“When I’m having a bad day, I think of a pink frosted donut, or a bowl of pasta, or a crazy hamburger. Even if I’m not going to eat it, the thought of food is social and fun,” said Donna Adi, an artist and creative director from Los Angeles.
Adi has become an Instagram and branding sensation through her use of fan art in the fashion world. In an industry that is closer associated with diets than junk food, Adi incorporates anthropomorphic food into her images. Scroll through pictures of models holding pop-art pizza melting on the plate, two ice cream sandwiches kissing, or a happy hamburger. It’s relatable and it’s a feeling that goes into each piece with the hope others feel the same sense of guilt-free joy. “It’s females in their happy space having moments for themselves,” she said.
She has been in the fashion industry for over 10 years. “This art was my break away from fashion but still incorporating it into my work. It’s very female-oriented. The fashion I choose is very much about the girl taking care of herself, enjoying her life. It’s putting together an outfit, going out for a croissant and a cup of coffee,” Adi said.
A modern-day fashion cartoonist of sorts, Adi excelled in art classes as a child but never thought to make anything of it. She studied animation and illustration during her high school years and then, at 17 years old, began a graphic T-shirt line. Eventually, her experience managing social media, photography, and an online store brought her to a serendipitous moment while vacationing in Tel Aviv. She met Galia Lahav, a couture fashion designer, and Adi used her expertise to land the designer in global stores and fashion week, in addition to rapidly growing an online presence. Eventually, a born entrepreneur, Adi wanted to do her own thing.
“The main thing that I took away from the fashion industry, which I incorporate into my work, is understanding the composition of fashion photography, what makes the photo work and how to tell a story through an image,” she said. That’s when she started illustration.
She has multiple tablets with several processes. “I take a lot of photos myself and I illustrate on them while I’m traveling. Sometimes I find a striking fashion image online that just takes my breath away and I have to draw on it. Sometimes I make a sketch and I think there’s a photo I need to make it come to life. I’ll sketch out an image. I’ll find the image of the photo that’s right for that image. And, you know, put it together. It’s like a collage,” she explained.
In the beginning, her work was created purely for fun — an intuitive outlet to be herself, an inner child at heart. Then in 2017, Colombian reggaetón singer J Balvin’s manager requested Adi do an album cover. Soon after, Nordstrom reached out for its winter campaign, Adi’s first big job. That’s when she knew she had a talent others wanted to use. “I’ve never done outreach. I think that if I had to reach out and prove myself, I’m not sure it would be as exciting as people understanding the potential of working with me, and using my work for their campaigns or commercial,” Adi said.
Celebrities are now reposting her work — Gigi Hadid, Winnie Harlow, famed fashion photographers. “At first, I was nervous, thinking maybe they don’t like my work or me trying to make something out of their photos. But it was just such a positive feeling to see that these people like what I’m doing on their images,” she said. Adi’s client list impresses with names Ralph Lauren, Michael Kors, Puma, Dior, Google, Skechers, Apple, Nestlé, Diesel, the list goes on.
Adi continues to grow freely in a meticulous branding industry. Her broad range of expertise is landing her creative director roles with some leading commercial names.
She brings fashion, and all others worlds, to life through a unique vision of vibrant colors and designs. Every one grows up watching animation, in one way or another, and her images seamlessly bridge together childhood and adulthood. “It’s very big in my heart. I grew up on cartoons. It’s in my style and it’s inevitable, I’ll never be able to get away from it, because I love it,” she said.
Adi is currently living in Paris, soaking in creativity at every turn. Make sure to keep up with all this visionary is doing at www.donnadi.com and @donna_adi.