Claire Thompson is the creator and founder of Hello Claire, a concierge illustrating service specializing in fashion art. Within moments, Claire has the ability to capture the essence of designs ranging from international retail chains like Desigual to high-fashion labels like Gucci and McQueen. However it wasn't always an easy path for Ms. Thompson. She recalls the life altering discussion she had with her doctor at just 20 years old, "I found out my retinas were almost entirely detaching and I had less than a week before I would be blind for the rest of my life if they didn't do emergency surgery." Luckily the surgery was a success and shortly after regaining her eyesight her career took off. Now she can be found sketching anywhere from her local coffee shop to the runways of Mercedes Benz Fashion Week. Naturally we were thrilled when Claire sketched at COUTURE and we were even able to squeeze in an interview between sketches and get an in depth look into her creative process.
COUTURE: What inspired you to start illustrating? CLAIRE: Almost losing my eyesight made me reevaluate what I wanted to do with my life. Given how critical a role art had, it was an easy decision to pursue fashion illustration. I have been an artist for as long as I can remember but it wasn't until college that I started illustrating fashion. Fashion is the most intimate form of art, as it's something that plays a daily role in our lives. We are always wearing something that reflects our identity in some way. As a fashion illustrator, it's my job to bring out those elements that reflect our individuality.
COUTURE: What has drawn you to the beautiful world of weddings? CLAIRE: . Shortly after my surgery, I got an internship as a graphic illustrator for a ski and snowboard company in a small town in the French Alps. While I was working, I was applying for scholarships to put myself through school and found out about a wedding dress competition with an American bridal magazine. I submitted a sketch of a wedding dress and soon after found out I made it to the semi-finals. I was only given 4 weeks to construct the dress I designed. I had a bit of a disadvantage during the competition, though. As i mentioned earlier, I was recovering from an intensive eye surgeryand also didn't have access to a sewing machine or a dress form, so I was forced to construct the gown on my own body. I ended up in the finals round and was flown to New York to present my dress on Good Morning America! I was very lucky I got a second chance at seeing and hand-sewing a wedding dress was the first thing I created since my operation. Bridal design will always have very special place in my heart.
COUTURE: Do you always work with designers or have you worked with real brides? Is there a different technique to each? CLAIRE: I often work with both. Working with brides is very similar to working with designers. They both have a vision, and it's my job to translate their ideas onto paper.
COUTURE: How do bridal sketches differ from ready to wear sketches? CLAIRE: Bridal gowns take a lot more time to illustrate, as they have so much more detail than ready to wear sketches. My end goal is always the same for both, though, it's about conveying an emotion that photography cannot capture
COUTURE: During the Maggie Sottero Fashion Show you sketched the looks in real time as they came down the catwalk. How did you master this live sketching technique and how do you capture the garment's details in such short period of time? CLAIRE: Live illustrating can be very difficult, and coordination is extremely important. Holding a paint set, water, paintbrushes, and a sketchbook can end up being a disaster if you're not careful, especially sitting front row at a fashion show where everyone can see what you are doing. I only have a few seconds to look at a piece before I start illustrating it. I try to capture the emotional aspects of the piece, so the music also plays a big part in how I illustrate during a show.
COUTURE: Your figures have very unique characteristics and attitude. Do you develop their poses based on the designs you are illustrating? CLAIRE: Absolutely. I try to take the personality of the designs and translate it into the figure's body language. Conveying personality through my illustrations is very important to me, but I always try to leave a little bit to the viewers' imagination, which is why I never draw faces. I'd rather the personality come through the designs, as opposed to a face.