Illustrating fashion is a very peculiar act; while sketching is the earliest stage of the design process, when the idea gets the form of some lines on a sheet, fashion illustration calls for a completely different context and then, a different meaning. It is about retracing the idea behind a real dress, imagining a set and visually writing a story.
It is not necessary to come from inside the fashion world to be able to capture the intrinsic nature of fashion; Lorenzo Mattotti exemplifies the fact that what is needed is instead a good eye and an open mind. Mattotti started to illustrate fashion when the ‘Valvoline’ group, a collective of comics illustrators founded between 1982 and 1983 with, as members, Igor Tuveri (Igort), Giorgio Carpinteri, Marcello Jori, Jerry Kramsky, Daniele Brolli, Charles Burnes e Massimo Iosa Ghini, started participating to the pages of Vanity, the avant-garde illustrated fashion and style magazine founded by Anna Piaggi at the beginning of the 1980s.
Of the whole group, he is the one who has established the longest relationship with fashion; this, probably because it allowed him to explore some themes – above all the relationship between identity and performance – that are central for him as artist and for the mythologisation of fashion itself. He has recently declared, in an interview to the Newyorker: “Doing fashion illustrations is part of my work, but for me it’s all about women. When I look back at my work, I see images of women. It’s all about women—very pictorial women putting on dresses, putting on a show.”
Mattotti’s provenance from the world of comics shows in his approach to the actual clothes in the illustrations made for fashion. Clothes are, for him, a pretext to reflect on the formal composition of images, and on the possibility to build narratives around the encounter of a body, a personality and a dress. The worlds he portrays do not want to be true-to-life, nor his personnages are immediately recognisable as ‘humans’, as it is clear in the illustration made in 1985 for Vanity, featuring Missoni clothes.
His interest in the body and its materiality goes together with the necessity to portray the materiality of clothes and textiles. All his works show his great attention to prints, embroideries and textures, together with his will to place clothes in an imaginary setting, establishing interesting links between what is visible and what is imagined, between reality and utopia.