Mila Gislon on Not Leaving the Childhood Dreams Behind 

Fashion Illustration by Mila Gislon

Born and raised in one of the world’s fashion capitals, Milan, Italian fashion illustrator Mila Gislon welcomes us to her naive and promising imaginative world. Her work is mainly characterized by its bold sense of color and use of florals, and she enjoys recreating various traditional techniques. Inspired by fashion weeks while growing up in Milan, experimentation is an integral part of her working process. Surprisingly, besides her illustrator identity, she is a medical student at Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität in Germany, indeed.

We chatted with young and talented Mila, who keeps her passion for creativity, drawing, and fashion always alive, to hear more about her influences, struggles, and the importance of making art on her career route.

NYL: Dear Mila, tell us about your journey – did you always want to be an illustrator?

Mila: Illustration has always been a part of my life; I can’t imagine a day without drawing. An essential step for me was in High School when Procreate, the digital drawing app, featured my work across their social media. I was touched by the incredibly positive response to my art – it encouraged me to take my passion seriously.

NYL: And what about your creative journey. What stepping stones led you to where you are now? Why fashion?

Mila: Instagram has been a big stepping stone. It’s allowed me to present my work to the public and, at the same time, connect with and draw inspiration from other creatives.

Fashion is an endless source of joy and inspiration to me. I was born and grew up in Milan – a true capital of style -. Where else does the local market have at least four stands selling designer shoes? Personally, I always love putting together a look – and often favor the same bright colors I use in my illustrations.

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NYL: What do you love most about what you do?

Mila: When I draw a look from the runway, I am constantly reinterpreting and reworking it. Fashion illustration is a dialogue between two art forms – that is what makes it so much fun. And Escapism, I must say! I love being able to escape to a more exciting and theatrical world. My favorite artists like George Barbier or Christian Lacroix are all about drama.

NYL: You use traditional techniques such as watercolor or digital collages in your illustrations. How did your art and technique evolve?

Mila: I am entirely self–taught. I started with patterned paper, scissors, and co. I now work almost exclusively digitally using the digital illustration app, Procreate. When I first started drawing digitally, I spent a lot of time on detailed realistic portraits, which helped train my eye and improve my technique – a bit like old–school drawing from life. The skills I gained were a necessary basis on which to develop a freer and more spontaneous style. The gesinski ink brush, the gouache brush, and the calligraphy brushes in Procreate are my favorites. At the moment, I’m increasingly incorporating a wider range of traditional techniques like woodcuts – digital art allows you endless options.

NYL: What and who is your source of inspiration?

Mila: Matisse for color and pattern, Mats Gustafson for his beautiful simplicity, and Paolo Roversi for sheer poetry. And exhibitions – I’ve visited Paris regularly since childhood. I’ve had the opportunity to draw inspiration from so many beautiful museums and exhibitions like the Musée Yves Saint Laurent and the Dior exhibition at the Musée des Arts décoratifs. Books – I recently read From A to BibaThe Autobiography of Barbara Hulanicki, flowers, and of course, street style – Milanesi aren’t afraid to dress up!

NYL: You are a medical student. This is definitely a “thing” – hard and quite respectful. Did you have any difficulties, or did you ever suspect your parents wanted you to continue your profession? What was the people’s reaction around you to such a plot twist?

Mila: Medical school can make it difficult to carve out time for anything else, but one can do wonders with a bit of organization and a lot of caffeine. I believe pursuing both dreams will be very rewarding in the long term, so I put in the extra effort daily to balance my two interests. Luckily I have always been supported by my family, and of course, having their support is essential and priceless.

NYL: What do you find the most challenging about freelancing? How do you tackle it?

Mila: You have to be a jack of all trades: artist, PR manager, and personal assistant. I try to keep my eyes open for opportunities to forge contacts and always be positive and proactive. I also think it’s increasingly important to put oneself out there on a personal level – a skill I’m working on.

NYL: This year’s Met Gala theme is “In America: An Anthology of Fashion,” The dress code is Gilded Glamour. Considering the concept, if you could dress a celebrity at the Met Gala, who would it be, and how would you design the costume in your own style? Why?

Mila: An actress I’d kill to dress is Gemma Chan. I loved her homage to Anna May Wong for the 2021 Met Gala. However, she is a red carpet veteran and never misses a beat – so I’d probably end up leaving all the critical decisions to her!

Furthermore, I love literature – so I would turn to novels like those by Henry James from the Gilded Age to inspire me. I’m thinking Dior by John Galliano – style big sleeves and even bigger hair!

NYL: And finally, what’s next for you?

Mila: Hopefully, a lot of experimentation and new experiences! I’d love to do more commercial work. One thing is for sure – I’m excited for the road ahead!

Fashion Illustration by Mila Gislon
fashion illustration by Mila gislon

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Deniz Ercelebi On Being a Fearless Dream Chaser

Deniz Ercelebi is a Turkish industrial designer and fashion illustrator based in Richmond, Virginia. Having worked as a designer in the technology industry for over 20 years, she has decided not to postpone her dreams any longer. We caught up with Deniz to find out more about her journey and FIDA (Fashion Illustration Awards) success, how things are going since her career -accordingly- her life changed, and hear more about the fashion illustration field.

NYL: Dear Deniz, you have an inspiring story. Can you talk us through your career journey to date?

Deniz: I studied Industrial Design at Middle East Technical University. After my internship, I started working part-time as a graphic and web designer at a design agency, which turned into a full-time job after graduation. I moved to New York in 2004. I am a problem solver and a lifelong learner. After doing graphic and web design for a while, I leveraged my industrial design knowledge and web design experience to start designing digital products. My most recent experience has been in the tech start-up world as a product designer. I love User Experience Design as it provides me with ongoing problem-solving opportunities and allows me to exercise my creativity.

NYL: When did you realize you wanted to become an illustrator?

Deniz: I’ve always loved drawing. My mother tells me how I started drawing fashion figures as early as I could hold a pencil. However, I come from a family of engineers. After high school, I ended up studying Geological Engineering. Yet, I realized it wasn’t for me at the end of my first year. I transferred to the Industrial Design Department as it was a more creative field but still technical for me to feel comfortable. I did not feel brave enough to jump straight into art and illustration at the time. Then life got busy and drawing just stayed on the side as a neglected hobby for me.

I’ve always felt that art and illustration were what I wanted to do. I also struggled with a significant artist’s block all my life. I knew I wanted to do art and illustration, but I didn’t know where to start. After I had my second baby at age 44, a switch was turned on for me recently. I decided; this is it. Life is passing. If I want to do something, there is no better time than today. So I decided to get over my art block systematically. My husband gifted me a craft table that he built. I created a small studio space in our basement and started drawing. I decided to draw a little every day. It doesn’t really matter what it is or how it turns out. The point was to do it and dust off my skills.

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Street Unicorns by Robbie Quinn

Street Unicorns by Robbie Quinn

Street Unicorns by Robbie Quinn is now available on Abrams & Amazon.

Street Unicorns: Bold Expressionists of Style is a new photo book by Robbie Quinn, a New York City-based commercial photographer and a favorite amongst the followers of The New Yorker Life. His work allowed him to travel to more than a dozen countries and is associated with current social issues like race, immigration, gender identity, and sexual orientation, encouraging diversity and inclusion.

In Street Unicorns, Quinn shares viewpoints, aspirations, and masterfully done portraits of more than 250 style rebels, revealing his genuine curiosity in people who choose to express themselves through their style; “The conscious choices we make by uniquely presenting ourselves say we matter. It says this is me, and perhaps because we are not all quite the same, we can learn and grow from each other.”

Enjoy our brief Q&A with Robbie Quinn below. Follow him on Instagram. Order Street Unicorns on Abrams or Amazon.

Robbie Quinn Portrait.
Robbie Quinn

Q&A with Robbie Quinn on Street Unicorns: Bold Expressionists of Style

NYL: How did Street Unicorns start?

I started Street Unicorns unconsciously. It just happened. In my book, I do my best to retrace my life’s experiences to understand what drew me to the work. I think in a large part, it’s my response to the many injustices that humans needlessly inflict on each other. It’s my hope that the book will inspire people to take more risks in expressing their most authentic selves and have others gain more acceptance and appreciation for those that are different from themselves.

NYL: How did you meet the Unicorns?

I’ve met some of the Street Unicorns on social media, some have found me, but mostly they are chance encounters. Whenever I see one on the street, I compliment their style and it often leads to an impromptu photo session. Things are very rarely planned. I’m photographing individuals wearing what they put on that day in the place where we met with natural light. That’s what makes it authentic and special.

NYL: Photographs are stunning! Aspiring photographers will want to know about your equipment.

When I’m not photographing commercially, I always have a camera with me, usually a Sony a7R IV with either a 35mm f/1.4 or an 85mm f/1.4 lens. I started using the 85 more when we wanted to keep more distance from each other for Covid reasons, but now I really like the look of the 85.

However lately, I’ve been using more film too. I learned photography using a Minolta x-700, but I recently started using a Mamiya rz67 pro ii with a 110 2.8 lens. It’s a medium format camera and made for the studio. It usually requires a tripod; it’s a bit heavy, but I like using it handheld on the street. Definitely a bit more conspicuous, but that has some advantages.

NYL: What did you learn in the making of Street Unicorns?

Meeting all these different Street Unicorns from here in New York and the rest of the world has expanded my understanding of self-expression. It has brought into greater focus the idea that we all deserve the freedom to be our unique selves. Rather than building walls, connecting with someone quite different from yourself is an opportunity for growth and learning more, not only about them but also yourself.

NYL: Do you have future plans?

For the future, my only plans are to have no plans. I like to stay open to what life brings. I do know I’d like to travel more and not simply to tourist stops. I want to meet more people and keep exploring. There’s something to be said for staying in one place and putting down roots, but for me, I enjoy the stimulation of constant change.

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