by John Edinger

Acclaimed British fashion artist and designer, Marc McGreevy, recognized for his collections of “fashion art,” always strives for the next best image.  He draws by hand, working on traditional materials—paper, wood, foil, canvas. “I love capturing the flow and fall of the fabric on paper which I feel compliments my style.” Marc’s collections have been inspired by models like Alek Wek and Jerry Hall; by fashion history; by various cultures, clothes and people. His collections have garnered international attention, and his work has been featured in Elle, Vogue, The Sunday Times, and ES Magazine.

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Alek Wek is an important figure in your portfolio. How did that collection come to be? Have you met her, or has she seen the collection?

As a boy I remember looking at Yves Saint Laurent fashion shows with my father and just being mesmerized by the black models.  I was captivated by the way in which they moved in the clothes.  It was then I started showing auspicious signs of having a creative career in fashion.  The Alek Wek collection was chosen from a large archive of works.  I first saw Alek Wek in 1995 during London Fashion Week – it was her first runway show.  I went through a period of producing different works as she inspired me tremendously – even still to this day.  I drew very detailed fashion pieces and simple quick illustrations together with extreme and fresh abstract artworks.  I just couldn’t stop drawing her.  Alek inspires me in so many ways.  I am always on the phone to her agent Paula.  Alek thinks the collection is beautiful.

“Brown Windows” is a prominent part of your body of work. Where does the name come from, and what does the collection mean to you?

The name Browns describes the brand.  Browns being the famous London store, notoriously famous for launching designers and their collections from the early 80’s and supplying the best garment creations from top global fashion houses.  I was so lucky when they asked me to produce the large art works for their windows.  It meant so much to me because they helped to get my work and technical ability noticed.  The fashion images I created were very current and they captured of the moment fashion trends.  It brought me lots of recognition.  I always pop in and say hello to the staff.  I loved working with the team – a very happy time indeed.  I then became Artist in Residence for The May Fair Hotel, London.

Where do you get the inspiration for your abstract work? And how does it take shape?

My inspiration comes from the way I work as a designer.  It comes from scribbling down ideas of clothes; it reflects my designer side, my dreams and desires.  Movement and deportment are important.  The abstract work is often produced with great speed; this can only come from the experience, training and understanding of the body I have gained over the years.  The work can also come from the restriction of having worked on an intricate piece of art.  The fluidity is an expression of freedom allowing myself to create what I want, letting my arm move more freely.  Mistakes can be beautiful.

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In your abstract work, there is a sense of movement and flow that suggests certain fabrics. Would you say that’s accurate, and if so, what fabrics would you be looking at?

I like fabrics that come to life on the body.  The personality of the fabrics; the fibres, weft and warp combined with the cut.  This is important as it breathes life into a dress, enhanced with movement of the model; my work suggests this, only I use a tool to create my drawings and designs, understanding the limitation of the tool I am using.  Fabric is the same – I like jersey, wool and silk.  I have worked with suede, but you have to be extra careful when machining as no unpicking is allowed, as it leaves holes.  I like organic fabrics too.  I enjoy working with fabrics that do as they are told, easy to cut, don’t move and are not too difficult to handle.

Are there any specific questions that you ask a designer who will need to interpret your idea to turn it into reality?

Knowledge of cutting is very important; to understand how to cut a pattern to achieve a desired look.  I once worked with a Design Director in London.  I was hired as an In-House Artist.  My job was to illustrate Designers sketches to go into a catalogue.  He couldn’t draw technically.  I remember one day he was unsure how a collar should fall on a shoulder – technically in a drawing.  I remember him scribbling a collar he liked on paper and showing it to me.  He just couldn’t draw it.  I knew straight away how it should look.  When I drew it he shouted “yes that’s it!” smiling.  Having these skills as an artist of fashion I could technically understand cutting, draw my ideas and interpret others.

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Can you explain the difference in your approach when you are creating your own designs versus when you are illustrating for clients?

When you create for yourself you have no restrictions; you just explore and produce.  I can visualize my ideas and turn these into reality – that’s incredibly gratifying and uplifting.  The translation onto paper is easy for me.  When I work with a company or individual they have a set image in their mind.  That can be restricting as every detail you draw becomes scrutinized, especially if there are several peoples visions you are trying to satisfy as well as the company.  You have to get inside the minds of others and try and see how they see a finished piece.  Collaborating every detail from colour, size, technique and the source.  It can take quite a few pages of drawings.  I always produce the rough sketches first.  I do enjoy it though.  This is why my work displays versatility; it comes from the clients demands.  I do love a challenge.

What tools do you use to bring a client’s vision to life or to see your vision realized?

I always work the old fashion way.  Always on paper, layout paper or card.  I always use an easel.  Perspective is important.  I’ve worked on wood, foil and canvas.  I always ask my clients what medium they like and I’m happy to work in any.  One of my first exhibitions in London attracted students who actually thought some of my work was done on a computer.  I reassured them that I had drawn the pieces by hand.  In the past I have produced designs on a computer.  Technology is important but traditional skills are also.

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What about your work is consistent, no matter what type of work you are doing?

My work is consistently influenced by fashion.  When I produce commercial works they tend to have a good track record of sales.  I produced a collection called The Modes.  The style was very popular and featured in window displays on Bond Street, London.  The collection sold out in Harvey Nichols.  I was shocked as customers didn’t just buy one piece they bought sets of three.  I had one lovely lady come to The May Fair Hotel to order more.  They were written about in a fashion magazine too.  Success comes from collaboration, team work and working closely with individuals who have talents in the field of marketing.

Your abstract work includes designs that are reminiscent of Asian symbolism.  What is their significance to you, and how would you like to see them used?

I am exploring different types of beauty and style, which reflects in the way I work personally.  I create fashion art.  I am constantly looking at different cultures, clothes and people.  It is important to explore and stretch my creativity.  I would love to see my work used in advertising.  My abstract pieces look great as framed wall art too.

Part of your portfolio includes a series inspired by the history of fashion illustration.  Did you have a clear vision going into that project, or did it evolve from an initial inspiration?

I have been drawing fashion for a long time.  I loved the great fashion models like Jerry Hall – I just adore her.  I have a lot of love and admiration for her.  You can see an early piece I did of her on my website.  The Fashion Illustration of Yesterday folder reflects my work as a student and illustrations from my teen years/early 20’s. It displays my technical ability and influences.  For example the mediums used at that time were popularized by previous Fashion Artists.  I don’t tend to outline my work anymore with black pen – that was a trend of the 1980’s.  Lynne Robinson did it beautifully in her work.  I adored her style.  When I was studying my Lecturers kept telling me I could illustrate well and that I should be an illustrator.  I didn’t know how to just do that but the folder reflects how I started.  You have to move with the times.  I didn’t want to be a copy of what’s gone before.

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Is there a philosophy or mentality you think carries over to your work?

I believe I inherited my art skills.  I come from a family within the arts and fashion.  My Aunt was a seamstress in London and I remember going to work with her for the day when I was 15.  I spent the day designing ladies fashions on paper and the designers would stand over me joking that they would steal my ideas.  I always drew fashion from the age of 15 at school.  I watched and survived through a time when fashion illustration died – very sad not to see it used as much anymore.  I didn’t know I could be a Fashion Illustrator.  It was my Lecturers and the people I worked with who kept telling me “You’re a good illustrator”.  I respect my influences, learning from them and setting them free.  I always want to be as unique as I can.  I want to keep developing my work.  I don’t follow any other artist’s styles, although I greatly admire them for opening doors for me.  I always strive to do better than the last piece; pushing myself to create a beautiful drawing.

What types of fabrics do you gravitate towards, and what makes them appealing to your style?

I like evening wear a lot so I gravitate towards fine fabrics like silks, chiffon, embroidered & sequined fabrics as well as jerseys.  Also lace with fine beading can make a woman look glamourous.  I like to capture that in my work, although it can be intricate drawing.  I love capturing the flow and fall of the fabric on paper which I feel compliments my style.  I can either just go for it not thinking too much and just put the fall of the fabric.  It comes from knowledge combined with confidence.  There is a sense of magic that photography cannot capture when you draw.  I also like tailored structured fabrics like wool, linen, pure cotton and cashmere.  I explore the personality of the fabrics and draw accordingly.  I remember when I was a student we were given four fabric swatches and we had to copy these exactly.  It was part of my training as an illustrator.

Is there something you feel stylistically sets you apart?

I think what stylistically sets me apart today is the medium I use and the technique.  I make the image current.  I stay away from water colours which everyone now uses to illustrate fashion.  I love painting with oils and my work reflects this.  It is important to explore and move with the times.  When I draw male portraits I now use a rough pencil effect with colour as I think this compliments the masculinity.  This effect can also be used delicately to capture women too.

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