This feature appears in V136 now available for purchase

As the world changed with the emergence of the Internet boom, so did fashion and how we interpret it. In this couture story, British-creative duo, photographer Nick Knight and stylist Anna Trevelyan pay homage to the social media concept of real-time digital fashion illustrations, made possible through participation from artists and fans.

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Call it fortune-telling or keen economic-trend forecasting, but Knight’s pioneering ability to adapt in the digital age has set the bar high for what would be, and still presently is, a major hurdle for artists, designers, and publications alike. Transferring art onto many mediums has never been easy, but digital obstacles present ever-new issues…which Knight seems to have been able to innovate his way around for decades. The emergence of SHOWstudio, an award-winning fashion website started by Knight in 2000, has been a resolute and revolutionary case study for relentlessly pushing the boundaries of how the world interprets and imagines fashion. In this way, SHOWstudio has invited the public to actively partake in an industry known for exclusivity.

Opposite page Dress Alexandre Vauthier Couture Jewelry Messika

This “Cyber Couture” story is the result of community, high-fashion, and risk, with a unique synergy of chaos meeting creation. The livestream of the shoot, featuring burgeoning model Georgia Palmer, invited more than 40 notable illustrators, as well as the general public, to sketch their own fashion-inspired creations. A lighting technician then projected their artwork onto the expertly-posed Palmer, dressed in the season’s most cutting-edge couture ensembles, as Knight snapped away. The result: An otherworldly step into a fantasy where fashion has never been before.

This page Dress Area Couture Earrings Tiffany & Co. Illustration by Jacquetta Crook

V MAGAZINE: You both are such amazing collaborators, every time you two powerhouses come together, you create this alternate universe. Can you tell me a little bit about the art direction, the artists, the brands, and specific pieces from this couture season you featured?

ANNA TREVELYAN: The couture collections are quite small to make selections from, so I had to look at the overall theme. And I was inspired by this theme of elegance and simplicity but in a bold and statement-couture way. Normally, when I style a shoot, I lean more toward the craziest pieces you could imagine. But this time around, I was really feeling this beautiful elegance and ease, [very] monochrome, simple, and statuesque. So that’s where I started to make the edit, and that’s why there’s lots of black in there. I wanted to keep it black, white, and red for the most part.

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V: It seems like each look was a different character. What were some of the sentiments or feelings behind each look?

AT: That’s what is so cool about working with Nick [Knight], then of course Val [Garland] on hair, Sam [McKnight] on makeup, and Adam [Slee] on nails. I feel like we all like to think on the spot. So, a lot of the time when we do a shoot, we’ll plan everything before and be like, “This is the hair and makeup mood-board. This is exactly what we’re doing.” But then later, we’ll call each other and say, “Let’s just bring everything and be creative and see what happens.”

Earring Tiffany & Co.

V: Okay, so that’s the secret to the magic: planned spontaneity. It’s interesting to hear that perspective from you, Anna, as the stylist. Nick, what was the experience like for you?

NICK KNIGHT: I would say the premise of the shoot is that we are allowing the invited SHOWstudio audience to change the background and lighting every other minute, which is quite different from any other shoot I’ve ever done. As soon as Georgia looked amazing in Viktor & Rolf, then people would start drawing on SHOWstudio, which then gets projected automatically onto Georgia, the Viktor & Rolf, and onto the background.

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This was essentially an experiment allowing the public and artist to showcase their work. I like the feeling of not being in control, and I think there’s something quite exciting creatively about relinquishing control. It’s something that creative people often find exhilarating, but quite terrifying because it’s very hard to know how you’re going to take a great photograph, let alone when somebody else is controlling the lighting and controlling the color of what you’re looking at.

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V: And how did you guys go about this creative process? What was the framework from the conceptualization to the execution?

AT: I think the concept really was your concept, Nick, wasn’t it? The idea started from something that you had worked on previously and you wanted to expand into a fashion shoot with a model, illustrations, and lighting. So that really came from Nick and his magnificent brain.

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NK: The use of fashion illustration within the fashion world was the main inspiration. We don’t see it so often now, but it used to be such a huge part of fashion. Back in the day, if Anna was working in the 1950s, she would go to the salon presentations in Paris and next to her or along with her, she would bring her illustrator who would sit and sketch while she watched. And she would turn to them and say, “Look at that hemline, draw that.”

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They would go back together to Carmel Snow (Harper’s Bazaar former editor-in-chief), or other editors in New York at that time and say, “Look what we saw at the Paris collections.” Of course, there was no Vogue Runway during this time, so they would show the set of sketches and fashion illustrations that were done live as the show was happening. I’ve always found that really intriguing. I’ve always loved that slightly old-school way of looking at fashion. So, this shoot, for me, was kind of merging that love and fascination for illustration with today’s technological advancements.

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Illustration by Uzo Hiramatsu
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This feature appears in V136 now available for purchase

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