INTERVIEW WITH FASHION ILLUSTRATOR SAIKHANTSETSEG TSERENDORJ
Mongolian fashion designer and illustrator Saikhantsetseg Tserendorj has been interested in fashion since a young age. After graduated from high school, she moved to the USA to study fashion at the (FIT) Fashion Institute of Technology. Currently based in New York, Saikhantsetseg finds it tremendously inspiring to see stylish people with unique style on the streets of NYC everyday. Her fashion illustration style project the concept of dualism. Her traditional fashion illustration is wellstructured showcasing ready-to-wear looks with fun poses like sitting down. On the other hand, her freehand fashion illustration is a bit messy, classy, and exciting with characteristics, which capture her emotions. HUF Magazine has the opportunity to interview her to find out more about her story as a fashion illustrator.
You are originally from Mongolia and now living in New York. Do you feel that living in New York has influenced or changed the way you do your illustrations?
Yes, living in New York has influenced the way I do my illustrations tremendously. It’s one of the prettiest and stylish cities in the entire world. Also, one of the important fashion capital and home to many famous brands and designers. Almost every day, I could see many stylish people with unique styles on the streets of New York that I won’t see back home that often. Also, the weather here in New York is very cooperative. Even it’s winter, girls can still wear cut out jeans and stylish light coat with high heels with no socks. In Mongolia, winter is freezing that you have to layer up and get wrapped up from head to toe. I used to illustrate a lot of abstract designs when I just started illustrating back home. I think I wasn’t really exposed to designer brands or haute couture like I do now. Now I’m more into the design and illustrate mix of wearable / haute couture with a twist. But once in a while, I go ahead and illustrate something crazy and abstract just to get my imagination going. Lately, I’m designing a lot of one of a kind and cute dresses.
What’s it like being a fashion illustrator in New York and Mongolia?
I’ve never worked as a fashion illustrator back home. I came to the USA a year after I graduated high school to study fashion. When I was a sophomore at FIT (Fashion Institute of Technology), I got an internship at a Bridal Wear Company called JLM Couture in New York. That was my very first real-life experience in the fashion industry. I loved everything about it. I loved how the designer is so focused and passionate about getting the right shade of fabric to checking every single seam to fitting the dress with the model all morning. It’s a very fast-paced, fun, and competitive industry that keeps you on your toes and gives you so much adrenaline.
You graduated from the Fashion Institute of Technology with an Associate’s in Fashion Design and Bachelor’s in Technical Design. Was it beneficial, and would you recommend the same course or path for aspiring creatives?
Yes, it was definitely beneficial. I learned a lot about the technical side of fashion design, such as digitizing a pattern, making of a tech pack, deconstructing a pattern, fitting, commenting, and many more. Also, a technical design major is a relatively new major, and there is high demand in the industry. But I’d recommend aspiring creatives that they have to know what they truly want and need. If you’re someone who wants to sketch, draw, and paint more into fashion art and design, then it’s better to continue a fashion design major. Because it’s more creative and you’ll design more. But if you enjoy making patterns, sewing, and making thats on illustrator, then a technical design program is more for you.
You’ve done traditional fashion illustrations as well as illustrations that are less structured and more freehand, which you call ‘Scribbles.’ Can you explain to us how they are created differently, in terms of the creative process?
When I just started illustrating, I wanted to find my own style. I was trying different techniques and different art supplies and tools for months. Then I found two styles I love. Even though I told myself if you go after two things, my focus will be divided, and I won’t be good at either of them. So I tried to make myself choose one, but I couldn’t decide. I feel like both of the styles help me to grow and create better. I always use photo reference for my traditional fashion illustrations. I like to illustrate ready to wear looks with fun poses like sitting down or turning back. It’s fun, and in a way, it reminds me of my childhood. I complete everything from head to toe, even the eyelashes.
As for my scribbles, it’s completely freehand and done very quickly. Also, I like using pen and markers directly on the paper with tons of white space. It’s a bit messy, but I feel like my scribbles have so many characters in them. They are classy, exciting, and one of a kind. Also, for some reason, they capture my emotions very well. If I have something bothering me, the lines usually come out thick, messier, and color is more substantial and darker; otherwise, they look light, floaty, and delicate.
What was your very first fashion illustration that you did? What is your most recent? What would you have done differently now if you could go back and redo your very first fashion illustration?
When I was in middle school, I was enrolled in a fashion design club for a short period of time. The students were instructed to design garments based on the theme given by the instructor. The themes were fire, ice, water, and wind. I remember my ice-themed design distinctively. My ice designs consisted of a couple standing next to each other. A guy is wearing a shirt and pants, and I rendered it blue gradation and white toward the sleeve and made the fabric kind of like soft feathers. The girl was wearing a shirt and skirt with also the same color and texture. If I were to go back and redo it, I’d probably design an asymmetrical short draped dress with chain accents.
My most recent fashion illustration is a brown earth shade draped dress with asymmetrical cut out on the left waist with a bow closure on the right shoulder with a red accent stripe on the front.
Do you have a favourite fashion illustrator that you look up to?
Yes, I have. My favorite fashion illustrator is Jessica Durrant. I found her Instagram; she is this beautiful person inside and out, and she’s full of encouragement and motivation. She is definitely my guru. I love how transparent she is with her audience, and always encouraging artists and illustrators to do what they love, make more art and dreams do come true. And of course, her illustrations are just breathtaking. And I hope I can get to meet her one day and give her a hug and let her know that she is my favorite!
What is your favourite fashion illustration that you’ve done so far?
My favorite illustration is a navy color offshoulder medium length cute couture dress with grey and yellow fabric accents I illustrated last year. I think the design and the color story came out very nicely and if I were to make one of my dresses that’d be denitely one to go. Whenever I look at that illustration, I feel motivated to illustrate more.
Many fashion illustrators create their illustrations based on the works of other designers. As a fashion designer yourself, does your fashion illustrations come from your head or a mixture of different fashion designers and yourself?
I try not to look at other designers’ works when I design. It’s a natural thing that once you love someone’s design, you start doing similar things without even knowing not because you want to copy it but because you love it. The majority of my designs come from my head. Sometimes the ideas come from shapes, color, or even a word. So catching those flash of ideas and making notes is really important to me.
What challenges do you face as a creative individual? And is it easier or more difficult to create an illustration for a client or your own personal projects?
The challenges that I face are that sometimes I wonder if I’m good enough, if I’m qualified enough, and what if I run out of ideas and can’t create anymore. Sometimes these kind of thoughts diminish my confidence a little bit but I think it’s normal to have this kind of thoughts. There has to be a little bit of worry and fear to get me grounded and push me to create more and better. It’s definitely easier to create an illustration for your own personal projects. Because you exactly know what you want and all you have to do is to sit down and create it.
Personal work can be the subject of criticism, have you ever felt criticized, and how did you deal with it?
When I was in high school, I showed my illustration to my teacher, and she criticized my work – saying that the model’s legs were way too long, not straight, and that they looked crooked – in a laughing manner. That made me a little sad, but I didn’t fix my illustration. I kept it as is. And still, to this date, I love drawing long legs, and I know that’s what I want and how I want it. All that matters is what you want, and you have to do it. Also, it’s a losing game to try to please everybody, so if someone criticizes my work, I’ll respect their opinion and move on with my life.
What would be your ultimate goal as a fashion illustrator?
I want to publish my fashion illustration book and launch my very own fashion illustration class and workshop.