are expecting in the illustrations. From there, I submit white and black sketches for approval. Once first draft is approved, I will receive color direction. I will then render the colors in Photoshop. When managing multiple projects at same time, I employ the work of my color assistant, Natalie Suraze who is a former student of mine from SCAD. In the end it is always exciting to see a project come to fruition.
Your style maintains and shows off your trained hand in digital mediums. Was that a natural and comfortable transition?
It was not an easy transition. In fact, I am still trying different techniques and testing multiple things in digital medium. There are many things I am curious to discover through digital medium and my ultimate goal is to achieve more hand quality result. I still do a lot of drawings by hand for class demonstrations or creating art work for clients.
You are also a menswear fashion designer, correct? Do you find your knowledge of construction to benefit your rendering of fashion and garments?
My design and construction background make rendering much easier at gives me a better understanding of a client’s needs. Knowing garment proportions and silhouettes is important as a fashion illustrator. It can be more challenging drawing a full body figure compared to faces because it requires knowledge of anatomy and understanding how fabrics change when the body moves. There are many illustrators who can draw beautiful faces and heads. But fewer can draw great full body illustrations. That is one of the reasons why I admire Antonio Lopez and George Stavrinos. I feel inspired every time I view their works.
What is your advice to young aspiring fashion illustrator?
My advice to a young fashion illustrator is that talent is only one percent of the whole picture; persistence and diligence give you the advantage. It takes commitment and practice to get to the level you desire. The effort and hard work you put in will eventually be recognized by the world. If being a fashion illustrator is your dream, you should never give up.
How would you like to see fashion illustration celebrated for its future in the industry? Could fashion do more to utilize this role?
The fashion industry is rapidly adapting technology into its practice. I am sure it will open many doors for future designers and illustrators. Some companies still use traditional illustration presentation methods to showcase designs but fashion illustration animation is a growing trend. In future, we will see more multi-disciplinary approaches to the industry. I am very excited and eager to explore the endless opportunities in the field.