Vanichi asked world renowned artist and fashion illustrator Izak Zenou one question: who inspires him…


Izak Zenou

Artist + Fashion Illustrator

Twitter: @izakzenou

Instagram: @izakzenou_illustrationist

Over the course of two decades, Izak Zenou has built a worldwide reputation. The French artist and fashion illustrator has documented and distinguished style through his work with CHANEL, Celine, Lily Pulitzer, Catherine Malandrino, Guerlain, Laura Mercier, Neiman Marcus, Vera Wang… you get the idea. He is perhaps best known for his 20-year collaboration with Henri Bendel. His ever-evolving “Bendel Girl” has become iconic within our pop culture zeitgeist.

izak picture

Izak Zenou’s work is immediately distinctive in both his treatment of the subject at hand and his artistic technique. He creates illustrations that are fresh and free-spirited yet impeccably stylish and elegant. He gives fantastical glimpses into the everyday life, the essence of tastemakers and the energy that drives the city.

He’s collaborated with authors for notable book titles and has been featured in myriad periodicals including but not limited to American Vogue, French Vogue, O, The Oprah Magazine, InStyle, ELLE, Marie Claire and The New Yorker.

A classic Izak Zenou illustration.

A classic Izak Zenou illustration.

Izak currently resides in New York City, where he maintains his art and design studio. With so much iconic work and such a recognizable style, we had to ask him what inspires him. Here’s what he shared:

VM: As a world renowned artist and fashion illustrator, who’s an artist that inspires you?

IZ: I have not one, but many…although I think the two biggest ones for me actually share many of the same qualities.  Toulouse-Lautrec has always been a big inspiration to me.  He was both a fine artist and worked as an illustrator, doing a lot of posters and advertising as well as his own paintings.  Most people are familiar with his posters for The Moulin Rouge cabaret and other clients, but what they may not know is that these commissions were really the way in which he became financially independent as an artist and that allowed him to continue his work as a painter.

René Gruau was a wonderful fashion illustrator who worked with so many iconic brands like Christian Dior, Givenchy, Balenciaga, Elsa Schiaparelli, Rochas, Lanvin, as well as Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar.  I believe he was, himself, very inspired by Lautrec.  What I loved about his work was that it was very glamorous, but also that the women had such great energy.  They were always very spirited and the composition was so dramatic.

A portrait of Catherine Malandrino by Izak Zenou

A portrait of Catherine Malandrino by Izak Zenou

They also both echo classical Japanese drawings in their work with strong black lines achieved with India ink, which I love. This is what I do as well… very spontaneous and in the style of how Lautrec and Gruau worked.  I would say that we all have a similar spirit to our work, the composition, the colors and the simplicity.  People often ask me how I achieve this and what it is exactly.  I paint with brushes, but most of the time I am working with a bamboo reed and ink…which is how I am able to achieve that energy and the fluidity of the line.

Want to see more fashion illustration? Check out Nadine Samarina.