A Q&A with Fashion Illustration Tutor Montana Forbes

We chatted to the fashion illustration tutor ahead of her online masterclass.


  • Learning

We're delighted to have Montana Forbes back teaching our online masterclass in Fashion Illustration on Saturday 20 February 2021. Read on to find out more about her work as an illustrator and tutor.

Let's talk fashion illustration v. fashion photography.

Fashion illustration may not be as widespread, or as well known an art form, as fashion photography – and yet we encounter it daily in print publications, advertising, packaging, film, television and digital media, and it is also used as decorative design for fabric, furniture and homeware.

What is fashion illustration?

Fashion illustration is the first language of fashion. It is part of the design and representation of a garment as well as an interpretation of clothing of the prevailing times.

What does the job of a fashion illustrator involve?

Fashion illustrators are mainly hired to enhance or promote certain brands and products. A brief is usually presented by a creative director or team with basic ideas on specific clothing items or accessories from designer, collections and fashion retailers. Then follows a process of research, drawing and redrawing, with sketches going through various stages of approval.

Any tips?

Some projects call for more or less creative direction so it is useful to keep visual references to hand. An accumulation of these helps to hone an individual aesthetic, developing and defining a strong visual identity.

What does a fashion illustrator need to know?

An illustrator should have sound knowledge of fashion and various terminologies. They need to be able to describe types of fabric, styles, trends and dress codes. Equally, it’s important to stay actively engaged with current and past fashion seasons’ shows and topics.

Where do you get your inspiration from?

Fashion is quite cyclical, so I spend time rummaging through vintage stores to take notes from past decades as well as collecting selective items to draw from. Immersing myself in other creative fields, like film, music and art are also an essential part of my process.

What sparked your love of fashion illustration?

My personal interest in drawing fashion stems from observing my mother’s enthusiasm for fashion and styling. Her bold choice of clothes and accessories embodied a certain strength of character whether dressing for work or leisure. From a young age, I would spend hours drawing and playing with paper cut-out figures and changing their clothes.

How does your practice affect your teaching?

My professional research and experimentation feeds back into my teaching – my experiences, both good and bad, become part of my approach to individual classes. As an illustrator, I engage in projects that push me out of my comfort zone to progress my work and grow as a practitioner and that’s the approach I try to impress upon my students.

What can students expect from your fashion illustration masterclass?

I hope to encourage students to approach their work with a sense of fun – this fuels inspiration and helps to creating engrossing conceptual fashion illustrations. They can expect to test their limits by experimenting with unfamiliar media and materials and to value their own personal stories and perspectives. This course is designed to help students develop a signature expression and build a distinguishable portfolio which will ultimately attract a wide range of commissions and clients.

Book now for Montana's Fashion Illustration online masterclass on Saturday 20 February 2021 or read more Q&As with our terrific tutors Claire AlexanderMerlin Evans and Sion Ap Tomos.