fluoro speaks to Leo Greenfield

Leo Greenfield is an illustrator with a unique vision, capturing the stories of contemporary street fashion. fluoro spoke with the Australian illustrator about the personal experience of working from memory and his recent relocation to Paris.

Greenfield’s approach to documenting street fashion is different to bloggers and street photographers armed with cameras. Relying on note taking and sketching on the street, Greenfield captures fleeting parts of garments and later adds his personal interpretation while working with watercolour in his studio.

(f) What initially interested you about street fashion?

(LG) When I was a teenager I wanted to be a designer, I became fascinated by fashion from watching trends appear and disappear on the street. To me the street is vital to fashion and shapes it, it describes who we are and shows how we behave in shared public spaces. Drawing from this environment gives me endless inspiration. Fashion is my first port of call in creating social observational drawings of people.

(f) Where did this interest arise?

(LG) This interest in the fashion first arose for me when travelling in Japan as a teenager. The streets of Tokyo and Kyoto were a revelation to me, the people of the street looked like they had walked off the pages of magazines. The fantasy of fashion was something real here and I started to draw it. I made these drawings so as to remember trends, this process was a kind of note taking, a way of building ideas for imaginary collections. But through this drawing process I realised that I wanted to pursue a career in fine art, and later I attended University at the Victorian College of the Arts, Melbourne, Australia.

(f) What does sketching allow you to see that a camera does not?

(LG) I think drawing from memory allows you to reflect on your ideas and experiences in a personal way. My drawings are not perfect like a photo, they are my own view point. I love looking at photography and also taking photos, but in this project I want to be aware of not stealing an image, and not objectifying those I draw, which photography so often does.

(f) Does the documentation of people on the runway differ from the documentation of people on the street?

(LG) Drawing from the runway is very different from the street, in public you are saturated by different ideas on fashion, it’s an endless array of images and characters to draw from. I use drawing to de-code the street as I look for stories on contemporary ways to dress.

On the runway you are presented with a fashion story, a precise image, and it’s my job to report on it. The runway is a magazine editorial alive and racing in front of you, you don’t need to de-code it, you need to try to capture the key images to share with your audience.

I do not draw in public, I work from memory, but I do draw at fashion shows. I take notes and sketch the key looks, otherwise I get caught in the spectral and I forget the looks too quickly. Also when one show is done, it’s a mad dash to the next, so I need to make notes to build upon in the studio later.

(f) Why the relocation?

(LG) I relocated to Europe to get a new perspective on fashion culture. Paris is the spiritual home of fashion, whether you are a local or an outsider, its a site for creating fashion like no where else in the world. It was also important to move here for me to take in the museums and art history, moving here is part of my education.

(f) Has your relocation pushed your work in different directions? If so, how?

(LG) I see my art practice as one that draws on processes used in journalism, so new places and new experiences drive my work. For this Paris is and endless and ‘movable feast’. Thanks to the kindness of strangers I have new and wonderful opportunities, such as working from the atelier of Martin Grant, building an exhibition with the team at Tuck Shop, drawing from the collections at Palais Galliera and the museum’s performance Eternity Dress featuring Tilda Swinton and meeting with fashion icons such as Diane Pernet.

The coming year will see Greenfield continue to refine his craft, sketching runway collections from Paris and abroad. He will show his work in March 2013 at the Town Hall Gallery, Melbourne, Australia. Greenfield’s work will be on display as part of a larger exhibition curated by Mardi Nowak titled ‘Fixation’.

Greenfield’s work is currently on display at Tuck Shop, 13 Rue Lucien Sampaix, Paris until Friday 24 January, 2014.


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