Judging from the turnout at the launch of Richard Kilroy’s Menswear Illustration book, published by Thames & Hudson, it’s safe to say that illustrated renderings of menswear are a much-loved approach to interpreting fashion.
‘Photography has a few levels of group effort, in fashion particularly,’ Kilroy explains. ‘But illustration has come from one person and is a singular vision. Drawing itself, and its context of artistry give it a unique position for imagery and possibilities.’
The works on display in the Paul Smith store on Albemarle Street provide a glimpse into the wide variety of styles featured in the book. From Julie Verhoeven’s energetic drawings to the more conventionally elegant silhouettes of Clym Evernden, the scope of styles is as great as there are illustrators.
Kilroy’s illustrations combine classic portraiture and fragmented composition, which is as much about its subject as it is about the negative spaces enveloping his figures. This imperfect quality, he says, ‘came from going too far with realism at one point in my drawing. I felt like a human photocopier and I much prefer the ability to incorporate suggestive line and play about with things. It kind of divides the audience. I enjoy the fragmentation element but sometimes people ask: is it finished?’
The blank spaces and fine pencil strokes add a flux to his images, which he bases mostly on his own photographs. ‘I hate using secondhand photographs,' he explains. 'It's not my own vision and it's plagiarism of theirs, and also I need my models to be lit in a certain way to get the drawing how I want it.'
Kilroy veers toward ‘certain types of faces and looks of male models, I like to draw emphasis on their cheekbones, Adam’s apples and hands. I was always fascinated by detailed baroque sculptures of men fighting or wrestling, all those veins and their muscle tensions.’
When it comes to the menswear itself, Kilroy enjoys ‘suggesting elements and being very sparing. It's always a balancing act between the elements of realism and looseness.’