How I Made It as a Fashion Illustrator: Anjana Arunasalam

We spoke #careergoals with the budding fashion and beauty illustrator.

Anjana Arunasalam may still be in school  — she’s currently in her first year studying Fashion Design and Techniques at George Brown College — but has already built up an impressive portfolio in her budding career as a fashion and beauty illustrator. Most recently, she’s lent her fluid lines and cartoon-like style to brands like Rock ‘N Karma, Mani Jassal and Christopher Bates at Toronto Fashion Week. We caught up with the 27-year-old self-taught artist to discuss work-life balance, her love of Monet and the best advice she has for anyone looking to make a career in fashion.

On how she landed on her direction in life:

“I always knew I was meant to be working in art, I just never knew how. In school, was so confused and always switched my majors around. In 2015, I decided to take a break from school to help out at home and that’s when I discovered my passion for fashion illustration. I drew an illustration of Jhene Aiko and she liked it on Instagram. It kind of grew from there.”

On building a career while she’s still in school:

“It is hard, but it’s a challenge that I’m willing to accept. It has helped me to grow as a person and made me appreciate the fashion industry more because I have a better understanding of what the fashion industry is like. I feel like being in school gives me more access to opportunities. I’m still learning as well.”

On her artistic inspirations:

“I think my biggest artistic inspiration is Claude Monet, I know he’s not in the fashion scene, but I grew up always wanting to visit his garden in France, which is said to be blooming all year, even during winter. I had the opportunity to actually go in the summer of 2009, when I was 17. To be able to see where he lived and how he lived was really fascinating. At that point, I realized that my true love of art and my love of fashion as well. My fashion inspirations are Karl Lagerfeld and Coco Chanel.”

On what makes her illustrations unique:

“I think I have a very particular style. It’s very fluid and a little bit cartoon-y, but it also depends on the outfit that each person is wearing.A lot of the illustrations I do are digital, and using the Apple pencil directly on the screen allows me to draw as if I was drawing with a paper and pencil. It’s cool how I can mix different styles and play around with it. When I do portraits and custom illustrations for couples and individuals, I like to go a little more detailed and add a little more of a realistic touch to it.”

On her biggest career milestone to date:

“Two years ago, I had the opportunity to go to London Fashion Week and I was able to illustrate the Oxford Fashion Studios show, which is where a lot of international designers who are just starting up show their looks on the runway. It was my first runway and back then I didn’t do digital illustration, I was painting instead. The models were walking fast but it gave me such an adrenaline rush. Being able to accomplish drawing in such a short amount of time is what motivates me even more.”

Her best career advice:

“Getting started, it’s really all about networking and making sure you’re confident about your own work. Confidence is so important. There will be days when you’ll be like, “Maybe I’m not doing this right.” It’s always good to have the full support of your family and friends when you’re feeling low. [Fashion illustration] a tough career, but it’s so rewarding.”