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Final Fashion: Q&A with ‘trend theorist’ Danielle Meder

Thursday, February 16th, 2012

Final Fashion is the type of fashion focused blog that gives both fashion and blogging a good name. The home of fashion illustrator and ‘trend theorist’ Danielle Meder, the website contains a wealth of intelligent writing, insightful observations, illustration and wonderful links.

Danielle’s talents extend to trend theory, fashion forecasting, and the history of fashion, along with fashion illustration, focusing on figure drawing and technical flats. Her passion project, a series of fashion paper dolls, has been featured in a variety of publications including the Great Big Book of Fashion Illustration and Canadian fashion authority FLARE Magazine.

FACTORY311 caught up with the Final Fashion founder to discuss fashion trends, fashion illustration and the pleasure of ‘Click Click’ links.

Q. How is Final Fashion different from other fashion focused blogs?

Even though Final Fashion is a fashion blog, it doesn’t fit neatly into any of the popular categories. Most fashion blogs are primarily visual – and Final Fashion definitely has a visual element in my illustrations, but it reflects the way I think which tends to be more analytical. So it has a lot more words than your usual fashion blog.

Q. And can you explain why ‘trend theorist’ is a better term to sum up what you do?

I like to take the long view on fashion – so rather than focusing on what the trends are now, I like to explore history to uncover patterns that may explain why trends happen. Finding those two little alliterative words was a long time coming. I found that as blogging became more well-known, describing myself as just a fashion blogger wasn’t getting the gist of what I do across.

I’m a believer in creating your own job definition, and one day I was inspired to Google ‘trend theorist’ and found the top hit was a post I did on The Fashion Spot forums six years ago. No one else is using this title so now I get to define what it is as I go.

Q. And do you think the sheer number of fashion blogs and bloggers is helping to shape the fashion industry?

For sure, the gold-rush mentality in the wake of a few break-out blogging success stories is changing the face of fashion blogging and fashion media as a whole. I’ve been blogging for long enough to remember the days when we thought that the democratisation of media would change the type of content that would be popular.

In a subtle way perhaps it has, but in general what we have discovered is that fashion media has always been in the business of reflecting our own inarticulate desires back at us, and the internet has only made this truth more measurable. Even when we say we want the unique, the real, the subversive, the fact is that the majority of us automatically respond to the same, the shiny, and the shallow, whether we admit it or not, the analytics don’t lie.

Q. Why do you think some fashion bloggers have more influence than many others?

Fashion functions on inequalities, so it goes without saying that the playing field is anything but flat. Beauty and youth and money are the main performance enhancers, but in blogging there are some other attributes that come into play.

Being an early adopter is a big help as it also takes time to develop a good blog to a consistent quality. Certain combinations of talents, the ability to translate personality into words and pictures, social positioning and being in the right place at the right time all factor too.

Q. Did your interest in fashion coincide with your interest in illustration?

I think the interest in fashion has always been the driving motivation, and illustration is just one of the methods I employ to express ideas. It’s somewhat telling that I am almost totally unable to adequately render anything that doesn’t have an element of fashion in it. The need to illustrate isn’t driven by craft as much as content.

Q. How do you view the current state of fashion illustration?

It’s interesting! As with all media it’s undergoing a period of transition from one way of doing business to another, and as such you see many illustrators blogging at the vanguard, and making it up as they go along. Fashion illustration has always been disconnected from illustration in general – it’s more social, and the scene is incredibly small.

Q. And is fashion illustration dictated by current fashion trends?

In terms of what gets commissioned, where, for sure. Fashion illustration has been “out” of fashion for several decades now – illustrators used to be popular personalities alongside the editors and writers they worked with, sort of like photographers have been more recently.

It’s quite rare now for fashion magazines to use illustrations in any significant way now – however I’ve noticed that retailers and commercial brands have been commissioning illustrators more and you do see people like David Downton, Richard Haines and Garance Dore not only contributing imagery, but also commentary and narrative.

I believe personality is what supports the popularity of illustration in fashion, because people are mostly interested in people, not art.

Q. Is it possible to be a fashion illustrator with a style that is always in demand?

If you are incredibly brilliant, like Gruau, Lopez or Downton, I think it is possible maintain a long, uninterrupted career. The rest of us are subject to the whims of popular taste and have to develop other talents and occupations to fill the gaps.

Q. They are many books focused on fashion illustration, what advice would you give to anyone hoping to start a career as a fashion based illustrator?

The best books are by the best illustrators – I suggest Bina Abling and Steven Stipelman for quality fashion illustration texts, and recommend not only looking through them but systematically working your way through all of the exercises as I did. I believe it’s very important to understand what you’re drawing – so knowing how clothing is constructed, and following what is happening in the industry is very helpful.

Life drawing is great – but to be honest I prefer drawing people with clothes on. The main thing is just keep doing it, over and over and over, until you’ve lost count of how many thousands of figures you’ve drawn.

Q. Finally, your ‘Click Click’ section is a constant source of great links. When do you find time to find them all?

Thanks, I’m glad you asked! I quite enjoy compiling what I describe as my “sporadic review of what I find worth clicking on the internet”. Key word sporadic – I post once I’ve accumulated a posts-worth of backlog, so finding time isn’t an issue. Most of the links I find peripherally – my Twitter feed provides an excellent filter.

I find this is better than relying on an RSS reader (though I do that too) because it gets me outside of the echo chamber of what I subscribe to. More recently, I’ve started finding links through doing extensive searches on Google Image Search while I’m looking for images to go with my posts.

This is a great way to inadvertently find less-trafficked corners of the internet, uncovering stuff that is obscure or forgotten. I keep track of all my links on the social bookmarker delicious and also sometimes tumblr, and once there’s a stack of several dozen to go through I edit them down to the best handful.

I’ve been a patron of libraries my entire life, and the way that I approach the stacks is quite similar – I tend to just wander in a haphazard way, reading spines, not seeking anything specific but being open to what I might encounter. I’ve discovered so much this way – I think it’s a good philosophy for life too.

The second part of each click click post is “karma”, where I attempt to record & link to every person or website who has interacted with Final Fashion in some way – whether they commented, emailed, linked or otherwise reached out to me. It helps me keep track of who is connecting with the content or with me – I love getting to know my visitors on an individual basis. And of course, it’s a great way to show gratitude – another philosophy I abide by.

Danielle Meder photo portrait credit: Jamie Archer.

See more of Danielle Meder’s work here.

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