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David Downton & The Art of Fashion

Posted on 07 June 2016



David Downton is one of the most prolific fashion illustrators alive today, his illustrations are some of the most recognisable in the industry and he is often found in the front row of the world’s best fashion shows, capturing the spirit of the models, the garments and the designer.

David Downton at Work

He began his career as a commercial illustrator and didn’t consider fashion as a career until he attended the Paris couture shows over a decade ago. It was then that he began to really explore the world of fashion illustration, saying it felt like he’d “been given the keys to a magic kingdom”, before taking the industry by the horns and really making it his own.


Downton has stated that he varies his technique depending on his mood but favours black ink and water colours, however the striking velvety nature of the black strokes in his pieces has become somewhat of a trademark, really setting his work apart from the rest.

Cate Blanchett Cover Art for Australian Vogue 2009

Illustration offers a greater sense of movement and fluidity than traditional fashion photography. The dexterity of Downton and fluidity of the watercolour convey a story without needing to be totally accurate which culminates in an unusual perspective on some the world’s greatest designers and models.

David Downton

Downton, among many others, if often credited with resurrecting the art of fashion illustration after it waned in popularity in the 1930s. What had begun as the sole means of communicating the soul of the fashion industry to the masses was quickly replaced by photography. Arguably, the first photographic cover of Vogue truly marked the decline of the art form. In todays modern world of photography, video and image editing, illustration has become a visual luxury. Like many traditional mediums, fashion illustration is cyclical, it has become sort-after again, with many new illustrators being praised for their individuality, for daring to stray away from photography.

Alexis Mabille by David Downton

Perhaps though fashion illustration never went away and it was individuals like Downton who were always working; keeping the spark of the tactile medium alive while technology and the fashion industry evolved.

David Downton: Portraits of the World's Most Stylish Women (2015)

Downton’s style has an effortless quality that radiates elegance and beauty, he has an exceptional talent for capturing the essence and spirit of women on the page like no one else can. His 2015 bookDavid Downton: Portraits of the World’s Most Stylish Women - is a reflective; collating the intimate, yet fleeting, moments Downton has spent capturing the essence of the world’s most recognisable faces. 
Elie Saab
When asked what his work has taught him about beauty, Downton replied: “blank beauty isn’t beauty after a while. The turn of the wheel in the gene pool is the opening play, but for any one of these women you have to add in intelligence, humour, dedication, and work. It’s what you do with beauty that’s the interesting thing.

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