Bil Donovan, adjunct associate professor, Illustration, does fashion illustrations for Broadway shows, New York magazine, and Dior, among others. Now he can count among his accomplishments work he did for a book which is now in the Library of The Costume Institute at The Metropolitan Museum of Art.
When Harold Koda, curator in charge of The Costume Institute, retired last December, Vogue worked with the Met to create a special book to honor him. The book used both photographs and illustrations to document 36 garments from various designers that were donated to the museum in Koda’s honor. Donovan was asked to illustrate 11 of the pieces, among them Versace’s iconic Safety Pin Dress.
“It was the thrill of a lifetime,” Donovan said. “Each piece was better than the last. The challenge was to pay homage to the designers. I thought about each designer and what they were trying to communicate with that work, as well as the woman who would wear the piece.”
Donovan says the opportunity to include fashion illustration in the book was something that brought him great joy. “First of all, the clothing is so inspiring,” Donovan said. “And secondly, to have the opportunity to do what you love and to be doing it for people who have such an aesthetic and love of high fashion was just extraordinary.”
The fact that the book included illustrations speaks to what Donovan has referred to as a resurgence in appreciation for fashion illustration.
“There’s a spirit and an essence to fashion illustration that a photo cannot capture,” he said. “There’s this emotional expressiveness in the communication, and that’s the allure. It’s visual poetry, and with all the technology we live with, people love that intimacy. It feeds the soul.”