Delve behind the brushstrokes of fashion Ayumi Togashi's enchanting illustrations. The Japanese artist has journeyed from the foothills of Mount Fuji to the metropolises of Paris and London to capture the heart and soul of luxury brands the world over including Penhaligon's, Hermès and Roger Vivier
Many artists that make it to the top of their game overcome serious hardship to reach success. The extraordinary characters on history’s canvas are fraught with drama: Vincent van Gogh famously cut his ear off and sent it to a brothel, Frida Kahlo suffered chronic pain for most of her life, and The Scream painter Edvard Munch battled with complex mental health issues.
When I meet the shy and retiring illustrator Ayumi Togashi, it is hard to imagine her waging war with the colourful jungle of a creative’s life – her story has the tranquillity of a zen garden.
Togashi was born and raised in Yamanashi, which sits in the centre of Honshu, one of Japan’s main islands and in the shadow of Mount Fuji. One can only imagine the calming life led in such surroundings: the place is known for the thousands of blooming shibazakura flowers that spread out like a giant pink carpet below the snow-capped volcano.
She made the move to Paris in 2003 to study fashion, and began drawing as a hobby on the side. Soon these illustrations gained so much attention that people began ordering copies. Her first major project was for a collaboration between accessories brand Yazbukey and Coca-Cola, and she has since worked for Chloé, Paco Rabanne, Hermès, Printemps and Penhaligon’s.
It is hard to imagine Ayumi Togashi waging war with the colourful jungle of a creative’s life – her story has the tranquillity of a zen garden.
“Each project is different and needs consideration,” Togashi explains. “From the small Parisian atelier, to a luxury fashion label or Japanese brand, they have all played an important part in my career.”
When I first meet the artist, she is expecting a baby and looks ready to pop. A few weeks later I catch up with her to find out how things are now that the little sprog has arrived. “It’s a totally new experience,” she smiles. “I still have some orders to do, so I hope he will be a good boy and let me draw from time to time!” She mentions that a recent purchase of a mobile that sings Moon River is her – perhaps optimistic – attempt to keep crying at bay.
What projects did she manage to fit in before the birth? “I designed the certificates for The Mayfair Awards 2016 and sketched guests at the event,” she says. “The Ritz London was the perfect venue for such a high-society evening and the table settings were beautiful. I really enjoyed it.”
Togashi notes one main influence: Aurore de La Morinerie. The bold and mysterious figures drawn by the French artist are a fascinating take on Parisian fashion, but Togashi’s intricate and detailed style lends itself equally well to the world of luxury goods. Her nimble fingers use permanent pencil and Chinese ink in an ‘aquarelle’ style, a popular technique that creates a thin, almost transparent, veil of watercolour.
Whether a woman in a couture dress standing under the Eiffel Tower or a high-end designer store on the picturesque Mount Street, each scene that flows from Togashi’s nib encapsulates a spring-like effervescence – much like the pink valleys below Mount Fuji.