For as long as there has been fashion design, there has been fashion illustration. Besides being the primary form by which designers have brainstormed their ideas onto paper, these illustrations have often served as important works of art in themselves. Zack Huffman is a fashion illustrator creating mixed media drawings and paintings for clients in the fashion, beauty, and lifestyle industries. The team here at Phantom Sway has admired Zack’s work for quite some time. His delicate and graceful renderings call to mind the fashion magazine illustrations of the 1940s and 50s, and they are just gorgeous. When he is not busy drawing, Zack works as a freelance art director and fashion/culture writer in Washington, D.C. We caught up with the artist to ask him a few questions about his work and the source of his inspiration. Read on, and then check out the image gallery of his work below!
Zack: I’ve always had a passion for drawing and painting. I taught myself the basics at a very early age, but I never received formal training in illustration or fashion. When I was a kid, I would spend hours flipping through fashion magazines and tearing out the photographs I found inspiring. From there, I would try to reproduce the images in my sketchbook, sometimes drawing the same photograph dozens of times until I got it right. After years of doing that, my drawings steadily improved and my fashion-influenced style emerged.
From where do you draw your inspiration for your art?
My inspiration comes from a lot of different places; however, nearly all of my work is rooted in the concept of glamour. I didn’t realize this until reading the work of writer and Bloomberg columnist, Virginia Postrel. In the her book, The Power of Glamour, she defines the word as “the nonverbal language of visual persuasion…to cast a visual spell.” That’s precisely what I’m trying to communicate through my work. I want to my viewers to sense aspiration, beauty, elegance, and timelessness when they view my drawings.
More specifically, I’m inspired by the fashion photography of Avedon, Penn, and Beaton. I’m always humbled and inspired by the many great fashion illustrators that have come before me, like David Downton, Antonio Lopez, and Renée Gruau. There are also many time periods and styles that influence me – Art Deco and Mid Century being the two that stand out the most. Finally, some of my favorite fashion houses never fail to inspire: Christian Dior, Alexander McQueen, and Yves Saint Laurent are my top three favorites.
Do you have a favorite work of art you’ve produced? Tell us about it.
My favorite piece of artwork is the next one. I’m constantly filled with ideas for new pieces and the feeling of starting something new is always exciting.
What memorable responses have you had to your work?
There isn’t one in particular that stands out in my mind. However, those that I most enjoy are often my portrait commissions. It’s always incredibly fulfilling to receive praise from a happy client who feels beautiful, elevated, and elegant when they look at the piece I’ve created.
What are you working on at the moment?
I have a quite a few interesting projects on the horizon. Right now, I’m most excited about the movie poster I’m creating for an indie film that’s due to be released next year. The film is about a Russian ballet company performing in New York during the late 1970s. While performing in New York, two of the dancers decide to defect to the United States in an effort to escape the communist regime in Russia and experience true artistic/political freedom in the United States.