JOANNA LAYLA is a London based illustrator and contemporary artist. Her unique style is inspired by the worlds of fashion, literature and art. Communicating both beauty and concept within her fashion illustrations she has worked with numerous brands including E.L.V. Denim, Garrard, Adidas, and Leret Leret, and was named as Fida’s “One to Watch 2021”.




Her original compositions and distinct aesthetic have been commissioned as fashion editorial for Overdue Magazine, Risbel Magazine and Milk X Magazine. She draws live as artist in residence at London Fashion Week for Fashion Scout. And her elegant hand-drawn process has inspired fashion film collaborations, most recently with Serie Noire.




2020 saw Layla recognised as an exciting emerging artist with new gallery representation at Bleur Gallery (London) and Acid Gallery (France), and Spacey Studios (New York), in addition to a solo show of fashion works in Sweden in 2021. She is currently exhibiting a solo show of original fashion works on paper “Art + Fashion” with Acid Gallery at High Lille, France, 2022.

We got the chance to have a chat with her about her work as an artist.




Thank you so much for sharing your art story with us Joanna! We are so happy to have you here! At what age have you started making art and did you finish any art schools?

Thank you for having me! As a very young child, my mother says I picked up a pencil before I could walk or talk so I guess I have been mark making all my life. I have always loved drawing and have taken it a little for granted as part of who I am. I didn’t study at art school. I am self-taught, although I am lucky to have grown up around creatives.


Can you talk a little about your process and technique as an illustrator and artist?

I work by hand on paper, in a studio in South London. I work fast and instinctively, with brushes and ink. I love the process of finding my way into an image or an idea with fast gestural drawings in ink and wash. In fashion, I can be working live from the runway, in an atelier or further developing drawings and works on paper in the studio – and my style and aesthetic has evolved from these contexts. My practice combines commercial briefs – working with art directors or fashion editors for brands or agencies - with art briefs from galleries, curators and publications. I love the mix of projects and using my visual language to translate a concept or collection.




How did you as an artist enter the fashion industry?

I have always been fascinated in the physical expression of identity – from micro trends on the street to individual curation and fashion design. My work is figurative by nature and I look to express ideas through the human. After the birth of my little boy, four years ago, I chose to focus fully on fashion – and I guess passion translates… as soon as I started exploring fashion in my drawings, that’s when things fell into place and it has just been the most incredible few years of working with brands, designers, fashion weeks and with galleries.


What value does sustainability have for you personally and as an artist in the fashion context? 

Sustainability is hugely important to me personally and professionally. Working in fashion, with brands and designers, is a topic close to my heart – and a subject I return to repeatedly in my image-making. Personally, this means evolving my practice to use more sustainable materials and choosing the brands I wish to work with for their sustainable credentials. Sustainability is both human, material and ethical. E.L.V. Denim is an amazing example of this and an inspirational brand I return to repeatedly to collaborate with.  As an artist in the fashion context, the illustrator as image maker is the sustainable choice. An illustrator or artist in their studio can create a whole world – without sets, production, travel, and numerous other environmental costs. I loved the opportunity to work on an 8-page spread fashion editorial for Overdue Magazine last year. I would love to see more opportunities for the fashion illustrators and artists to take on big fashion stories as sustainable image makers, going forward.




You have also entered other art genres, besides illustration like film. Can you tell us more about it?

The collaborative space can be hugely inspiring. I have worked on a few film projects with film-makers, animators and dancers. It’s exciting to work with other artists who can extend and develop your visual language into a new arena. I loved seeing how animator and artist Simran Phull translated my illustrations on sustainable designers into beautiful animations with such sensitivity. And working with Serie Noire to create behind the scenes in the studio process shoot for their fashion concept store. 


What other fields and inputs outside of the fashion world provide you inspiration?

I can find inspiration in almost anything!  – everyday, the moment my brain switches off when I am playing with my son and I see the world with fresh eyes.  Beauty, I am drawn to beauty – the thing that catches your eye, a certain zeitgeist, the impulse to draw.  I am an aesthete, so visuals are important… beyond important. Interior design, art, artists, styling, art direction – image makers across disciplines – plants, people.




What are you currently working on? What is the next step for Joanna Layla?

Over the next few months – I am working on projects that span design, sustainability and heritage.  I am working with Garrard, the heritage jewelers, on illustrations of their new Blaze collection; developing a new series of large works on paper for an installation I am co-curating with Anna Foster, creative director of E.L.V. Denim for The Crossover Project by Bleur Gallery in partnership with Elle Decoration; and developing work for a Clerkenwell Design Week launch. I have recently joined the new cohort of House of Juba collective artists – and am so looking forward to taking my fashion imagery further with this amazing agency. I will also be working with curator Ema Marinova on my debut London solo show later this year.


What is your chief enemy of creativity?

I am so lucky, being an artist is like breathing, it’s part of who I am. I think getting enough sleep is so important to creativity. Tiredness can be a killer.


You couldn’t live without…

My little boy Ofili and my partner Dan, the ability to create each day… Everything else is just the icing on the cake (a good coffee, my studio, a good paint brush, paper, black ink).


Thank you for the interview Joanna!




Discover more about JOANNA LAYLA by visiting the links below: