“You should come with me” were the words of David Downton, fashion illustrator extraordinaire, when the proposal for him to join Instagram during couture week in Paris was suggested. If you’re still scratching your head, you’ll have seen his illustrations on the pages of Vanity Fair and Vogue and on bags at M&S. David is also Artist in Residence at Claridge’s Hotel. I would argue that is perhaps the best job in the world.
It’s one of those proposals that seemed so far-fetched that it could never really happen but, before I knew it, I was on the Eurostar to Paris, crashing into the world of couture (quite literally, I had not one invitation to my name) at the same speed as the train that got me there.
The world of couture could easily be seen as old-fashioned and outdated, with an inability to move forward. Yet, there was an air of newness at this year’s Autumn/Winter presentations. The first heel to hit the catwalk couldn’t have screamed “I’m back!” any louder than that of Naomi Campbell, marking her return to the Versace runway after a 15 year break (I should note, that’s almost as long as I’ve been on the planet).
A narrative of new continued with Christian Lacroix’s homage to Elsa Schiaparelli, marking the highly anticipated re-launch of her eponymous couture house. Then there was Karl Lagerfeld’s view to a new world, observed as the backdrop of a destroyed theatre at Chanel. As the biggest running couture house, Lagerfeld’s vision appeared to recognise the need to constantly move forward – to remain ‘new’ in a craft that easily can fall into being outdated.
Apart from the clothes, the experience was also very new to me. It was a world that I had always immersed myself into fully through external means, but somewhere I had never entered in reality. But it wasn’t all about me. I was there to start David Downton’s Instagram account (coincidentally, another new beginning).
The world of fashion and Instagram have such a strong relationship due to the complete reliance on imagery over words and you only need to look at Burberry (arguably the front runner in terms of a fashion house using social media) and their 874,000 followers to get a feel for the huge amounts of traction that Instagram can create. This power is only reinforced by the response to their images, with an image of their Regent Street store gaining almost 30,000 likes and another of it-girl Cara Delevingne soaring to over 45,000 likes. They’re not alone, however. From Selfridges to Topshop and Versace to couturier Elie Saab, Instagram encompasses the whole spectrum of the fashion industry. Thus, David’s work makes for a perfect fit into an already thriving world of fashion social media, filling a gap that joins his skilled craft with a fast-paced medium.
Pairing together David’s visual language and the importance of images on Instagram made for an exciting partnership; yet, it became apparent that Instagram has become a fickle game of likes where, regardless of the image, there are users who will like David’s images unconditionally. It then leads to question, does Instagram become a social network where it is not about what you like but who you like?
Analysis aside, it was great to see the reaction to David’s images on Instagram. Although some of the best reactions (in terms of likes gained) came from a video of David sketching at the Elie Saab show or his illustration of the Christian Lacroix for Elsa Schiaparelli presentation (see above), it was encouraging to see a more emotional connection through a picture of some scrunched-up drawings – titled ‘Bad day’ – with one follower admitting it was “encouraging to know that even you have bad days”.
In many ways, David’s account allows his followers to see into his life outside of his work, something that is rarely seen. One thing that does become clear after peeking into David’s world is the way in which there is a seamless movement from the charm of his work to the charm of the man himself.
Considering this is only a snapshot into the world of David Downton – a mere season in his 17-year run of couture shows (and that’s 2 seasons per year) – there’s certainly more to see, albeit past or present.
David Downton adds: “Never an early adopter, I finally embraced Instagram thanks to Liberty842, who provided the perfect help mate in the form of Connor Beesely. Mr Beeseley’s tact, quiet humour and pin point thinking can’t be over praised. How long before I’m asking him for a reference?”
Follow David Downton on Instagram
Find out more about David and his work on DavidDownton.com
Post written by Connor Beesley, Editor at Liberty842