After many generations of a presumably dying genre of the fashion industry, fashion illustration is now making a comeback in the vein of wearable fine art. In our times of advanced technology in the world of digital printing and photography, traditional techniques are again rising in popularity to contrast the shiny and predictable world of mainstream fashion. With improved techniques for printing on clothing, fashion illustration is developing beyond the confines of concept art and commercial use to be deeply ingrained in the aesthetic of clothing itself.
Despite some overlaps and various collaborations, fashion and fine art have, for the most part, remained respectfully distant cousins, “frenemies” in some cases. However, there is a need for accessibility in art as well as fashion. As much as many would love to keep art and fashion in the their proverbial places, watching one another tentatively, the rest of us are unimpressed.
Gina Martynova, a New York based surrealist fashion illustrator and designer, believes in the accessibility of both fine art and fashion. In an industry that favors digital painting over traditional, Martynova leans more towards the traditional, preferring the use of watercolor, pencil, and ink for original creations. She does, however, utilize design technology to translate, enhance, and repeat her original works onto clothing, deriving her skills from her educational background in textiles.
She is also a designer for Ozone Socks and is working on their newest project for the Metropolitan Museum’s first sock collection.
Gina intends to ride the wave of swelling interest for her one-of-a-kind pieces featuring the “Starry aesthetic”; a character the artist uses to personify her style. Martynova’s Starry Collective is a grassroots fashion operation co-run by business partner Bjorn DelaCruz and fashion designer/seamstress Melissa Farra.
The collective has participated in pop-up shops and art exhibitions but they have dreams of runway shows, a legitimized brand, and a store. Currently, they are sampling scarves and designing a kimono featuring Starry. Martynova discusses the importance of local product and community to further her projects:
“We’re trying to keep it local because there’s a lot of issues in the world where people are being overworked. [I want to] create a creative community because that’s slowly getting lost in New York and I think it’s important to keep it because that’s what New York is about. It’s about fresh ideas and open-mindedness. We don’t want [Starry] to be a cheap article. We want it to be beautiful, very thought provoking.”
Gina describes “Starry” on her website as a “vagabond alien botanist who travels the universe exploring nature and specimens of life.” A bit of a vagabond herself, the artist gleams her style from a variety of cultural influences and life experiences. Describing herself as a “third culture kid”, her work visually embodies her sixteen years living in Thailand (Her father was a UN translator), her Russian heritage, and an American-based education through an international school in Thailand. Before coming to New York to attend the coveted Fashion Institute of Technology, she spent a year in the UK studying at the London College of Fashion. Martynova’s Multi-cultural consciousness is especially noticeable in her Of F & F Tales Collection. These whimsical pieces display portraits of women in a Euro-Asian aesthetic and wearing headdresses featuring culture infused pattern. Martynova nostalgically associates this imagery with Russian folklore and its connection with nature, as well as fruits and fauna of Thailand. The incorporation of clothing itself is also a factor in the way of distinguishing culture. “When you go to a Russian church, like Russian Orthodox, you actually see women covering their hair with the kokoshnik (headdress). In the northern hill tribes in China, they also wear headdresses as a daily part of life… The whole thing about the headdresses is this sort of contained opulence or contained detail,” says Martynova.
Gina also describes her work as “eerie yet inviting” and it undoubtedly can be seen in the Starry Forest and Of F & F Tales collections where she combines charming and stylized imagery with darker, juxtaposing images such as flies and skeletons in color palettes of blues, purples, pinks, and reds. The creatures she composes are decidedly feminine but also hold a sort of “otherworldliness” that is haunting and fiercely lovely. One cannot decide if it is frightening or beautiful and Gina is not interested in just one or the other. Her simple conclusion is balance, a calling she associates with Taoist philosophies of harmony and Japanese ukiyo-e prints.
The existential distance of the arts is what keeps it whimsical and mysterious in the eyes of the viewers. However, it could also be the death of it and it’s important to keep it accessible to all communities.
“I think the next step is to get one-of-a-kind fashion where you customize it for yourself and it doesn’t matter the size or what gender you are. Most people can’t afford art, especially original art but wear it on your shoes, wear it on your shirt, as a gown…usually fashion illustration is very straightforward. It’s not very deep; it’s not really considered fine art. Now I think the gaps are closing and fashion illustration can be fine art,” says Martynova.
Whether we would like to admit it or not, fashion is often an intricate part of how we choose to visually represent ourselves. In some ways, clothing is more personal than a painting on the wall because it has many different personal uses. It is weaved into the everyday. It is something like a second skin, a material that can induce comfort and personal expression. Despite reservations, fashion can serve as a viable agent in building bridges because of the personal and massively attainable nature of clothing.
Don’t miss an opening exhibition party on April 10 for Gina Martynova at Bristle + Crème in Manhattan featuring her Spring Fashion Tales collection in celebration of spring’s arrival. The exhibition will last a month. For more information, check out http://www.bristleandcreme.com.
For further inquiry on Gina Martynova, check out http://www.ginamartynova.com
This article is soon to be published in Pop Surrealism Magazine at the end of March (www.popsurmag.com)
Margaux Galli is currently based out of New York and is the Editor-in-Chief at Pop Surrealism Magazine. She is also a freelance writer and artist. For more of Margaux’s writing, check out her blog at http://www.urbanartistsblog.wordpress.com. Her artwork is located at http://www.margauxgalli.com