Fashion Illustration Workshop: A Visually Delectable Scene

By Joanna Elena Batsakis

This piece was written as part of the Fashion Writing Program 2019

At The Virgin Australia Melbourne Fashion Festival’s Plaza Block Party, a large crowd gathered around a long white table. On top of the table were lime green cups filled with paint brushes, white palettes filled with red, yellow, purple and blue paints along-side two piles of black and white fashion illustrations. The festival goers who had gathered at this scene walked quickly around the table as if playing musical chairs, desperately searching for a spare seat to sit on.

At the head of the table stood one Melbourne’s most unique and daring fashion designers, Estelle Michaelides. Wearing a pair of magnificently oversized sunglasses, a black bandanna head-wrap and combat boots styled with a highly intricate floor-length black lace dress that Michaelides had designed and sewn herself, Michaelides was the woman of the hour as she moved around her table to warmly greet her guests. When seated at the table, guests were invited to participate in a Fashion Illustration Workshop run by Michaelides that provided one with the opportunity to paint Michaelides’ pre-drawn fashion illustrations (in any way that you liked)– a gift that could also be taken home after the event.

Estelle Michaelides is not only a local Melbourne fashion designer but also a highly accomplished illustrator, stylist and creator who runs the online experience The Estelle Report and her own fashion label Micky In The Van (Michaelides has showcased her designs both internationally and locally in Australia at The Festival). Proudly Australian with Greek heritage, Estelle Michaelides produces high-quality pieces locally (made in assistance with Australian manufacturers) that reflects her unique flair and her appreciation of fashion culture, from high-end and ready-to-wear fashion to streetwear, vintage trends, skate culture and traditional dress.

When engaged in conversation with Michaelides, one is struck by the designer’s eloquent manner, her instant warmth and friendliness. When Michaelides and I discussed the importance of fashion illustration in her life while seated at the table, the conversation that followed was highly revealing about her creative practise. For the designer, fashion illustration has always been a kind of therapy and a profound spiritual activity – it allows for one to remove themselves from the world, to enter into a space that is without time or sound.

Michaelides also revealed that she only ever uses watercolour paints when sketching and creating her designs. This is an interesting and revealing element to her work that Michaelides’ says is highly reflective of her character – “by using watercolours, there are no boundaries. You cannot force watercolour to do anything”.  As any artist would know, unlike oil or acrylic paint, watercolours do not stay within any pre-drawn lines – creativity is allowed to run free and without constraint.

Along with talking to Michaelides herself, the highlight of this afternoon workshop was the decision to use a long table in the middle of the Plaza. What this table allowed for was guests to introduce themselves to one another easily and engage in conversation whilst drawing. Additionally, this table allowed for the attendees to sit in close proximity so that each could see the different designs that were being painted. Within a matter of minutes, guests who had never met previously were sharing personal anecdotes about art while taking photographs of each other’s paintings and exchanging compliments about them.

The Estelle Michaelides Fashion Illustration Workshop was a highly collaborative event, a visually delectable scene and a memory to preserve forever; without a doubt, this event was one of the most important events of The Festival in 2019.   

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