On a Saturday afternoon during NYFW after I handed over invitations to contributing editors at Vogue Italia, I suddenly found myself sitting second row at the Trace Reese show. Shocked by the presence of Sarah Jessica Parker, who was sitting a row in front of me, I felt a strike of luck hit me at that moment. And as a dear admirer of hers, I was left speechless when I approached her – it was happening, I was actually talking to ‘the Carrie’ of Sex and The City.
I remained with the adrenaline by feeling my heart beat quickly for the whole entire show. And as the music made the moment even better, I didn’t realize until the end though, how I had this peculiar individual on the opposite row, dancing while she drew rapidly and with a whole bunch of attitude – but most importantly, presence.
Many had the same idea as I did, not only did we all want to take pictures of her and her drawings, but several also approached the ultimate quirky and fun fashion illustrator for her business card - after all, she did make us all curious for more.
“I was rocking out, the DJ saw I was rocking out from the DJ booth,” said Danielle Meder, “then I find myself to get to be in the DJ booth and talk with DJs about making music for fashion shows.”
The 33 year old illustrator is clearly game for anything to chase her obsessions, which most likely has made her wind up in curious places, such as a DJ booth. As she sits with me today at the Sky Gallery venue, she sketches me too, and realizes how part of understanding the fashion industry happens because she throws herself in the center of this madness twice a year.
”In order to understand fashion more you have to see who the designers are, who is at the shows,” she said.
The aim of this born and raised Toronto illustrator is to be able to create a personality within her work and for others to be able to understand so too.
At a white brick wall gallery Meder met me during the last warm days of Summer, sitting through the light rays of light , she scribbled as much as she talked and expressed herself in the most genuine way, purposeful to tell us more about her drawings, thoughts and overall story.
You said on your blog posts that it wasn’t about ‘who you impress in fashion week, is about finding your own people,’ who can you say you found this past 2016 S/S NYFW?
I did an awesome collaboration with a street style photographer, he does video as well, his name is Jose Martinez and he makes everybody look cool. He is just one of those people that does everything in slow motion. I’m excited for it.
When we met, we expressed our ideas on what we wanted to create, and it was like creative fire, as we were both doing something that we really love to do. We were both in fashion week as independents, both doing our own thing. And it was one of those moments when I thought, yeah, this is what makes fashion week exciting, as it can be difficult as an independent.
But once you are at a fashion show, you want to make the most of it because its privileged to attend. There’s a lot of people who feel ‘down’ at fashion week, and of course that is if you are spending your entire time doing things you don’t want to - such as, impress people you don’t like. That’s terrible.
You really did reflected your enthusiasm when I first saw you – Without having had talked to you, I knew you were different. You carried more of a WORK mode, rather than a ‘Look at me mode’..
Yes, but I’m a ‘looky-loo’ and one of the things about fashion week is that people love to be looked at. There’s a sort of a simplicity and honesty to it because it’s sort of a – ‘What you see is what you get’. Sometimes that can be very satisfying, especially if they have a very model-esque figure, as they’re just so easy to draw. That’s a little magic quality even though they may be a little wrapped up in themselves, sometimes they don’t have to say anything to you.
It’s about the ‘look at me, but don’t get too close’. It’s about protection, it’s about having people at a certain distance. I have compassion for that as well, because at the end of the day these people are my subjects.
I have got big eyes, so I have the tendency to stare. You know sometimes people don’t like to be stared at. But at fashion week, you’re staring at them and their reaction is like YEAH.
In fashion week, there’s the observed and the observers.
And I have been the observer just as you see the photographers. At a certain point though, I realized.. ‘Hm - Im in show business, I am part of the picture.’
So then I started being more conscious of my role, not just somebody who was there to document, but somebody who is performing the documentation. I think that is very key to the 21st century because people are very interested about the performance,
When you are drawing, you have to be dealing with 4 (or more) important things at once; observing the garment, the model, the drawing and avoiding distractions while doing so. What has been your strategy to produce well-made drawings with all of this in mind?
Yeah a lot of people come up to me and say ‘I can’t do that’. But anyone could with practice. I don’t believe that talent is innate, I don’t think that is something people are born with. Everything is about practice. I think the problem is, that a lot of people when they are young, they are discouraged from something.
When you are a little kid, you might do something and somebody will tell you, ‘Oh you are really good at that’, so as the kid you keep doing it, and it’s the practice in the thing that develops the talent.
So - that kid was just lucky enough to be doing something and to have somebody encourage them. A lot of people could tell the kid, ‘I don’t know what that is, you’re not good at drawing,” so they feel discouraged and they stop practicing, they immediately assume they don’t have that thing inside of them that would allow them to become good at that.
So, practice is everything. When I first started sketching at fashion week it was scribbles, that didn’t look like anything. The reason why it looks like something now is because I have been doing it for eight years and haven’t stopped. And even when I do bad drawings, I keep going. You just keep going with persistence and patience, there’s nothing more to it.
How and why did you start practicing meditation in your work?
A year ago I had a lot of gigs going on, and like a lot of people, I flaked off and lost these opportunities. My confidence was shut, and it came out in the drawings. My job is not just to look at something and draw, my job is to look at something, get into the head space that will allow me to really render that thing in the most evocative way that I possibly can. If you want to be powerful you have to go in with confidence, and you have to be able to block away any negative thoughts. So if I’m at a show thinking, ‘Oh I really got to make sure these sketches turn out’….. That’s when they DON’T turn out. It’s so ironic, but the more worried I am about the final product, the more the product looks worried.
I have a studio in Toronto, and there’s this meditation space, so I was going up there, and I was just working on being able to let go of anxieties and just to be present, tell myself ‘Im here’.
A fashion show is the worst sort of meditation zone, actually the complete opposite of meditation.
When I am at a fashion show, I am thinking like the runway as an altar, and I am seated, I am ‘here’ in the moment. I am taking in all of the sounds, the smells, the sight, everything is coming in. Nothing matters in that moment at all, except for what I am observing, and allowing it to flow out my body, my arms – reflected towards my work.
We all have emotions we have to let go of, and I found out I have a lot of anxiety, which I can’t work with. Depression or sadness, I am not able to channel into the types of drawings that I want to do. I can though, channel anger – I can be quite good with anger through my work.
Tell me about your latest project ..
I am writing a book on how to do fashion illustration - its sort of like a manual on how to be me, giving away all my tips and tricks. This is partly why I am in New York for, to meet my editor. The purpose of it is just to be able to help young artists build their careers. Helping each other, this is how we build the rates. As artists we can recognize the other artists who are talented, and those are the ones we want to support. I think its really important to be generous. So, I am always inspired when I see young people drawing and hustling. I love it when they have business cards that say, 'fashion illustrator'.