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.”