Francesco Lo Iacono on fashion illustration, mastering watercolors and his new book

Passionate about drawing and painting since his childhood, when he spent his time filling school textbooks with endless sketches, Francesco would continue his studies at the Beaux-Arts at a higher level. Curiously, he had no immediate interest in fashion and was more interested in photography. However, inspirational editorials in fashion magazines sparked his fascination with the industry and soon after he moved to Paris to work in the womenswear department of a trend forecasting industry.

During this time, Francesco began to take his career as a fashion illustrator more seriously and realized that fashion illustration could bring all of his interests together. His eagerness and enthusiasm for the medium paid off. He’s since been enlisted by top clients, including high-end department stores and respected fashion magazines that caught his eye all those years ago.

In his recently published first book, Watercolor fashion illustration, Francesco shares what he has learned from his career so far to help fashion illustrators who are just starting out or looking to change and enter the industry. We caught up with him to find out more.

What made you want to release Watercolor Fashion Illustration?

Ever since I started working as a fashion illustrator, I’ve always had this little dream of creating and publishing my own book. I would say it was also a matter of timing. I had the pleasure of leading a Fashion Life Drawing course in London for over two years. I loved sharing my tips with other illustrators, rubbing shoulders with talented young fashion designers and models. Unfortunately, the pandemic hit, so I had to stop everything.

Around the same time, I contacted my publisher, and they thought it might be a good time for a watercolor-focused fashion illustration book, and soon after, we had our first Zoom meeting to discuss more details about the book. It was at the start of the very first lockdown in the UK, and that’s when I started working on my book. In a way, I see this book as the natural continuation of my fashion illustration studio.

Are watercolors only suitable for fashion illustration?

Watercolor is extremely versatile. It’s one of the things that makes it unique. In arts and illustration, watercolor has been used in very different ways. Personally, watercolor was a natural fit, but I also think watercolor can easily fit into my style of fashion illustration, which can be considered traditional and classic in a way.

In the book, I often mention how I find watercolor very suitable for solving certain problems or representing something in particular. For example, there is a whole section dedicated to how to render certain fabrics and textures in watercolor, and they have been carefully selected in order to highlight the value of watercolor in this specific use.

Who is the book primarily aimed at, fashion students or people who plan to study fashion in the future?

I really did my best to make this book useful and compelling to many people. The book is primarily intended for those who sincerely love fashion, illustration and watercolour. Those who love all three, like me, will find the perfect option in this book.

At the same time, throughout the book, I think I have given valuable advice and tips not only on the watercolor technique but also on the career of a fashion illustrator itself and, more broadly, on what it is is to be an artist. Although I start with the basics, I end up dealing with other aspects of being an illustrator, such as developing your style, digitizing your work, and keeping a professional and responsible attitude as a creative.

When I was leading my fashion illustration workshop, I met many different people who were at different stages of their creative journey: fashion students, professional artists, people who wanted to reconnect with their creative side after years away. So when writing the book, I took that into consideration and tried to give something to everyone.

If readers could remember one thing from your book, what would it be?

I think I would really like people to feel, through the pages of my book, all the love and passion I have for this technique and for my craft. And with love, also the commitment necessary to succeed as an artist and illustrator.

Watercolor is considered a difficult medium to master. What is the secret to using them well?

I’m aware that watercolor can be seen that way, and I understand why. In the book, I give a lot of information on how to approach watercolor for the first time, offering all my knowledge, and I hope that in the end you will be able to master watercolor. But along with my advice, it is necessary to be open, patient, creative, courageous and dedicated. Practice is of course essential to get the most out of the book. So maybe continuing to practice is the real secret. There are no shortcuts, but I’m happy to share my tips to make your creative journey easier and more enjoyable. Also, I think it’s important to keep it fun. It’s a way to keep exploring the technique and learning.

What advice would you give to people considering getting into fashion illustration?

I feel blessed to be able to explore my creativity as a fashion illustrator every day. It has been, and still is, a breathtaking journey, and I think a mix of patience, passion and practice got me to where I am now.

Build a well-balanced portfolio that shows how much you can achieve to earn the trust of potential clients and secure their commissions. Every artist has a different path, don’t compare yourself to others and keep focusing on your craft and your art.

Keep practicing and learning, don’t stop nurturing your creativity and be patient as this journey may take some time.