Inside the Fascinating World of Illustrator Donald Robertson and His Collaboration with STORY
Fashion's favorite Insta' illustrator Donald "Drawbertson" Robertson has partnered with STORY, an ever-changing New York-based concept shop, to unveil an installation that encapsulates all things Donald. He transformed the 2,000-square feet Chelsea space into a world of his own, bringing the experience of his Instagram feed to real life. In it, his latest limited edition collaborations are available for purchase (come NYFW, they'll be available on thisisstory.com), including his works with Warby Parker, J. Crew, and UrbanEars, along with his newly released kid-lit book Mitford at the Fashion Zoo ($9; amazon.com).
We caught up with the man behind the artwork to chat about everything from the collaboration to his greatest accomplishment.
How did your collaboration with STORY come about?
"Whenever Neil Blumenthal from Warby Parker and his wife Rachel call me to do something, I do it, because it always turns out to be something awesome. He told me to call Rachel Shechtman, the owner of STORY. When Rachel and I started planning this, I called Warby Parker and my friends from Smashbox, because this is the ideal location for New York Fashion Week. We wanted a home away from home."
What has been your favorite part of working with STORY and transforming their location into your own little world?
"My favorite thing was being able to collaborate with brands, like Chasing Paper NYC and Bow and Drape. And everyone worked with the Smashbox, Mitford, and Fashion Week themes. I thought it was going to be a little bit confusing, but when you walk around the store, it makes sense, even though it doesn’t make sense, like a giraffe with a lipstick and a water bottle. It works for me! It mirrors my Instagram—the only thing I don’t have here are the kids running around."
How long did it take for you to paint the store?
"It took about a week, but that also included stopping to meet with press and unpacking stuff. I like to paint a lot, so I did a lot of hand painting. The hardest part was not Instagramming anything. It was like Instagram Anonymous. I tell my people everything, and they’re always rooting for me, so I hate not sharing what I’m working on."
Where do you go to for inspiration when illustrating?
"I glide through Instagram. Because of the people I follow, it’s kind of like getting recharged because it's so visual. I literally fly through all the different categories, from National Geographic to all of the fashion people I follow."
What has been your favorite collaboration to work on?
"I would have to say, when Beyoncé took the stuff that I painted for her at Bergdorf’s and she went back and did the photo shoot where she mimicked my multiple girls, that was pretty epic. I mean it doesn’t get any better than that. And that she took the time to mimic my style in her giantness, it was so cool."
As an illustrator, what would you say has been your greatest accomplishment thus far?
"The nicest thing for me is that I've been able to take other illustrators and promote them on my Instagram, and watch other illustrators blow up. It's like a big community. Illustrators are taking over Instagram because we’re able to make the amount of content that Instagram requires. Someone like @UnskilledWorker, who I recall lives in a village in England is now working with Gucci. @Blairz who just moved here from Seattle did this huge campaign for Prada, and @vincentmoustache who I previewed on my Instagram about a year ago has now spun way past me because Instagram gave him a huge shout out."
What advice can you give to aspiring illustrators?
"Suck up to people that you admire. Try to be as cool as possible, but suck up consistently over long periods of time because it really is, whether you like it or not, building relationships with these people that you would normally never have access to. People don’t even put their phones up to their heads anymore—you can pretty much reach out to anybody."