David Downton Collaboration

When Michael Kors first sat for a portrait with artist David Downton at Claridge’s Hotel in London, they had no idea that they would one day come together again for a different project entirely. The designer has paired up with the renowned fashion artist for a special-edition collection, which has now landed in stores after its debut earlier this year at the Michael Kors Collection Fall 2018 runway show.
Downton is an internationally recognized artist whose elegant drawings and portraits of the world’s most stylish women have been celebrated in publications such as Vogue, Vanity Fair, Harper’s Bazaar and The Times for over two decades. “This is our first collaboration with an artist for Michael Kors Collection, and it is very personal,” says Michael. “David captures people’s essence and style without feeling the need to draw every detail about them—it’s the magic of a great illustrator.”
We sat down with Downton to discuss his beginnings, career milestones and working with Michael on the new collaboration.


Can you tell us about the process of creating these illustrations, from conception to final product?
Michael and I were talking and it became clear that we liked and admired a number of the same women. He commissioned some drawings, not of specific women, but of archetypes. I have to say Michael was the easiest person to work with, because he knows exactly what he wants. I wasn’t directly involved in the design or application of the drawings onto the pieces, so it was a thrill for me to see them at Michael’s show for the first time. I was thrilled, too, that Thandie Newton (who I’ve also drawn for Claridge’s) was wearing one of the dresses at a movie premiere in London recently.
What has been your most memorable moment in your career to date?
I think drawing Cate Blanchett for the cover of the 50th anniversary issue of Vogue Australia. Firstly, of course, because it was Cate, who came to London for the sitting. Secondly, because I never thought Vogue would commission an illustrated cover. I assumed, for them, that was a thing of the past. Gratifyingly, it became the fastest selling issue in the magazine’s history and won a design award. A good moment.
What’s your favorite portrait from your book?
I couldn’t pick one! They are all a part of a continuum. I have worked with Erin O’ Connor for twenty years now and with Carmen Dell’Orefice for almost as long. They certainly represent a drawing ideal for me. Then again, I recently had the privilege of drawing one of my idols, Anjelica Huston.


How did you get your start?
I was good at drawing in a family of sportsmen. I suppose it made me stand out. I must have liked the attention, because I kept at it. Later, I honestly didn’t think I had many options. Drawing seemed to be all I could do. I began in the 1980s as a general illustrator, taking on every kind of job, happy just to be working. Fashion and portraiture came much later.
What came first – the love for fashion, illustration, or glamorous women?
Illustration, I would say. As a child Disney animation was what made me want to be an artist. Then, the movie posters of Bob Peak and Robert McGinnis. I didn’t go to galleries, I went to the cinema.
What is your best piece of advice for artists starting out?
Be yourself. Not a watered down version of someone else. Take the long view, it’s not a race... most of all, enjoy it. Have fun. It’s allowed!


David captured the spirit of a diverse group of stylish women for the collaboration: the lux gamine (Sabine), the modern goddess (Lola), the glamorous icon (Claudia), and the chic sophisticate (Brooke).