TheFashionMagpie: Fashion, Illustrated

Fashion Illustration by Inslee Haynes

Image Copyright © Inslee Haynes

Last Thursday, I was in the midst of my blissful daily blog prowl when I stumbled upon a series of whimsical fashion illustrations that stopped me in my tracks.  After snooping around for more information on their provenance, I was surprised to discover that the illustrator behind the series was Washingtonian Inslee Haynes.  When I caught up with the talented artist over coffee (turns out she’s a neighbor of mine in Glover Park!), I was even more enchanted: the 20-something “greater DC area” native is not only incredibly gifted — she’s also sharp and ambitious, having launched, maintained, and grown her own fashion illustration business since 2005.

What impressed me most was her distinctively modern artistic process.  Haynes is a true child of the Web 2.0 generation, fully plugged into the blogosphere and attuned to the nuances of fast-paced, internet-based content circulation in a “Re-Tweet This” and “Re-Post That” world — and she harnesses that energy as inspiration for her fanciful watercolor-and-ink sketches.  (Even the medium syncs with the tireless buzz of the industry, as it conveys a sense of the impromptu.) 

Put differently, the sprawling online fashion network is tightly woven into the fabric of Haynes’ creative life, and that relationship  has enabled her to sketch just what consumers like myself want to see.  Like the fetching rendering of the Oscar de la Renta gown above, one of my favorite pieces from the designer’s last couple of runway seasons.  Or like this illustration of a look from Chanel’s Pre-Fall 2011 collection.  And P.S.: love the idea that if I can’t afford the duds, I can still have them hanging in my walk-in closet, albeit in illustration form.  Kudos, Inslee.

Haynes seemed to positively radiate with excitement when talking about her daily blog tour, which often sends her running to her sketch book with ideas for new looks and fashion personas, which she later uploads to her own blog, along with somewhat breathless and endearingly girlish commentary. 

Her blogging voice, her artistic process, and her gorgeous sketches are all “of a cloth,” as it were — they all communicate an extempore exhilaration in the face of fine fashion and form.  “I could spend hours looking around for new subjects to illustrate — there’s just so much there,” she gushed, before asking if I’d caught a just-released mini-documentary of The Sartorialist (a popular street fashion photo-blogger) at work.  “It was interesting.  I didn’t know much about him before, but it was really inspiring to see how he does what he does.”  No surprise there — the two share a clear talent for identifying and capturing in-a-flash fashion moments.

Haynes is also drawn to high-end lines like Miu Miu and (as noted above) Oscar de la Renta, whose latest collections have spurred some of her most recent work, and to any and all over-the-top fashion spectacles, including Darren Aronofsky’s recent film, “Black Swan,” in which all costumes were designed by the uber-talented Kate and Laura Mulleavy of Rodarte.  (Incidentally, we talked for some time about the overall visual gorgeousness of the film, and the discussion inspired me to get moving on a post I’d been developing for some time on the subject: “Rodarte, En Pointe.”  She’s infectious.)

And while she might nowadays draw inspiration from a miscellany of online fashion sources, Haynes started sketching at an early age, when her American Girl dolls served as her muses.  (I’d venture to guess she was a Samantha owner.)  It was only while attending a summer session at the Art Institute of Chicago that she began to fine-tune her process and focus on fashion illustration as a potential career.  Then, while working towards a dual degree in studio art and art history at Washington & Lee University, her friends urged her to start selling the illustrations she’d been sketching them on birthday cards, and the rest is history.  She’s been selling cards, calenders, prints, and commissioned works via her online shop and in various local boutiques, including one of my favorites, Urban Chic, since.

Though she’s loving her work and the success her company has enjoyed (when I asked her what her ultimate goals for her company were, she paused and said:  “This is it.  I love it.”), she’s now focused on securing commission-based work designing logos, website headers, and other one-off projects.  She’s looking to collaborate with designers, bloggers, and fashion lines in the future, and judging by her recent coverage on Mrs. Lilien, an uber-waspy, gorgeously-styled “lifestyle” blog curated by stylist/graphic designer Kelley Lilien, she’s well on her way.

Jen, aka TheFashionMagpie, is a D.C. native and has not strayed far from the District in her 26 years, save a brief stint in Charlottesville for her undergrad degree at UVA. By day, Jen works for a private foundation. In her spare time, she maintains a fashion blog (www.thefashionmagpie.com), writes for We Love DC, and shops…a lot. Follow her on Twitter @AFashionMagpie.