Last month in New York, Suzy Menkes quoted that that is important to ´Choose carefully, buy little. Buy for quality and longevity.´ On the other multi-disciplinary sector of fashion, the same is ringing true in the marketing world. Instagram, who recently employed a fashion label liaison officer made a tabloid headline, but were then sharply juxtaposed by the Rijksmuseum and events space in Amsterdam who have banned cameras and asked guests to sketch art instead. The undeniable preference in the commercial fashion domain these days is still digital photography. However, can drawing with light at 1/60th of a second really encompass the essence, emotion and detail of something that little more special? Joel Miñana Granero, one of the new breed of fashion communicators, seems to think no.
Granero has all the fundamental requisites of a ´Renaissance man´ an acolyte of the old school with a unique visual insight. Fashion designer, teacher and illustrator, the accomplished scholar at Centre de Formacio Creatiu i Technic Sabadell has always had creativity in his blood. Majoring in art (with a couture workshop experience instilled), this graduate from Massana high school completed his final degree studies which allowed him to apply the fashion technicalities of industry alongside special classes in embroidery and floral appliques to perfect his talents in both directions of the artistic range. After this, an internship with Bibian Blue and special studies in millinery helped to put him on the path to apparelled academia. A self-proclaimed ´hard teacher´, he instils an ethic into his students that in reality ´life is difficult and a serious ethic with a consistent pace can bring the best out in a designer.´
As a fashion designer, Joel favours the encapsulating palette of his Mediterranean climes. The absence of monochromes makes way for vibrant colours in natural linens and cottons which evoke a volume and fullness of silhouette (with a nodding inspiration to Max Mara). Having recently presented at Girona fashion day his most recent spring/summer offering entitled ´Eunosto´ left his audience more than satisfied, alongside rumours of an impending sandal collection. The shift from designer to illustrator, although somewhat interconnected, required a pre-disposed set of skills. The difference between sketching mediums and the actual environment are diverse. ¨When I design, I change my chip and can realise that it has to be for a person. It has to be comfortable, practical and functional.¨ His design philosophy is to provide a collection which allows his woman to look good, feel comfortable and to be able to wear it on many occasions.
¨When you go to a runway, everyone is making pictures, taking selfies and I thought, I cannot do that. The runway is to watch the clothing so why not try to do it as before, with illustration.¨ This candid observation has slowly but surely brought results (and followers on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.) Any seasoned fashion professional is only too aware of the differences of the adjacencies on and off the catwalk (on the runway and backstage, per say.) Behind the curtain lies a more humanistic world, with more natural and fluid movements, set against its counterpart of ´lights-camera-action´ pertaining that the model army’s strut with robotic like gait. For this cause, Joel finds the difference in illustration to be achieved. ¨The light and space influence me a lot, as I am normally drawing on my feet.¨ From the backstage to the runway and the designers to the guests, everyone is curious when they see Joel with his tools sculpting air and ink into an visual, ethereal extravaganza. His vision is more intimate and personal harking back to the era of when fashion was about glamour and celebrating the spectacle and individuality of it all. Joel brings a totally different view to the desfiles because everyone takes pictures to acknowledge the zeitgeist, but never actually think about the personality of the golden era and how this transcribes into the modern market and the revitalisation of old skills and arts thanks to the current Hipster movement.
They say that an artist is only as good as his tools, and in this case Joel´s are tried and tested to commercial acclaim. When composing an image, it is of upmost importance to feel the detail and fluidity. This is more obvious to him when sketching white ink onto black paper, which he says can ¨change the atmosphere of the situation.¨ ¨I like to draw and integrate with my studies. I like to create a contrast and juxtaposition. With photography you lose the detail, fluidity, folds in the material and all the little points of interest. Everything is frozen and you only get a good general idea of the subject and its surroundings¨.
Utilising mediums such as black washes and technical pens (0.5 gauge) allows Joel to work at a consistent speed. ¨With all my materials, I like to work fast. This allows me to capture a movement and fluidity. My favourite materials are watercolours as they show dynamicy and movement.¨ Indeed, as is obvious from his entire portfolio, as he believes movement to be more important than a complete structure of the garment. Having quoted his critics interpretations of him as ´very elegant and expressive line control. Strong and ethereal but with a fresh stroke´. Although to the public, the latest fashion collections can be a surprise but to Joel, forewarned is forearmed ¨ Before the collections, I contact the designers to ask for the colour palettes and take my best materials along. If most of the collection is black, like Celia Vela´s once was, then I leave the colours at home. In my toolkit I have wooden pencils, brushes and watercolours. With every experience, I like to re-evaluate and experience new things and that includes my materials as much as my techniques and angles of view¨.
As a fashion illustrator, all notions can be seen from a quiet point of view, in stark contrast to the interaction between the designer and the runway on the show day which can be to say the least, nerve wrecking. Curiously, as part of the conceptual stage and the end result, illustration sits comfortably though every sector of the design process. ¨I like to cover all aspects of the designers journey, from the studio and the fittings, to the tension between the on-off catwalk experiences and live highlights leading up to the grand finale¨. Depending on the location, colours play a very important role as a medium to expressing and contrasting his visual observations.
In the artisitic world, everyone needs an inspiration or a raison d´etre. A ´stimulus and motivation´ and ´modus operandi´ from student to teacher and teacher to muse. For professors of fashion, this has a concurrent concordia. ¨References are important to me as a designer and an illustrator. My main inspirations I guess are Josep Font at Del Pozo and Rene Gruau (with his use of colour during his residency at Dior in the 50´s) and Jordi Labanda.¨ Quoting the ´Grande Dame´s´ of fashion; Galliano at Dior, Balenciaga and Prada as lead influences of his fashion aesthetic with a gratitude towards the ´Alta Moda´ embellishments more recently offered by Dolce & Gabanna, Valentino and Atelier Versace (and of later, Angelina´s hand embroidered wedding dress). Outside fashion peers, Joel seeks influence and inspiration from civic spaces such as libraries. ¨ I think that books hide a lot of information and ideas, whereas museums are a great source of drawing and copying, especially from the historical illustrations and pictures¨.
Miñana´s augmenting inventory of clients is as rich as his silky silhouettes.¨ My first real contract was with Escada. I was making an illustration backstage with the models and next day, the brand saw my sketch on social media and called me with a view to publishing it as a client invitation card, which I of course agreed to. From then on, I no longer saw this as a hobby. Then shortly after this, FIRA Barcelona contacted me with a view to adapting an ´infinite style in bridal´ and working with them on a commercial basis to catalogue their bridal week.¨ He eventually ended up in the front row of super-bridal-brand Pronovias, who had him on the front row sketching the whole experience from the set backdrops to the details in Irina Shayk´s bustier and Malena Costa´s shoes.
Over the past several seasons, Joel has forged some strong friendships with designers such as the award winning Catalan maestra of moda Celia Vela, who saw one of Joel’s backstage sketches on social media and called him up to invite him backstage during her preparations for her third collection at 080 Barcelona Fashion Week. The pair have formed a strong bond and have worked together ever since her third collection ¨ We hit it off very well. We have a similar style and we breathe and drink for the same aspirations and influences which enhanced our friendship.¨
With sustained success, comes diversification and expansion. This has seen Miñana go from catwalks to sidewalk for his latest project where he worked with Generalitat of Barcelona, illustrating the Casa Batllo facade colour mapping experience.¨ I made a very quick, simple vertical sketch in watercolour, then held it straight up to allow the colours to bleed.¨ The end result was a resounding homage the organic aesthetics of Antoni Gaudi and was immortalised digitally on their website and social media for future events.
Joel’s latest project takes place hundreds of km down the Valencian coast in his small family village of Otos. After discussions with the local authorities (with a view to making a community arts inspired project to inject an element of urban playfulness ´a la Banksy´ into the surroundings of the 500 inhabitants), Joel takes on every day observations and people and represents them in his unique way. ¨ I completed a sketch of a life guard against the side of a swimming pool, then further down the road, I superimposed my Uncle against a wall, complete with rabbits. We have a terrible problem with them here, so it’s a little joke that all the residents can relate to! This is a really nice project which will develop more over time.¨
With a promising future in the illustration world what does 2016 have instore for Joel? ¨ I am always very busy you know. I do several jobs plus now I´m studying textile design at the Escola de la Dona in Barcelona which will allow me to transfer my illustration skills into my fashion design. Outwith this, I am excited about developing the community project and maybe one day I could host an exhibition of my work, so there is something everyone could relate to and network with¨.
I closed the interview (slightly overwhelmed by the diversity of his skills) by mentioning his recent written publication I spotted in recomana.cat website where he talks about Love and Shakespeare. ¨It is only something that I do voluntarily at present¨, and I confidently left our meeting safe in the knowledge that my job as a journalist was safe. For now.