#ICanDoThat Episode 10 with Silvan Borer

In the 10th episode of #ICanDoThat Jonathan Joseph and Rachel Elspeth Gross, interview Silvan Borer. This week we’ll be speaking with Silvan Borer, the illustrator of Little Red Fashion’s First Book- The Little Red Dress. We’ll be talking about our collaborative book project with him this week, and talk generally about fashion illustration and picture book illustration. Little Red Fashion introduces Little Red Village and its first interview series #ICanDoThat on instagram. Our #ICanDoThat campaign is a one-question interview for our IGTV that asks industry professionals across disciplines to respond to the question: "What advice do you have for a kid who wants to do what you do within fashion?"


The video of this interview can be found here!


 Live: June 24th, 2021



Jonathan Joseph

Rachel Elspeth Gross

Silvan Borer

Jonathan Joseph  0:00 

Hello, everyone and welcome to another installment of I can do that part of our Little Red Village initiative here at Little Red Fashion. I'm Jonathan Joseph. I am shortly to be joined by the amazing the fabulous Rachel Elspeth Gross. As long as Instagram lets me  add her along with Silvan Borer our fabulous Illustrator. But some of you have been falling in love with Hi, Rachel.


Rachel Elspeth Gross  0:28 

Hi, how are you?


Jonathan Joseph  0:29 

I am wonderful. It's been an interesting day on the technical difficulty front. I'm glad that they're working. It's working now. I just brought in Silvan. So he should be joining us shortly. Can you hear me okay? Hello. Hello. Hi, Sylvian. How are you?


Silvan Borer  0:50 

I'm fine. How about you?


Jonathan Joseph  0:52 

Doing well, doing well. It's a beautiful day here on the east coast of the US in New York. And Connecticut. Rachel's down in Florida. Rachel Sylvan.


Rachel Elspeth Gross  1:04 



Silvan Borer  1:06 

I just realized that we've been working for months now. We never spoke in person.


Jonathan Joseph  1:12 

I know it is, you know, it's crazy. It's that. Really, I think a lot of it is really driven by COVID. You know, being a startup started doing this crazy pandemic. I mean, Silvan has been so great to work with rolling through the punches of like art direction, and illustrations, all throughout this pandemic has definitely been a journey. And now we have Rachel on board. And I'm so glad that we were able to have you join us as part of the Little Red Village Silvan. Because I think, you know, you are laying such a beautiful aesthetic baseline for everything that we're doing. And your style of fashion illustration, really pays homage to the craft of classic fashion illustration, from the 50s through to the 70s and 80s. And I think that's why I'm so drawn to you in the work that you produced to have you put out, you know, the first book, little red dress and it seemed like such a natural fit to have you share some of your insights, as such an accomplished illustrator with our following and really seek to inspire some kids who may want to be a future Silvans.


Rachel Elspeth Gross  2:13 

Yeah, just to catch everyone up. If you missed the beginning of this, we're speaking today with Silvan Borer, who is the illustrator of our first book that'll be coming out at the end of this year, The Little Red Dress, so very glad to have you here. So we usually start these off by asking our guests, what do you do with your illustrator? What is it a day at work like for you?


Silvan Borer  2:35 

I mean, I get up, I get my coffee. And then I check some emails or start right away to draw and yeah, I try to keep it open. Just you know, no day like the other, you know, so sometimes you have, like meetings, you need to go out sometimes you draw, sometimes you're more in front of the computer, sometimes you do analog stuff. So it's hard to say, but what I try also to keep a bit of, like, this schedule, so that I have this like working approach. But it's not that I can name some typical things. But you know, I that's what I'm looking for. And I'm glad to have it like this.


Rachel Elspeth Gross  3:27 

Yeah, I know, lots of creative careers, it's a different thing every day or schedule goes back and forth. Lots of different different kinds of tasks. Um, what was your education background? Like? How did you get into this line of work?


Silvan Borer  3:41  

I mean, I like to draw when I was younger as it's like, when I was a kid, but then I drove away and I'm actually a gardener. a different thing. But But one day, I realized that that it's not what I want to do, day in, day out. So I I studied scientific visualizations, or it's more on the scientific part of illustration, but but then I decided to shift towards more free stuff, not that scientific. And it grew organically. One day, I decided I want to get more into direction of fashion. And now I'm here.


Rachel Elspeth Gross  4:32 

No, it's beautiful work. It's really incredible.


Jonathan Joseph  4:35 

Yeah and I think, you know, you can see that the intersection of the technical within, especially within fashion, because fashion is, is art, but it's also architecture and there is structure. And there is that technical element that informs it and I think that's part of what gives your painterly style that we've put into the Little Red Dress so much life is that it is both structured and unstructured simultaneously, which I think is part of what gave vintage fashion illustration a lot of its magic. And it's something that in a lot of the conversations that I've been having, you know, over the past year, as we've been sharing more and more of your illustrations with various folks that comes up time and time again.


Rachel Elspeth Gross  5:14 

Yeah, it's it's very, I don't know, it has like an etheral, sort of a feel to it. And I know, that's one of the big things about fashion in general, but maybe specifically when you're trying to draw something. I mean, in my own experience, we're not always trying to get it exact. It's more about the feeling behind it. And there's so much emotion and fashion, there's so much.


Silvan Borer  5:33 

That's what I like, because fashion illustration leaves a lot of space for interpretation, you know, not everything is defined and you are forced to finish the image, you know, we're just giving ideas and that's, that's something I really like in general, and especially in fashion illustration. Yeah.


Jonathan Joseph  5:58 

Yeah, absolutely. Go ahead Rachel.


Rachel Elspeth Gross  6:00 

No, I was just gonna say, I really loved that. The men's Louis Vuitton illustrations, those are ones I particularly thought were so cool. Um, and it's so neat to see, you know, how this has gone through so much development over so many decades. And it's so much cooler, I guess, you know, that used to be, and that that really kind of you see that in those drawings on I think we shared some this week, but I'll put some up more tomorrow. But it's neat to see you institution, something that's thought of is, you know, old, be playful and be fun and being stylish in a way that maybe, I don't know, I liked those a lot. I enjoyed.


Silvan Borer  6:34 

I mean, it's always like, developing, you know, what I do today, it's not what I probably gonna do tomorrow. But at the moment, I feel happier. This kind of style and our service was surprised that you mentioned it like the 50s or 80s, more style wise, because I didn't have any reference to it. So it just came by. By doing that they made me happy that it reminds you to such It was a great a great decade of fashion illustration. And when my work related to that, that.


Jonathan Joseph  7:19 

Oh, yeah. Absolutely. I mean, that's something that April, from Dressed, and I talked about on the podcast on those of you who haven't tuned in, haven't checked it out, you should check out Little Red Fashion episode. Because April, and I definitely nerd it out for a bit about that very fact. And sort of, you know, in a visual sense, what your style marries together is really unique, from a fashion illustrative point of view. And that's why, you know, that's why I chose you and Sylvan. It is such a nuanced balance, especially when dealing with a children's book. And as you, you know, even going through the various drafts of different illustrations with you, that fine line between abstraction that's ethereal, and dreamlike, and whimsical and playful, but then sometimes maybe veering too far into abstract where a child might, you know, grown up and say, Oh, that's a great fashion illustration. But a kid might be just a little too abstract to like, quite pick up on what's being articulated. And so doing that sort of dance as we went through the pages of the book was definitely a really fun part of the journey for me, you know, from an art director standpoint, and working with you in in a collaborative framework. And I think that's also, I think, honestly, one of the reasons I love what we're doing it, there's, I think, a new era of fashion illustration brewing, where illustrators, like yourself, are, are enjoying that, because we live in this media landscape where every brand needs so much marketing collateral, and so many, just so much visual, right? There's just, there's only so many photoshoots you can do. I think there's an element of fashionistas and fashionistos that are really, you know, want that to go back to that and have that nostalgia through illustration, and really revisit that element of the art form because I think we're at a point and I think especially post COVID as an industry, where we're simultaneously looking for new structures, breaking down old structures, and then finding different ways to remix them together. And I think the illustration is a great way to do that. And I think this kind of style that synthesizes so many decades, is really important. And I think for the younger folks watching or the adults with younger people in their lives. I'm sure they would love to know from from your standpoint as an illustrator, what is the best way to nurture a child who's showing early interest in you know, illustration, whether it be for fashion or technical drawing.


Silvan Borer  9:49 

I mean, for me, it helped me always that my mother keep me motivated, you know, so that's. So I continued drawing and then naturally I became better so and then there's one point where you need to decide, okay? Is it something I want to do for a living? Or is touch for pleasure, if it's for pleasure just to, but if you if you want to do for a living, I think you need to question spin things, you know, you need to think about why do they work as they do? And how can I achieve something like what I see or what works? And, yes, it's a bit more strategic, I would say. But when you need to learn to work under pressure, you know, you need to deliver even if you sometimes not feel like doing so, but.


Jonathan Joseph  10:47 

Yeah, I mean, we've definitely talked about that some of our other guests, for these interviews for the I can do that portion of Little Red Village, in terms of, you know, taking this end product, and then reverse, you know, engineering it and figuring out how to break it down into smaller steps, especially for kids. It's like, they may want outcome, C or B, or C, but it's what is a what is a look like? What is that first step look like? And I think teaching kids through just play creative play, giving them the space to make mistakes, to learn to experiment with lineups to experiment with different materials, and different implements and drawing implements. I think the common thread that ties a lot of these interviews together from creative professionals like yourselves, is that it's all about creating the space and the sandbox, where kids can just play and decide what organically speaks to them. And then build structure around that and say, do you want to do for example, a bigger project that you have to break down into steps and teaching them like, okay, you just got to think about this one step at a time. Or, as Sandra said, in our embroidery episode, you know what it was like to 10 square inches at a time on tapestry. Think about it each day. And I think for an illustrator, such as yourself, in your style, it even comes through, you know, I would assume, is it true that sometimes it's like, Okay, I'm going to work on just the background today, maybe the full page, you know, looks is a combination of a foreground and a background, but really, today is just the background, I don't have to get the whole thing done. And I think teaching kids those steps and being able to break down a big project into small steps, it's really important. And I would imagine, for an illustrator, it's definitely important to get, you know, when you're juggling 20, 30, 40 illustrations for a project. You know, tackling them in any certain order, is a matter of not just efficiency, but what works organically for your style and how you work.


Silvan Borer  12:39 

really mean it turns from pleasure into work. If you such project, it's not just the drawing, it's really work because you need to, to have a lot of things in the head, you have a goal, if you project, you have a timeline, and you have work on all these circumstances, I call it like, it's work, not just drawing, as it was before, when I started, so and what you mentioned, like with this, yeah, you need to open the box and let's flow the inspirations. But at one point, you need to kind of close it and say, no straight forward, I need to bring this to a result. And that's uhhh.


Jonathan Joseph  13:24 

Yeah and balance between the creative and the business, you know, when you when you're creative in business, it's not the same as purely making for making sake, you know, you're making with a purpose. And that requires a balance between structure and idea.


Rachel Elspeth Gross  13:41 

Yeah delayed gratification, I think, is maybe one thing that is a through line in this that it's great to have a wonderful idea, it's great to have a goal, it's great to have a big plan. But it's really important. I think, both of you, I hear you saying something similar that you need to take the steps you need to keep in mind you have to be realistic, sometimes you're not going to finish it all at once. And the biggest reward is when you push through and you get the work done. And then at the end it's much better than being happy immediately and not having the big payoff at the end when you've completed something that you really really wanted to make happen or needed to work.


Jonathan Joseph  14:18 

Absolutely. I mean in our case it Little Red Fashion definitely needed to because we are at a shortage for kids books of this nature and couldn't ask for a better illustrator to give it give it visual life.


Rachel Elspeth Gross  14:32 

So silvan we always like to ask people where they get some inspiration. Is there a particular artist or artists or movement that you like, Are there any particular books that you really, you know, enjoy would help you with your work?


Silvan Borer  14:45 

Yeah, I mean, when I was younger, I was really a big fan of this Japanese manga Yeah. They helped me to come into into this art space but Now it shifted more towards the you can still I'm a big fan of Gustav Klimt obviously I think, which is clear if you see my work or like Hayao Miyazaki, and is the work of Studio Ghibli, so and then try to combine all these influences, and then make something make it my own and converting into my own work. Yes. But more was like seeing things I find interesting. And it's hard to name really, for the point the finger on someone? No, it's general things.


Rachel Elspeth Gross  15:41 

Yeah, no, that makes sense. We all take a lot of things and then we digest them and use the parts of them that make the most sense as I can, I can definitely see how all of those things could have bits of inspiration.


Silvan Borer  15:55 

If it comes down to your questions, what to tell the kids, I think it's, it helped me a lot to copy this artist I liked and to what they do to understand why they do it and why it works. So that's maybe something I will consider, if I if I want to do it this professional, just learn from the best.


Rachel Elspeth Gross  16:24 

Yeah, yeah.


Jonathan Joseph  16:26 

Absolutely. Well, and especially with anything that requires muscle memory, right, so sewing handcrafting makings drawing, they'll require a certain level of muscle memory. They think that, you know, part of what we're building here at Little Red Fashion is the tools to help facilitate that as well, for parents who don't necessarily maybe they're not illustrators, maybe they can't explain to their kids, all those things. And just something that's simple, where it's find what you like, and copy it repetitively, so that you can understand it, because you have to know the rules before you can break them.


Silvan Borer  16:56 

Yes. Beautiful. (laughing)


Rachel Elspeth Gross  17:01 

Well, this is so much fun. I really, I don't know, we're so glad to have you be part of our team or, you know, have your your work be out with our work next to it. It's It's a wonderful, wonderful thing. Jonathan, do you have any last questions before we wrap up? there's anything else?


Jonathan Joseph  17:14 

Well, I mean, I feel like I'm going to speak for the class that your glasses are wonderful.


Rachel Elspeth Gross  17:20 

Your glasses are amazing.


Jonathan Joseph  17:23 

I like the full frame. But you know, I think in closing if you had to, you know, if you have to pinpoint your earliest fashion memory, that like fashion spoke to you so not illustration, but fashion section, what would what would that be?


Silvan Borer  17:48 

Maybe my green pants I used to wear as a kid, I lost them. Yeah, but fashion wasn't any any topic in my life for a long time. It just it? It's recently I discovered that the I'm of this for me, actually. So


Jonathan Joseph  18:18 

I think Yeah, no, well, there's, you know, I find the more and more I have these conversations both on you know, on our feet and on in general fashion, there's two types of fashion people that end up working in the field. And it's people that either they got the fashion bug when they were a kid from one experience or another like myself or they sort of stumbled into fashion, as through some other creative, artistic or aesthetic field. And it becomes an arena where I think a lot of creatives can sort of flex their creative muscles in a different way that is just unique to fashion.


Silvan Borer  18:59 

Yes, I think a second the second thing you explained this, it was more the case for me. I just, I felt gravitated to to this world for for different reasons. And so it happened.


Jonathan Joseph  19:14 

We are glad that you are have gravitated. And I definitely am so glad that you were able to join Rachel and myself for this week's installment of #ICanDoThat as part of the Little Red Village because viewers as you know, it does take a village to raise the next generation of fashion lovers, leaders, creatives and illustrators. So definitely make sure that you tune in for the rest of the week for a little bit more of Silvans work and join us next next week for some more saucy fashion mentorships straight from the mouths of industry leaders. I am Jonathan Joseph, joined by our head fashion historian Rachel Elspeth Gross and our amazing fabulous stellar illustrator Silvan Borer all the way from Zurich who has stayed up late. Join us and we are so so grateful. Thank you so much, Silvan.


Silvan Borer  20:00 

Thank you.


Jonathan Joseph  20:02 

Bye, everyone.



Jonathan Joseph


Little Red Fashion Creator and CEO Jonathan Joseph is a fashion loving visionary & consultant who's loved fashion since childhood. After consulting in the luxury space for a bit, he was inspired to write The Little Red Dress. From there he realized kids who love fashion lack the same level of targeted resources from books to tech that their peers who love music or sports have had for ages. Our entire vision is dedicated to his mom, Margaret, who started his love of fashion as a kid looking for unique socks to cover his leg braces!


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