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Fashion Illustrator Shira Barzilay

By Talia Zoref

Starting her career in fashion at the age of seventeen, Shira Barzily has already experienced almost every fashionista’s dream. Designing a line for H&M, Roberto Cavali, and launching her own temporary tattoo line Koketit, Shira is definitely on her way to becoming a known worldwide fashion Illustrator. I had the pleasure to ask Shira a few questions and discover more details about her amazing story.
What was your biggest accomplishment in the fashion illustration industry? How did you get this opportunity?

I had the opportunity to work for Roberto Cavalli illustrating T shirts for the 40th anniversary line of the brand. A previous teacher of mine from fashion studies was able to get me this job. It was really great. Keeping in touch with fashion contacts over the years is super important- it keeps you in the awareness of things.

Which fashion illustrator inspires you most? Why?

I really love and appreciate Fifi Lapin, the fashionista rabbit. I admire her sense of creating a strong palpable brand while maintaining her artistic integrity. To me, this is the perfect marriage of art and commerce and what I aspire to the most.

You have a temporary tattoo line, KOKETIT NOT FOREVER TATTOOS. What is special about it? How did you come up with this great idea?
The idea came to me while setting up my nephews two year old birthday party. At the time my mother bought children’s temporary tattoos and I thought about how fun it would be to have temporary tattoos for adults as well. At that moment everything I did in my life came together — I love tattoos but never had the nerve to get one, I’m a fashion illustrator and can design tattoos, and also my aesthetics are fun and not too serious. I felt that sparkle and knew this was for me, so I went for it.

Ever since I started it’s been a wild ride. I’ve learned so much already and continue learning every day of my life. I discover new things to love such as photography, business, collaborating with friends, and more.

Creating my own brand and as the sole founder of my business is the most rewarding thing I’ve ever done. It entails basically everything. I am realizing my greatest fears and overcoming them all the time. It is quite a feeling!

When, and how, did you decide to specialize in fashion illustration?

I’ve always loved fashion illustrations. Since I was six years old I was drawing fashion figures and loved fashion. There was never a doubt in my mind that is where I belonged. When i was 17 I started fashion design studies at Shenkar College and only after graduating did I realize my true passion was in illustrating and visual arts rather than making actual clothes. It felt very limiting to me and I wanted to break free from what others, and myself, expected of me.
So after graduation I moved to Los Angeles for one year where I realized illustrating fashion was my calling. Seeing all these amazing artists, visiting fashion art galleries and meeting new people really expanded my horizon. When I came back to Israel I had to figure out a way to introduce this medium back into fashion. It wasn’t the easiest ride but it sure was interesting. I was freelancing for a while with different Israeli designers and clients, later becoming a graphic designer for a fashion magazine. It seemed like a fun thing to do at the time while I built my fashion illustration career. I love it and still work there today. 

What is your advice for new fashion illustrators in the industry?

My advice would be to constantly push the boundaries of what is considered new. The death of fashion illustration is conformism. You should not abide by any rules because they limit creative thinking. Fashion illustration is about imagining fashion and bringing it to life as a subjective and artistic form. It’s supposed to say something about the beauty of [life] from a unique perspective.

Your most common illustration character is Koketit. How did you come up with her look and name?

Before I named her, Koketit existed as doodle forms on any piece of paper I ever owned. She was a scribble that caught my eye. One day I named her Koketit – in French it means someone flirty and stylish. She became my signature style and after that everything kind of got rolling. She lives now a better life than me – gets invited to do photo shoots around the world, goes to premieres, and models for editorials catalogs and commercial collaborations. When I thought about what my brand for the tattoos would be, it was obvious to name it after my leading gal,KOKETIT. NOT FOREVER TATTOOS.

Nowadays technology is really dominant for fashion illustration. Do you feel graphic work takes more time than the physical drawing?

Israel, Canada, or Azerbaijan – it doesn’t really matter where you live nowadays. The internet has opened up a vast communication network and I think this is the greatest time for fashion illustrations because of the internet. Outlets such as instagram, facebook, pinterest and other social media sites have opened up a renaissance of creation so we can all create and be inspired from one other.

You collaborated with H&M lately. What was the inspiration for the collection you designed?

They wanted to collaborate with Koketit to present their ‘conscious denim collection’. Thus, we created the story of her wearing the collection and leading an environmentally conscious, super-cool, urban life. We created limited edition tattoos and fun T-shirts to promote the collection and also, Koketit was featured on the flagship window display which was very exciting for her!

As the graphic editor of Go Style Magazine what is the most important experience and knowledge you gained from having this position?

Keeping in contact with industry people is crucial and I get that from this job. Meeting and working with stylists, photographers, designers and editors has been so helpful for expanding my brand. Also, working at a magazine keeps me in the know. Besides, l love working in an office full of girls. We have nail polish parties, eat salads and talk about Kim K, It’s fun.

What was the craziest fashion illustration you were ever asked to create?

I don’t know if it was crazy but it was really cool.
i.D magazine created a worldwide fashion illustration contest to illustrate Vogue stylist and icon, Grace Coddington. She is such a great figure to draw because she has so much character. I ended up winning 4th place and it was really awesome. 

In your opinion, what experience is most important for those interested in becoming a fashion illustrator? (technical, fashion, drawing, previous work in the industry)

I think being a blogger has helped me communicate my illustrations better to the world. Illustrating off the runway, covering local fashion, and exploring trends through illustration is something I enjoy a lot and has created a new dialog in our little fashion community. It just brings something new to the table and fashion illustration is all about the new.

What goals do you have for the next five years?

To become a Koketit empire! I really want to expand my brand! I’m excited just thinking about all the possibilities.

Interview by Talia Zoref
Photos by Zohar Shitrit and Sharia

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