What do fashion and collage have in common? Well, scissors for one thing, and that’s definitely the tool Nashville-based illustrator Lauren Rolwing found herself using most during her time studying both art forms while at SCAD in Savannah and Atlanta. While her style is definitely inspired by the work of children’s illustrator Květa Pacovská, Rolwing quickly took to Issey Miyake and ’80s Esprit ads when she was studying fashion illustration. That’s how she found herself with a pair of scissors, cutting up shapes and rearranging them into something new as a means of exploring both disciplines at once.
“I have always had a tendency towards sharpness, which you get when cutting,” explains Rolwing, whose childlike yet chic and sophisticated work has appeared in the New York Times, Harper’s Bazaar, Refinery29, and Adidas campaigns. “It’s this appreciation for sharpness that has led me to work in a more geometric style.”
Rolwing’s images are striking, simultaneously uncluttered and flamboyant. Although her technique developed from time spent cutting cloth and paper into blunt forms, she now begins each composition—whether for personal commissions or in her capacity as member of London studio YCN—directly onscreen. “It’s very important for me to see color right away,” she explains. “Especially as I like to use primary colors with maximum contrast.”
In the deliberately stripped-back world that Rowling creates, depicting too much figurative detail, even eyes, is too much of a distraction. Instead, her fashion illustrations hone in on touches like the birds on a Miu Miu jacket or the embroidery of a Christopher Kane design. “I find eyes become the immediate focal point when I include them, and for my fashion series I want the attention to be entirely on the clothes,” Rolwing explains.
When she first stopped integrating eyes into illustrations while still in school, her professor disapproved, knocking points off her grade. “I then began to draw all the girls with long bangs instead—her eyes are there, you just can’t see them!” Rolwing laughs. Although most of her women now have sharp, bang-less bobs, in a few of her most recent images models with dramatic fringes have made a striking come back.
Rolwing’s vibrant work is curvaceous, bold, and emphatic, an accessible pop art universe born out of a love for the stylish, inventive imagery of Fillini, Comme des Garçons, and Paul Rand posters, a distilled space where there are no superfluous details. Concept, for Rolwing, is the focus. “I like the challenge of conveying an idea and using as few shapes as possible,” she explains, before concluding her thoughts with Constantin Brancusi’s understated yet powerful mantra, “Simplicity is complexity resolved.”