- Amber Vittoria, Ignasi Monreal, and Uzumaki Cepeda
Amber Vittoria, Ignasi Monreal, and Uzumaki Cepeda are among a young generation of artists in their twenties and thirties who have started to make their way into the global scene over the past few years by collaborating with some of the world’s largest fashion houses.
Amber Vittoria works primarily with ink, acrylic, and digital mediums to portray the nuances of womanhood. Based in New York City, Amber was frustrated by normative and idealised representations of women in art and the media, which she calls “a small window of womanhood”. Instead, she aims to showcase big thighs and visible body hair, in bright colours and bold shapes, to the point of exaggeration in her work. These features, ironically offer a more realistic portrayal of everyday women than most magazine covers. Her efforts struck a familiar chord with other women, and she was among last year’s Forbes 30 Under 30 recipients. Her success has also led her to work with clients such as social media platform Snapchat, The New York Times, sportswear brand Adidas and Marc Jacobs.
It’s been a journey for Vittoria: creating her trademark style, colourful and redolent of whimsy, has been a trial and error process. Split between favourite mediums, she was led to study graphic design, and she is still experimenting to this day. She lists contemporary visual artist George Condo, the “Mother of American Modernism” Georgia O'Keeffe, pop artist Keith Haring, and her Italian-American grandmother’s no nonsense attitude among her inspirations. Vittoria’s art is all about placing women front and centre, particularly those with non-traditional body types, drawn in a cheerful, abstract style with fluid lines and fluctuating proportions. The face is the smallest element in her pieces, and though it resembles a portrait, the protagonist of her pieces is always the body. In 2019, she was commissioned by French department store Le Bon Marché to create a series of illustrations of key looks from major brands like Gucci, Louis Vuitton, and Chanel. As someone who rarely sees people like herself in luxury adverts, this was a unique challenge for Vittoria. The result, while influenced by the respective brands, is also visibly hers.
We find a similar story in Vittoria’s collaboration with K-Swiss, an American athletic shoe brand for International Women’s Day. According to Vittoria, the project celebrates intersectional feminism and gender equality. The abstract figure with hairy legs and her use of unnatural skin tones is inclusive, the pink and blue hues, as well as the rounded, soft lines, give her design a vibrant and carefree vibe. This piece certainly is unabashedly celebratory, and encourages women to feel comfortable in their own skin. At its best, fashion has long been a way for women to express themselves, and Vittoria’s piece provides women with the opportunity to do this. By wearing her and K-Swiss’ shoe, womanhood in all its shapes and forms is transformed into something to be joyously celebrated every day.
Fashion also has an important presence in Catalonian artist Ignasi Monreal’s work, which ranges from painting and ceramics, to digital art and animation. The similarity which ties each piece together is their eye-catching blend of the contemporary with the classical. He takes particular inspiration from the likes of Claude Monet, Diego Velazquez, and Caravaggio. Monreal has said that although illustration has been a life-long passion of his, he was drawn to fashion when at 17 years old, he was commissioned to create a series of comic strips based on the industry. Fast forward a few years, and he is quickly becoming one of the most sought-after illustrators and graphic designers in the creative space, collaborating with brands such as Gucci and musicians like FKA twigs, Dua Lipa, and Aron Piper.
The past and the present may seem to be opposing ideas, but not to Monreal. His work with Gucci, in which he was given total creative freedom, exemplifies this. The pieces created for the brand’s prize-winning spring summer 2018 campaign “Hallucination,” are stylistically inspired by classical artists like Hieronymus Bosch and Jan van Eyke, and also reference literature and Greek mythology. Though created digitally, they were intentionally made to look like the paintings you’d see in a museum. Monreal has said that he tries, “to look at a lot of things, stay cultivated, look at art, the current and the masters.” His artworks “are really a mix of all that imagery accumulated over the years, with [his] own spin on it.”
Monreal takes these influences and makes them his own, inserting the models wearing the collection's designs and surrounding them seamlessly with the fantastical and the modern. In one piece, he reimagines John Everett Millais’s Ophelia (1852), now a red-haired woman dressed in a sequinned chartreuse Gucci dress. In another, two models dressed as mermaids leisurely sit on a rock while one of them looks at her phone. As someone who continually and effortlessly mixes traditional techniques with new digital technology, these pieces made painting feel like a relevant medium again, especially for younger generations.
Julianna “Uzumaki” Cepeda’s work reshapes and softens youth, creating a kind of safe space, particularly for people of colour. Cepeda is a Dominican-American textile artist, based in Los Angeles. She primarily uses faux fur as her medium to create bright, fuzzy environments. Nostalgia, which has served as a safe space for many young Americans, plays a vital role in Cepeda’s work and for her, is intrinsically linked with fur as it is “one of those things that it doesn’t age like a painting. It’s something that’s always going to stay tactile and it invites people to touch it. Anytime you touch it, it’ll never look the same twice.” Interactivity is at the core of Cepeda’s work and is the main allure of her Refinery29 room, one of her first collaborations. Refinery 29 helped catapult her to prominence in today’s art scene and allowed her to become a source of inspiration for the Hispanic community both in and outside the United States. Titled “Teenage Bedroom,” it is filled with the 80s and 90s pop culture references including a fur-clad Nintendo 64, film posters, and a burger-shaped phone. Cepeda has said that her style is an attempt to reshape the hard edges of her childhood with idyllic and dreamy imagery, covering a child’s room with vibrantly coloured fur.
Reebok x Uzumaki Cepeda
Since Refinery29, Cepeda has collaborated with large brands like Champion, Nike, UGG and Reebok, for whom she created blue faux fur tassels to be added to their classic Club C sneakers. “Growing up, my mom, my brothers and my favourite rappers were wearing Reeboks. It associates with hip hop to me. It just reminds me of the Bronx [where Cepeda grew up]”, she said, describing the shoes as “business man shoes but for artists.” Though the tassels are a relatively subtle addition to the shoe, as a young Afro-Latinx who has found success in the art world, Cepeda always manages to stay true to her identity. In this case, Cepeda, who has also modelled several of her other creations, dons the Reebok sneakers as well. She strives to put black and brown women at the centre of everything she does. A firm believer in inclusivity, she also hopes that her work will open the door for more Dominican artists like her to enter the art world and make a difference in their communities.
Vittoria, Monreal, and Cepeda have been very busy these last few years. By both tackling issues faced by their peers today and looking for inspiration from those who came before, their work continues to develop in new and exciting directions.
Follow Amber, Ignasi, and Uzumaki at @amber_vittoria, @ignasi, and @uzumaki.gallery.