Donna Adi: Modern Day Fashion-Cartoonist

“When I’m having a bad day, I think of a pink frosted donut, or a bowl of pasta, or a crazy hamburger. Even if I’m not going to eat it, the thought of food is social and fun,”

said Donna Adi, an artist and creative director from Los Angeles.

Adi has become an Instagram and branding sensation through her use of fan art in the fashion world. In an industry that is closer associated with diets than junk food, Adi incorporates anthropomorphic food into her images. Scroll through pictures of models holding pop-art pizza melting on the plate, two ice cream sandwiches kissing, or a happy hamburger. It’s relatable and it’s a feeling that goes into each piece with the hope others feel the same sense of guilt-free joy. “It’s females in their happy space having moments for themselves,” she said.

She has been in the fashion industry for over 10 years. “This art was my break away from fashion but still incorporating it into my work. It’s very female-oriented. The fashion I choose is very much about the girl taking care of herself, enjoying her life. It’s putting together an outfit, going out for a croissant and a cup of coffee,” Adi said.

A modern-day fashion cartoonist of sorts, Adi excelled in art classes as a child but never thought to make anything of it. She studied animation and illustration during her high school years and then, at 17 years old, began a graphic T-shirt line. Eventually, her experience managing social media, photography, and an online store brought her to a serendipitous moment while vacationing in Tel Aviv. She met Galia Lahav, a couture fashion designer, and Adi used her expertise to land the designer in global stores and fashion week, in addition to rapidly growing an online presence. Eventually, a born entrepreneur, Adi wanted to do her own thing.

“The main thing that I took away from the fashion industry, which I incorporate into my work, is understanding the composition of fashion photography, what makes the photo work and how to tell a story through an image,” she said. That’s when she started illustration.

She has multiple tablets with several processes. “I take a lot of photos myself and I illustrate on them while I’m traveling. Sometimes I find a striking fashion image online that just takes my breath away and I have to draw on it. Sometimes I make a sketch and I think there’s a photo I need to make it come to life. I’ll sketch out an image. I’ll find the image of the photo that’s right for that image. And, you know, put it together. It’s like a collage,” she explained.

In the beginning, her work was created purely for fun — an intuitive outlet to be herself, an inner child at heart. Then in 2017, Colombian reggaetón singer J Balvin’s manager requested Adi do an album cover. Soon after, Nordstrom reached out for its winter campaign, Adi’s first big job. That’s when she knew she had a talent others wanted to use. “I’ve never done outreach. I think that if I had to reach out and prove myself, I’m not sure it would be as exciting as people understanding the potential of working with me, and using my work for their campaigns or commercial,” Adi said.

Celebrities are now reposting her work — Gigi Hadid, Winnie Harlow, famed fashion photographers. “At first, I was nervous, thinking maybe they don’t like my work or me trying to make something out of their photos. But it was just such a positive feeling to see that these people like what I’m doing on their images,” she said. Adi’s client list impresses with names Ralph Lauren, Michael Kors, Puma, Dior, Google, Skechers, Apple, Nestlé, Diesel, the list goes on.

Adi continues to grow freely in a meticulous branding industry. Her broad range of expertise is landing her creative director roles with some leading commercial names.

She brings fashion, and all others worlds, to life through a unique vision of vibrant colors and designs. Every one grows up watching animation, in one way or another, and her images seamlessly bridge together childhood and adulthood. “It’s very big in my heart. I grew up on cartoons. It’s in my style and it’s inevitable, I’ll never be able to get away from it, because I love it,” she said.

Adi is currently living in Paris, soaking in creativity at every turn. Make sure to keep up with all this visionary is doing at @donna_adi.

Stephen Wilson is High Fashion Luxury Graffiti

This article first appeared in The Independent Newspaper. Read more about #EverythingEastEnd here


Stephen Wilson of Charlotte, NC is turning high fashion branding into one of a kind art. Gucci, Chanel, and Dior are just some of the designers symbolized in the artists work. Wilson, whose first half of his career was spent working in New York City’s Garment District as an embroidery designer, has created a new life for designer brand packaging in the form of hangable art.

Within the last five years, his career has taken a creative turn to contemporary art, focusing much of his efforts on these embroidered, layered boxes. Each piece takes up to nearly two months to make.

How did you get into this form of artistic design?

In a way, it’s what I always did. The first 20 years of my career were mastering the craft. Working in the Garment Industry is very demanding. You have to be on the top of your game, always improving your skills. So that forces you to really learn your craft. In turn, it created my own work. It was never a learning curve of how to do this, it was 100 percent about the message I wanted to get across.

What is the message you’re trying to convey?

It’s about mixing the high with the low. It’s high fashion and branding, which I see is becoming more relative in our society as the message is becoming more diverse through social media. You’re constantly bombarded with messages. Thirty years ago, you wouldn’t know what these luxury brands — Hermes, Gucci, Chanel — were unless you were born into an affluent lifestyle. Now, every kid knows. I saw this constant message of luxury being conveyed to everyone on the street and then I brought my spin on it.

Basically, I deconstructed luxury. I took luxury, modeling, photography, traditional branding, and mixed it with the low side — urban, street art. I deconstructed a Hermes box and repurposed it to something new. I took luxury items and reconstructed them into contemporary art with an urban viewpoint.

What does a brand symbolize to you?

Brands became aspirational — you haven’t made it until you owned this or that. Art mixes it on the darker side, showing you that these brands are pointing the way, but what message are they really saying? There’s always another one. There’s never an end to what that could be. I’m a fan of it, the products are well made, well branded, and they tell a story. It’s a respect for this industry I grew up working in. People throw their things away eventually, like these boxes. The boxes and the bag are always part of this routine.

What brand is a symbol of success to you, personally?

Growing up, it was watches. To me, a Rolex means you made it.

How did the Luxury Graffiti concept come about?

My wife of 10 years, Andrea, would buy these scarves in Paris. She keeps the scarf and box but eventually they all get thrown away. When, in my studio, I had all of these boxes and all of these fabrics, then I had the idea to start the boxes themselves with these new pieces. Instead of a canvas, I’d use the boxes to stitch on and make a urban scene or French country scene. That’s how this luxury series developed.

Would you say your wife has influenced you?

Quite a bit. My two-year old daughter, Wren, is probably my biggest influence. The way she looks at something is not the way I do. What catches her eye is interesting to see and what she’ll walk right past.

Where do you get the boxes from?

Although it started out with my wife’s excess boxes, that depleted really quickly. I have a few retail stores throughout the country that we’ve done pop-up shops with and they send us boxes. A lot of customers leave boxes at the store. I also get sourced on eBay.

What’s new in the series?

Now, it’s a lot of sneaker brands I’ve been using. The sneaker culture has, in a way, become intertwined with luxury culture. They all go together, the strictly Hermes or Chanel buyer doesn’t exist anymore. Look at all of these big brands, how they’re making sneakers to look like Nike.

I think the street’s taking over and that refined luxury of “this woman only dresses in Dior” is diminishing. People are taking Dior, Chanel, and Gucci and making it more urban street and casual. In society, the high lows are the standard. Nobody turns their nose at wearing Nike with a dress. It’s cool, it’s how can they do that themselves.