In Vlisco’s collection Delicate shades, technique plays a very important role – more than ever before. To emphasise this technique in the communication campaign, Vlisco approached fashion illustrator Sabine Pieper, whose handwriting matches the elegant and imaginative style of Vlisco. Together, we created an intensive, synergetic collaboration, in which both parties were able to expand beyond their own boundaries.

To illustrate this process, we interviewed Sabine Pieper herself.

Tell us some more about yourself. What is your artistic background? When did you decide to become a fashion illustrator?

Since my childhood days, I’ve been passionate about drawing. After my move to Berlin, in 1999, I studied photography and worked as a photographer for several years. Having always been very interested in art and illustration, especially fashion illustration, I realised that this was what I wanted to focus on. So I started to combine my professional knowledge as a photographer with my passion as an illustrator. I started to create pictures in a different way. I became more and more excited about this playful way to create images, using different techniques and combining hand-made illustrations with digital photoshop technology. A few years ago, I began to concentrate on fashion illustration. And after the birth of my daughter, in 2010, I started to work on a freelance basis. As a freelance fashion illustrator, I can combine all my passions: my daughter, fashion, photography, art and illustration.

When did you decide to work for Vlisco?

When Anneke Krull, the art director of this campaign, asked me to do the Delicate Shades campaign for Vlisco, I did not hesitate for a moment. It was my first big job after the birth of my daughter and the baby break, and I was excited to get this chance to illustrate a whole fashion campaign. It is the first Vlisco campaign that is illustrated and shows my illustrations in combination with 3D photographed Vlisco dresses. It was a new way of working for me, which was a great challenge and very inspiring indeed. I really like the wonderfully bright and colourful Vlisco fabrics – they look especially great on the dark skin of African women. So it was easy for me to decide to work with Vlisco. It presented itself as the opportunity of a lifetime!

Where did you get your inspiration for this campaign?

Actually, I was inspired by the Vlisco fabrics themselves, with all their wonderful colours and different patterns. I tried to create images to ‘fit’ the shapes of the dresses and match the particular fabrics. For example, I repeated the dress forms, the outlines or the shapes within the patterns themselves, the black lines, and the coloured stripes that are repeated in the fabrics of Delicate Shades.

How was the ‘Vlisco woman’ born?

For this Vlisco campaign, it was the first time that I illustrated African women. This was very exciting and, I must say, quite a challenge for me. I made numerous pre-sketches and tests. We wanted to create strong images showing a very feminine, self-confident, and elegant ‘Vlisco woman’. Not only did I have to create the look of the Vlisco woman, but it was also important to make the black skin look soft and shaded, to decide upon the colours to be used, the hair styles, and how to photograph the Vlisco dresses so that they would most favourably combine with the illustrations. After many sketches, a test shoot and a final shoot of all dresses and bags, I finally started to put together all parts of the puzzle. And then… she was born: the ‘Vlisco woman’…

How did you experience the combination of photography and illustration?

Although I had made illustrations that combined drawings and photography of clothes before, these where mostly free designs, as you can see on my website For the Vlisco campaign, I had to take quite a different approach. For example, it was very important to photograph the dresses (and in some images the accessories as well) at 100%. This involves the life-size representation of the designs, in order to give a realistic impression. The dresses and headpieces really had to fit the illustrated models and the proportions of the dresses had to be exactly right. For some images, I had the sketches of the dresses before I created the models, and for other poses, we created dresses out of the Vlisco fabrics during the photo shoot. This campaign was a fascinating development for me; it actually ‘grew’, little by little, from the very first sketches to the final images in which the illustrations were combined with the photographed dresses.

What do you think of the result?

I believe we achieved our goal to create strong images for the Delicate Shades campaign, showing an elegant and self-confident Vlisco woman to present the new Vlisco fabrics. I am really looking forward to hearing the reactions from the public. Delicate Shades is a really new campaign: especially new because it’s an illustrated campaign. I can’t wait to hear what customers think of the result!