The air-kissed flurry of activity surrounding a runway fashion show—whether inside the venue or out in the huddle of street-style stars—feels like the opposite energy of a painting, with its measured strokes and deliberate colours unified after much time and consideration. But it’s in the well-heeled runway melee that you’ll find the artist Laura Gulshani, who has taken the fashion world by storm with her boisterous paint and illustration work. I’m loathe to call her “emerging” since she counts Escada, Burberry, and Chanel as her clients, but the moniker does fit since her star is still very much ascending.
Gulshani’s journey from Toronto to the creative capitals of the world began after being encouraged by a professor to pursue her love of art, despite the fact that she was—and still surprisingly seems—skeptical of her own abilities. “I never felt like I was good enough to be doing this,” she humbly admits to me while we sit curled on her Toronto couch, situated beside a paint-flecked side table. Yet the support kept coming throughout her internship stints at various style publications including Canadian Living, ELLE Canada, and The Kit.
“I’ve had the great fortune of working with only supportive women,” Gulshani says, noting that The Kit team was particularly instrumental in nurturing her career. “They even gave me a special job so I’d have money to buy a phone which supported Instagram, because I didn’t have one,” she recalls. That action proved pivotal in Gulshani’s trajectory, as she notes that all of her opportunities have come through the hyper-connected social platform.
It’s no surprise Gulshani’s riotous colour schemes and fetching fashionable subject matter would immediately attract the attention of anyone who scrolls past it. With a nod to Impressionism present in her happy-making works—again unsurprising, given that Gulshani can vividly recall an early childhood trip to see a Monet exhibition with her mother—Gulshani’s style can not only capture the vibrancy of an event like Chanel’s fashion show in Cuba, but also the nuanced elements of a Missoni perfume bottle. She has created lively floral prints for Escada’s resort 2019 line, and custom lip-print makeup bags for bareMinerals.
And while Gulshani can captivate her collaborators with the stroke of a brush, once the business side starts to creep in, she admits she’s happy to have agents to advocate for her. “I’m not honestly too keen on pitching ideas myself because I don’t like the idea of trying to sell myself,” she says. “It’s just because I’m not comfortable with that, and I know I have to learn to be.”
I ask if that’s because she’s not comfortable with commodifying her work, or because she’s shy—or both. “Probably both,” she admits. “I feel really gross when I have to try to… Like, I feel like one of those pushy car salesmen trying to sell you a really beat-up car that you don’t know is a beat-up car.”
“Well, I don’t think it’s a beat-up car,” I say with a laugh, gesturing at the gorgeous paintings stacked against an opposite wall. “My paintings,” I joke, “they’re a lemon.”
Gulshani laughs. “I like lemons, though.”