Science-fiction and fashion don’t necessarily sit next one another in the cafeteria, but in the illustrations of Ignasi Monreal, they are intertwined in a strange, captivating way.
“I love geek stuff!” Monreal says. It was the geek stuff (and a very cool fashionista he met in Miami) that drew him to fashion: “[I like] the idea of creating new characters and designing their outfits”. By imbuing fashion with fantasy, he unifies “characters” and “outfits”. he creates words, not portraits.
Whether Monreal is making outfitted characters of his own or embellishing the work of other designers, his illustrations are always shrewd, in the sense that their contours are sharp and he does not dabble in cuteness, even when his models have impish or fairy-like features.
But to solely point out the sci-fi/fantasy overture does not do Monreal’s gallery justice. It’s little Art Nouveau, a little Egon Schiele, a little like the cover of a 50s detective novel, a little Manga, and even a little Hustler.
Monreal did a series for V Spain in which he had carte blanche to design over famous photographs of models in haute couture.
He gave a model in Versace a head full of lush boa constrictors. Her Medusa-esque locks go surprisingly well with the architectural coat-dress she wears with an oversize belt. Snakes, goldfish, flamingos, colorful moths, and some other flora and fauna pepper this series.
See what I mean about him creating a world? The unexpected juxtaposition of an ecosystem with haute couture adds a vivacity to these outfits. In one illustration, the turquoise moth on the model’s hair compliments the moth-shaped crocheted pattern on the Givenchy jacket she wears. A few of the models’ faces are enigmatically obscured, but in most of Monreal’s illustrations, the faces stare right back at you, challenging your gaze.
Only 22-years-old, Barcelona-born Ignasi Monreal has published work in Spain’s Harper’s Bazaar and Vogue. He was passionate about comic books as a teenager, and until just five years ago, didn’t know much about fashion. “I thought Calvin Klein was [exclusively] an underwear brand” he told me.
Then, a commission to draw a comic strip about the fashion industry, as well as the aforementioned Miami fashionista, made Monreal’s impressionable 17-year-old self stop and ponder. “It was like fate screaming ‘FASHION!’ at me”.