Fashion Illustrator Michael Sanderson

by Laura Neilson


Michael Sanderson wasted no time in pursuing his talents in the field of fashion illustration. At 23, the design school drop-out already counts Victoria's Secret, Big Drop NYC and the Tokyo-based agency Taiko & Associates as clients. His colorful creations—whether of a shoe, an outfit, a Starbucks cup or an entire setting—effortlessly fuse various layers and artistic styles. At times the whimsy and focus of Sanderson's drawings recall the early fashion illustrations of Andy Warhol, but with a decidedly modern polish that just as easily references the mood and artistry of Japanese animation.

Only Sanderson's own enthusiastic spirit rivals the splashy energy and liveliness of his illustrationsspirit—and his tireless entrepreneurialism. In the process of gearing up for global domination in the form of an all-out lifestyle brand, We thought we'd catch up with the ambitious youngster before he turns 24 (and possibly becomes a household name).


How did you land your first big illustrating job? Especially not having graduated from art school—how did you develop exposure for yourself and get noticed?
I've always had an inherent understanding for marketing. Being able to present a product and having the ability to self-promote have so far been very beneficial in getting clientele. My first major illustration job was for Big Drop NYC, where for three seasons I designed their marketing materials and developed a print advertisement campaign.

Do you have any favorite fashion designers? Any that specifically inspire your illustrations?
I get more inspiration from a trip to Pottery Barn or Moss in Soho or within the pages of Martha Stewart Living then any fashion designer. I was heartbroken when Domino ceased production! Seeing perfection in action inspires me to work as hard as humanly possible in order to obtain the lifestyle within those pages. But Tom Ford is a huge inspiration in general for me. His panache for simple luxury, I find very inspiring.


When it comes to your work, would you say you're more inspired by fashion or by art and artists in general?
I'm more inspired by objects and what they mean to people. It is, after all, still very much a material world. Yet I do find a lot of inspiration in nature. My color choices are heavily based on organic materials, like cotton, slate, copper, wheat—they're all favorites of mine to draw color inspiration from.

Fashion photography and fashion illustration go hand-in-hand in many ways. Have any photographers inspired you?
Guy Bourdin. Every detail was considered in his photography and staged like a tiered cake sitting in a window—just perfect. Yet the subject matter within his photos was anything but that! I love contradictions. It's like meeting someone who's beautiful yet very intelligent, such a rarity these days.

Do you have any aspirations of your own for fashion design?
I did. I went to college for fashion design hoping to be the next Tom Ford or Alexander McQueen, but I now find myself contemplating a broader career. Bigger than just fashion, illustration or even design. I'm in the tiring process of trying to brand and launch my own lifestyle magazine targeted to a more contemporary lifestyle, like Martha Stewart Living but for our generation. I feel people have lost interest in the finer details of their day-to-day rituals. I want to inspire a more complete way of living through my publication that includes food, entertaining, interior design, as well as the satisfaction of DIY and the lost art of artisan craftsmanship. I hope to one day be a brand all of my own and to have my name completely associated with the lifestyle I've created.
More images after the jump