Graphic designer and illustrator, Heather Lafleur, caught our attention with her gorgeous, colorful watercolor sketches straight from the top runway shows. We have been following her work for a long time and considering her one of the most distinctive fashion illustrators right now. You may know her as Blumenbabe on Instagram – an account that every fashion lover should bookmark, for the love of design, illustration and pure inspiration. As a graduate of the Rhode Island School of Design, Heather has worked as an award-winning corporate designer for a range of international branding agencies in New York, Toronto, and Zürich before opening her own studio, Lafleur Design, in Munich.
After fashion month is over we talked with Heather about past fashion weeks, inspiration, creative process and what she loves about fashion.
Karl Lagerfeld once said that fashion begins on paper, and it survives on paper. How would you describe your appreciation of fashion illustration?
As fashion itself is so temporal, fashion illustration certainly serves to capture, document and preserve creative trends shaping our society today. Something for future fashion-lovers to look back on or be inspired by. The growing trend of fashion illustration being used more & more frequently in editorial or in advertising proves illustration’s significance as an effective tool to not only convey creative impressions of key looks but also as an art form in and of itself. As with big name fashion photographers – Meisel, Penn or Lindbergh, fashion Illustrators are now being recognized, commissioned and celebrated for their distinctive styles which I find wonderful.
Chanel Fall/Winter 2018
What do you love about fashion?
What’s not to love about fashion? Creative, colorful, escapist and fun! Designers are storytellers – using elements of color, texture and shape to spin their tales. The dramatic forms, techniques & overall presentations are really inspiring and provide so much for me to work with in my drawings. I also love how designers look to historical figures, periods or movements as inspiration. There is a lot to learn from each and every collection. Show notes are a must-read! Fashion also appeals to everyone in some form so you can reach a large audience through your work especially on social media platforms like Instagram.
Which period do you consider the golden age of fashion and creativity?
Perhaps Dior‘s “New Look” silhouette of the 40s and 50s as it ushered in the modern look of womenswear introducing a completely new conversation in design and inspired designers like Saint Laurent and Lagerfeld to push what modern dressing would become and is today.
Who is your favorite designer?
Hmmmm… at the moment it’s a 3-way toss-up: the strange & wonderful world of Alessandro Michele‘s cultural mash-up at Gucci vs. the graphic and modern strength of Marc Jacobs vs. the flowing drama of Maison Valentino’s Pier Paolo Piccioli. All three unique. All three… wow!
Gucci Fall/Winter 2018
New York, London, Milan or Paris?
Paris, bien sûr!
Dior Homme Fall/Winter 2018
All four have their own unique appeal, but for me, Paris IS fashion. The venues are epic, think nighttime Spring/Summer 2018 Saint Laurent at the Trocadéro with the looming Tour Eiffel as backdrop – pure drama! Even the average woman’s sense of style turns a head. Young independents like native son, Simon Porte Jaquemus or new girl on the block, Natacha Ramsay-Levi at Chloé excite the scene alongside King Karl‘s meticulously themed Chanel stagings at Le Grand Palais. The French commitment to fashion is hard to match, n’est-ce pas?
New York fashion week is over. What do you think about new trends?
#PPPP – Plaid, Puffy, Pink or Pared-back.
Which looks did you find the most captivating?
I would have to say that the 80s-inspired Marc Jacobs show stood out. He presented such strong silhouettes, such bold colors. A comprehensive concept from head to toe as hair and makeup were so beautifully connected to the clothes. Bravo Guido Palau and Josh Wood Colour. And, I loved how he translated the 2-dimensional work of fashion illustrator Tony Viramontes into an iconic yet wearable collection. You see, another fashion illustrator manages to inspire!
You manage to capture the essence of each collection. What do you search for in every look?
Typically, I graze over the catwalk looks shot from the shows and usually 1 or 2 looks immediately jump out at me as being THE signature look of the collection or potentially lend to being a great base for a drawing. A wonderful bow. A stunning hat. It’s a very instinctive and fast process.
How do you approach each work? Guide us through your creative process…
After selecting which look(s) I’d like to work on, I then do a lot of online research to confirm my choice or to see what fashion editors or bloggers have zoned in on and to see what other angles were captured backstage for more details. I then start with a very loose and free line drawing. From there I slowly introduce layers of watercolor and acrylic effects, sometimes introducing even a few collage elements within each piece until I come to the point where I feel that I have caught the look and the piece says: “Stop! Not another stroke. I’m done!” And all the while, music, lots of music to keep me loose and my hands active.
How would you describe your illustration technique?
Gestural, layered, graphic and hopefully evolving. My pieces usually take me no more than an hour to produce. I work very quickly and try not to overthink things. When I start thinking too much the flow always stops. Occasionally I need to step back from a piece and leave it for a while before I can complete it. Sometimes when I feel that it´s needed, I will work in handwritten elements or icons.
Prabal Gurung Fall/Winter 2018
What is your favorite medium to work with?
Digital! I work on an iPad Pro. I had started with a Wacom tablet but now much prefer directly drawing onto the iPad screen. All my images are neatly digitally archived so I am not overwhelmed by art material mess or stacks of drawings taking over my studio. My iPad goes where I go too, which means I can draw anywhere, anyhow. Perfect! I do keep sketchbooks for doodling and enjoy doing the odd watercolor, gouache or silkscreen piece as its important to get my hands dirty now and then.
Are there certain artists or art directions that influenced your work?
Most definitely. I am constantly looking at what contemporary (fashion) illustrators are producing as well as painters, sculptors and architects from past and present. The line work of Jean-Michel Basquiat as well as that of Antonio Lopez are clear favorites as well as the techniques of illustrators Stina Persson or Mats Gustafson. I also turn to the collage work of artists like Joseph Cornell, the moody color fields of Mark Rothko, the color of Paul Klee or the wit of Maira Kalman. Always looking. Always experimenting.
Are you always inspired?
From a very early age I knew that I had been made to create – I was always drawing letterforms, doodling in sketchbooks and loved fashion. After a design career in corporate branding it’s interesting to see that only recently have I started combining the two. At times, it is a bit compulsive… especially during fashion month where a drawing (or two, or three) a day is the norm! Jaunts to fashion hubs Paris, NYC and Milan also keep me inspired as to what fashion has trickled down and achieved street style status.
Valentino Fall/Winter 2018
With which fashion house would you like to collaborate?
Any and all of them! Fashion is so multi-faceted and there’s s much to admire. The craft of Chanel Couture. The sass of Ashish. The cerebral statements of Rei Kawakubo. Seeing the collabs between illustrators like Blair Breitenstein with Oscar de la Renta or that of Sasha Pivovarova with Dior is certainly inspiring and would be a dream!
If we assume that everything is possible, which artists from past or present would you like to meet?
Countless – I would have loved to have met the late architect, Zaha Hadid. What a force. Stylish, intelligent and gifted. Anything she put her hand to was innovative – drawings, products or buildings…imagine what clothes she could have designed?!
Have you ever considered to publish a book of your fashion illustrations?
Oh, of course! I have stood in countless bookstores leafing through fashion illustration books and have caught myself dreaming of the day… a goal to set for 2018?!
Burberry Fall/Winter 2018
Dior Couture Spring/Summer 2018
Marc Jacobs Fall/Winter 2018
Moschino Fall/Winter 2018
Raf Simons Fall/Winter 2018
Tom Ford Fall/Winter 2018
Vesna Filipovic for Fashionela