FUTURE OF FASHION, REIMAGINED
Artist, alumnus, and Illustration faculty member Bil Donovan ’78 takes us behind the scenes of FIT’s annual fashion show

It was a long journey to the runway.
Students who hoped to present their garments in FIT’s annual BFA runway show, the Future of Fashion, underwent a grueling process—sketching, draping, sewing.

And sometimes starting all over again. During the spring semester, graduating Fashion Design students worked with industry critics to perfect their pieces. Finally, professionals from the fashion media were brought in to judge the work and make selections for the show, which took place May 5 in the John E. Reeves Great Hall.

Donovan in his Brooklyn studio. He loves to draw live action, he says: “Accidents and the unexpected are the most fun part of doing the work.”

Donovan in his Brooklyn studio. He loves to draw live action, he says: “Accidents and the unexpected are the most fun part of doing the work.”

At every step, artist, alumnus, and Illustration BFA faculty member Bil Donovan ’78 was there, sketching in brush and ink. Using his signature “less is more” approach, Donovan captured the swirling action and emotion. “I call it ‘docu-fashion,’ because I’m documenting fashion by painting live on-site,” he says.

Donovan is the first artist-in-residence for Christian Dior Beauty, a post he’s held since 2009. He works regularly for Harper’s Bazaar, Vogue, Marie Claire, and The New York Times, among other outlets, and has illustrated four books, including a textbook, Advanced Fashion Drawing (Laurence King). He wrote the book on fashion illustration…literally.

Still, he was astounded to witness firsthand the process designers go through. “It was incredible to see the evolution of the student garments—from the genesis of a sketch to seeing it realized as an outfit that the model wears on a runway. I’ve just never seen that before.”

This respect and admiration come through powerfully in his drawings. There’s also a certain something extra, an inimitable “Donovan” quality, and that’s no accident. “Illustration captures a distinct spirit and an essence,” he says. “It’s a fantasy or exploration, filtered through the imagination of the artist. There’s a visual poetry to illustration that no technology can match.”