The Zahm Collection is committed to an art form that like
no other directly reflects the trends and lifestyle of a
given period: Fashion illustration. It encompasses over
200 original illustrations covering all styles of this century
and is the most comprehensiveand most important
collections of this art genre. 

For the dedicated collectors, Ingrid and Volker Zahm,
fashion illustrations are more than just a documentation of
fashion styles and the creativity of couturiers. They realize that fashion illustration is an individual and independent art form
that - like all other art directions - is open to all techniques and influences trends.

The 20th century is not only considered the century of fashion - but also of fashion illustration. Then beginning with the upswing of designer fashion, came the break-through for fashion illustration. One of the main reasons for this success can be found in the endless possibilities of technique and style that is available: exaggerated contouring and contrasts, mini-malism and reduction to the point of leaving things out and exaggerated emphasis to caricature.

The first designer to realize and fully use the potential of graphics for the presentation of his new look was Paul Poiret (1879-1944).
His colorful and exotic designs at the beginning of the 20th century required an elegant and expressive visual presentation. Poiret engaged the multi-talented Paul Iribe (1883-1935), who had already made a name for himself as caricaturist, designer and stage designer. The collaboration was so successful that Poiret, and then also other designers, only engaged renowned artists for their purposes, such as Georges Lepape (1887-1971),
George Barbier (1882-1932), André-Edouard Marty (1882-1974), Erté (1892-1990) and Eduardo Garcia Benito (1891-1961).

To bring out the individuality of each style, they experimented with elements of art noveau, the art déco, expressionism, impressionism, even surrealism and dadaism, e.g. Sonia Delaunay (1885-1979). The Russian-born artist, who lived and worked in Paris, had contact with Picasso, Léger and to members of the Dada movement, which strongly influenced her work. Typical for her style is an uncomplicated, color-drenched simplicity.

Illustrators, such as Eric (1891-1958) and René Bouet-Willaumez
(1900-1974) emphasize the characteristics of each creation with color, one accents detail, the other the entire design.

A master of stylization and exaggeration is
Cecil Beaton (1904-1980), who drew backgrounds
conspicuously and details imaginatively.

René Gruau's (1909-2004) style was completely different. Characteristic for his style are sharply contoured figures in ink
and less monochromatic color areas. He created almost all the advertising for his good friend Christian Dior and defined
the image of the house.

In contrast to Gruau, who considered himself also to be a commercial artist, contemporary fashion illustrators consider themselves solely as artists, e.g. Antonio Lopez (1943-1987) and Ruben Alterio (*1949). With their work they primarily would like to influence trends. It was with them that Pop-art found it's way into fashion illustrations and in contrast, Mats Gustafson (*1952) was the minimalist, who emphasized reduced figures and silhouettes.

Today fashion designers still work together with fashion illustrators, primarily because their avant-garde work influences the development of fashion: e.g. Antonio Lopez drew for Karl Lagerfeld, it is Lorenzo Mattoti (*1954) who places the designs of Dries van Noten in the limelight, and for Jean-Paul Gaultier it is
François Berthoud (*1961).

But it doesn't matter who the artist is, all pictures show that fashion illustration is more than just a depiction of fashion. The artists and their special talent are a major contributing factor in defining style and the essence of fashion. Each illustration is more than just a reflection of the times but it is also the signature style of the artist. And that is what makes it interesting for the fashion and art connoisseur.

The Zahm Collection has been exhibited in New York, Paris, Tokyo, London, Munich, Zurich, Montreal, Stuttgart, Chicago, Geneva,
San Diego, Miami, St.Moritz, Düsseldorf, Hong Kong, Weimar, Bruxelles, Breslau, Kobe, Omiya, Nogi, Hannover, Kiel and Seoul.