Rebelle meets Frederick Watson: fashion illustrator extraordinaire!

It’s been a little while since I’ve posted anything on fashion illustration so I thought it was about time I turn my attention once again to this fascinating and drop dead gorgeous art form! And I’m starting off with a blast from the past: behold the lovely work Frederick Watson, an illustrator based in Toronto who is certainly old hand fashion illustration. Frederick began drawing at the age of seven and turned his attention to the world of high fashion after a sneaking a peek at a mysterious women’s portfolio while working in a department store in his early twenties and has been producing fashion illustrations from the 60’s to this day.

Frederick was kind enough to share some samples of his work with me and some anecdotes of his years illustrating gorgeous clothes and the women who wear them and why he’d love to see the return of illustration to fashion magazines and advertising. His style is definitely old school but I think you’ll agree it’s still stunning!

“When I was a small boy many years ago at the age of about seven years I was drawing women’s faces. At the age of 20 years I got a job at the Robert Simpsons Dept Store in Toronto working as a check room clerk. One day a woman dressed in a black suit, bonnet and veil with a large red rose draped over it and came in carrying a large folio. She checked it in and it was partially open. In it were the most beautiful drawings of high fashion I’d ever seen. I was so excited. That’s when I knew what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. When she returned I told her how wonderful her drawings were and that I would love to draw like that one day. We kept in touch and she helped me to develop my drawings; I learned so much from her!”

“There are many artists that I admire. In New York, I met Kenneth Paul Block. He invited me to his home on River Side Drive and we’ve been good friends ever since. Then I met Richard Ely, another fashion artist in New York. He showed his wonderful art and gave me some of his posters which I framed and still admire. Then there’s Richard Cray; I wish I had that much imagination! I’m also influenced by Rene Gruau who’s art work I spent much time studying.”

“I love to see very high fashion art of the past. Artist from the old school drew by hand and did not depend on the computer. I consider myself one of the last of the old school artist. There are a few good ones left like Richard Gray, David Downton, Green Hill, Jae Hyed Crawford.”

” I feel that fashion drawings convey much more imagination than photography. Every magazine has the same beautiful face of a woman on the cover, which I think becomes very repetitive I would like to see some fine illustrations on some of the covers, I sure miss them!”


“No newspapers have fashion illustrations any more. Perhaps that’s a sign that I should give up illustration, it’s certainly why I started to paint large fashion art on canvases instead. Glamour – when women wore fine hats, veils, furs, pearls isn’t seen today to the same degree. Jeans and T-shirts and flip-flop sandals are now the norm! I suppose women do not want to suffer for fashion.” (Not always the case Frederick – there are still many of us ladies who will suffer six-inch stiletto heels in the name of fashion, trust me!!)

“I do believe that some of the fashion illustration books being published around the world are inspiring young people to see some of the fine fashion illustrator’s drawings and recreate the art form for advertising purposes in magazines. I’m concerned that most fashion advertising is conveyed through photography not illustration, as it was in the past. Most of the fashion houses that I once worked for in Toronto are using photographs instead which I think is a great shame.”

“My last advertising commission was published in the 80s for one of the houses called The Irish Shop. These days I am only painting fashion art for a gallery at the David Leonard Gallery in Niagara Falls Casino Plaza. I’m having work published with www and am very lucky to I have had many successful exhibitions here in Toronto!”

I’d like to say a big thank you to Frederick for sharing his work with me. Be sure to check out his Facebook page for more info!


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