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.
Read more: Mila Gislon on Not Leaving the Childhood Dreams Behind
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 Biba: The 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!
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