The Genteel
April 17, 2021


Photograph by Joel Yum.

Joel Yum met up with Toronto-based fashion artist, illustrator and photographer, Lavinia Ungureanu to find out all about her creative inspirations, diverse portfolio and perception of fashion addiction in women's lives.

Joel Yum: You're a fashion artist, illustrator and photographer?

Lavinia Ungureanu: Yes. I am also a graphic designer. People are usually surprised when I tell them I do all these things, but I think I would be bored doing just one thing. Having multiple outlets is a great way to split my creativity. I like having options, but it's also a challenge to keep them all going! But it's a blessing to be able to do all those things. 

JY: What came first, and how did they all come together?

LU: I started drawing when I was very little - horses, houses, flowers - the usual blissful kid nonsense, haha! But as I grew older I began to see that it is a real talent and I have spent a lot of time since then developing it.

I got accepted into an art school at an early age in Bucharest (where I grew up), and continued to pursue art throughout high school once I moved to Canada. I used to paint and draw a lot and then in high school I realised my artwork better fit the description of "illustration." Around that time I also discovered photography and I used to have this really, really old Zenit camera from World War Two my godfather gave me. It was fascinating!

So next I heard about OCAD, applied, and got in. It was one of the happiest days of my life. I was so excited to get immersed into an art and design school again. I moved to Toronto and completed the Illustration program over four years. Throughout that time, I started developing my photography and graphic design skills as well, doing small freelance projects and building my portfolio.

However, I have always had a passion for fashion, especially fashion illustration. At the end of the day, I always end up drawing these beautiful faces and long bodies. I remember when I was in grade five I wanted to be a fashion designer but I would not even want to sew on a button! I just love drawing dresses and models.

JY: If you had to pursue just one, which one would it be?

LU: Oh nooo!! Don't ask me that!! I don't think I could ever pick just one. I have so much trouble now deciding which one I want to pursue! I just love all of them equally. Each has its own perks and each allows me to express myself in a different way. Sometimes I want to feel the brush on paper and be mesmerised by the way ink interacts with water, and other times I like to pick up a camera and photograph something that the human eye can't even see.

It's great to have options - sometimes an idea turns out best in photography, and sometimes it looks best in a painting. Why limit myself?


JY: You have a great and diverse portfolio. How does your creative thought process work?

LU: Aw thank you! I don't have a process per se. Again, it depends on what it is that I'm doing. But I guess a common thread would be that I'm always collecting things for inspiration, and I look at a lot of images whether in magazines, books, blogs, ads, everywhere. I always keep my eyes open and sometimes things just pop into my head out of the blue. I'm also easily impressed by things in nature and on the streets, like leaves, the colours of a flower or chipped paint on a fence.

I'm not much of a sketcher. I only do it when I need to. I make up most of the image in my mind and then I execute it. I'll try a few colour options, a few thumbnails but generally I work spontaneously. With photography I am more of a planner, though. I like to have it all planned out before I go shoot - the right model, the right clothing, the props, the place. But it's not a recipe. Sometimes I simply experiment and happy accidents can lead to great images! I just do what feels right at the moment.

JY: Your thesis focused on the influences of fashion addiction in a young woman's life. What are some of the addictions you focused on?

LU: I'm not sure that there is even such a thing as an actual fashion addiction. It would probably be more of a shopping addiction and a desire to constantly look amazing. My thesis is more of a commentary on our culture, which is obsessed with superficial and materialistic things.

The things I touched on were the main areas of a person's life that are affected by addiction - their physical and mental health, social life, financial situation and, of course, personal relationships. Addiction leads to all kinds of problems and through this project I tried to show a young woman's journey though a downward spiral of this imagined fashion addiction. It's a bit of a cautionary tale for young women who have gotten sucked into the mentality that only the exterior counts. 

JY: What are some issues young women are facing today?

LU: I think the main problems they face are the beauty industry and the media they consume. Unfortunately, the wrong types of values are the most prevalent ones and it takes a higher education, good parenting and a critical attitude to be able to discern the good from the bad.

You also hear a lot of young women complaining that they are not taken seriously but they have to start acting serious before anything will change. I also think there are a lot of stereotypes and double standards they have to battle, and that's hard.

JY: Has your outlook on fashion changed since your thesis?

LU: Well, the project has allowed me to look at it in a more critical way, but I think I was already aware of the issues. My thesis simply allowed me to translate those ideas into engaging images that others can draw meanings from and learn from.

Image Interview Joel Yum Lavinia

JY: What's exciting to you right now in the fashion world?

LU: That's a good question! I love the thin belt trend and all the colourful shoes out there right now. I am also super excited to see a lot of sheer and light fabrics. I personally can't stand garments that either don't stretch or don't move with your body so I am quite happy with the current season in terms of that.

Another thing I am excited about is the faded colours that are popular now in fashion photography. I like manipulating colour too, I think it's a fun trend but I can't help but think that it says something about our culture wanting to manipulate every aspect of their lives - including reality. Either way, I love it! 

For more Lavinia Ungureanu imagery, head over to The Image Interview.




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