High fashion. This is a world of luxury and glamor, flashbulb, runways and couture dresses. Many will never have the chance to wear designers like Gucci and Valentino, but fashion illustrations give people the opportunity to appreciate, maybe even worship, different ways.
“This allows people who don’t need to have access to high-end fashion brands to invite high fashion styles to their homes,” he explained Blair Breitenstein, which is one of the best-selling fashion illustrators in New York City. “That gives me a reason to have this fantasy world in my life because I normally wouldn’t use this designer.”
Breitenstein has worked with some of the biggest names in the industry, such as Chanel, Prada and Sak’s Fifth Avenue – his artwork has graced the pages of major magazines and he has garnered many followers in social media. But his passion for fashion and art began to grow on Mercer Island, and spent time with his grandfather, an abstract painter, and grandmother, a serious fashionista, who might be Breitenstein’s biggest fan.
“The way my grandmother dresses – she still dresses like this to get a letter, she wears full clothes. She makes her hair every weekend with jewelery full of beehives, clothes all the time. So I think I’m really only inspired by her love of fashion,” he said .
As a child, Blair often flipped the pages of his grandmother’s W Magazine, Vogue or Town and Country magazine. He also collected … shopping bags.
“Nordstrom shopping bags at Christmas when we grow up, they have illustrations on it,” Breitenstein said. “When I was 7 years old I would keep every bag and every gift card from Nordstrom that has illustrations on it.”
Breitenstein initially did not pursue art as a career. He holds a communications degree from Washington State University and works at an advertising agency in Seattle. Then he began to share his illustrations on the internet.
“Etsy is a platform that made me realize that people are interested in paying money for my art because people buy my prints. They are $ 25 and I will make it at Kinko,” he said. “It made me realize people want what I make. From Etsy, I started using Instagram. Instagram is where I start marking brands, magazines and creative directors. With Instagram you can see when you are tagged in something, so I only caught the attention of a few important people. “
One of the key people was an executive at Oscar de la Renta, who invited him to New York to sketch backstage and from the audience during their fashion show.
“I remember actually crying on my desk when I received the e-mail because at that time I had begun to get a little professional job. So, I began to think ‘This will be a dream to go to a fashion show’. When that happens, only words can I think about it [to describe it] it’s real. I cried literally because it was one of my dreams that came true, “he said.
Working with de la Renta opens the door. He traveled to Europe for two fashion week seasons with MAC Cosmetics and designed international packaging for the Fresh cosmetics brand, among many other impressive projects. But it was Blair’s approach, his style – that distinguished his work. It’s abstract, fun and often spontaneous.
“Sometimes a picture will take ten minutes for me and I don’t think that means it’s less than a work of art,” Breitenstein said. “I think it just adds to the pleasant dynamics of my work quickly and makes you see small mistakes such as water droplets. I think that makes them unique and fun and not too serious.”
His works often focus on the eyes of the subject and include a vintage vibe, something that continues to resonate with fans and big brands, including those close to home.
“I did a Nordstrom gift card a few years ago. It was a kind of full circle,” Breitenstein said. “Nordstrom gift cards and bags are what triggered my desire for fashion illustration, so that being able to do Nordstrom gift cards is really cool. I’m glad I can donate some work to Seattle, the Seattle brand.”
So, what’s next for Blair? With a fashion show on the pause, he found new inspiration in the world around him such as household goods, food or just the view from his roof.
“I think part of my future will try new things and different subjects and I’m very excited about that.”