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From McQueen to Galliano, an illustrator's passion pays off

Sketch artist: The artist working in watercolor

Guatemalan-raised Marcela Gutierrez says she never had any intention of becoming a fashion illustrator. The petite blonde, dressed in unusual black pants and a black derby and looking as fashion-forward as the people she draws, had just arrived from Barcelona to give a career talk to young designers as part of Manila Design Week’s early launch. Her work has the sexy, glamorous style of high fashion drawings, but the warmth, spontaneity and vivid life that are all her own come from watercoloring everything by hand.

Prada eyewear campaign

Marcela went through several artistic iterations before realizing how everything all tied up together  studying at first architecture, but finding out her notions of gravity and space were a bit too creative for people’s lives to depend on; she then studied graphic design to hone her drawing skills, which led her to think about becoming a fashion designer. “I decided to follow my inspirations, and at the time it was John Galliano and Alexander McQueen,” she recounts. “I tried to follow their steps so I moved to London and enrolled in Central St. Martins to pursue a dream which was still confusing to me.”

It didn’t come easy, however  it took Marcela quite a while to get accepted to the prestigious alma mater of her two idols. But once she was in, she didn’t tone down her tenacity and immediately bombarded McQueen’s design studio with her portfolios and CVs. “I was really a pain in the ass trying to catch their attention, and I sent emails, posted letters and personally delivered my portfolio until I managed to get an interview,” she says. As soon as she got her foot in the door, they assigned her to draw, and seeing the knack she had for it, sent her to the desk to illustrate for the next seven months. “I was drawing nonstop from 9 a.m. to 4 a.m. every single day, no weekends,” she says, describing sweatshop-like conditions of the late genius’s studio. “It was just the passion I had for the designer that kept me going even though at times I wanted to cry and go back to Guatemala and be in the sun with a nice cold beer.”

Harper’s Bazaar Spain

But after the seven months were over, Marcela left with an originally unintended portfolio of illustrations, some of which made it to McQueen’s spring/summer 2005 collection. One down, another queen to go  Marcela moved to Paris to stalk John Galliano in the same way. To this she says, “They were a little more organized, so I was working from 9 to 6 like a normal job, and perhaps it was less rewarding in terms of production of work, but obviously it was a dream come true to be in his studio and be surrounded by greatness and creativity.”

Despite the strong portfolio of illustration work she’s been building, Marcela still believed she would be a fashion designer because that’s what she graduated from. But a death in her family forced her to forget about everything and focus on her family. She ended up moving to Barcelona, which was frustrating for her as it seemed to be going against everything she wanted, especially since Barcelona was not known for

Ellesse sportswear

fashion. But it was in this city where her career took off, in fits and starts, at least. Unemployed and broke, she made portraits for friends in lieu of birthday presents, which led to commissions and new clients. When work was slow, she kept drawing for her own sake and entered any kind of competiti

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on she could find. “It’s important to never stop, to continue to work, to put your heart and soul into it,” she says. “People will recognize your passion and effort.”

Big projects started coming to Marcela, from Prada campaigns to Harper’s Bazaar editorials. She attributes her success to the simple trait of being good-hearted and non-judgmental. “Just treat people the way you want to be treated, it comes back to you 100 percent.”

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