Lesley Barnes' joyful new picture book encourages you to unleash your inner fashionista

Glasgow-based illustrator and animator Lesley Barnes invites you to mix and match outfits in a playful manner in her new interactive book, Fashion Play.

Consider yourself a budding fashionista or a seasoned trendsetter. If so, the latest book by Lesley Barnes is for you. Divided into three sections that allow you to mix and match outfits to your heart's content, Fashion Play sees Lesley's gorgeous illustration style made to fit the world of clothing.

Published by Counter-Print, Fashion Play is described as an "endless fashion playground" where creativity knows no bounds. Building on the success of her mini 'heads and legs' book and the costumes she created for the end pages of the Bauhaus Ballet pop-up book, Fashion Play ties together all of Lesley's interests into an 'exquisite corpse' title.

"I have always loved fashion in terms of silhouette, pattern and colour and thought readers could have a lot of fun mixing and matching unusual outfits," Lesley tells Creative Boom. "I also thought it would inspire children to play with shape, pattern and form."

Featuring 49 characters, each with its own individual look, Fashion Play is a carefully designed book that pushes patterns and shapes to the limit while remaining fun and engaging. By flipping over the three sections, readers will effortlessly curate their own stylish outfits while marvelling at Lesley's gorgeous illustrations.

Describing her style as colourful, joyful, and a little magic, Lesley's illustrations capture a diverse range of outfits, from geometric shirts to funky, Bowie-esque trousers and trippy multi-coloured skirts. Far from clashing, they all work together to create a visual treat. "I like to make art that makes life feel a little bit better when you see it," says Lesley.

"I wanted the possibilities to feel endless when you flick through the book!" Lesley adds. "I have not calculated how many combinations of head, body, and legs there are, as my maths is not good enough. We even got this idea across in the cover design, as there are eight options to choose from!"

Lesley's mission to make joyful picture books taps into the very special relationship she has with them. In fact, she argues that picture books, in particular, are why she chose to become an illustrator. "I think these books create such a strong connection with people as before you can read you understand the story from the pictures themselves," she reveals. "There is something magical about that; perhaps those images imprint on your soul somehow."

Picture books continue to have a special place in people's lives, even with screens continuing to dominate everyone's time. But does she think children have lost their attraction to picture books in favour of iPads and phones? "I hope not! I think there is something very special about the sheer physicality of a book. There is nothing quite the same as turning the page to reveal the next part of the story."

Interactivity has been at the heart of Lesley's most recent books, Bauhaus Ballet and The Snow Queen, and she's confident that this playful element will always remain popular with readers, both young and old. "I have always been attracted to books that invite you to play with them as an object. I hope children (and adults) feel the same way about Fashion Play and will be inspired to start creating their own avant-garde outfits!"

The story doesn't end with Fashion Play, either. Lesley and her boyfriend have also created a 24-piece wooden playset to accompany the book, which will be available as part of a limited-number set later this year.

"I think having simple ideas to play with is a great way to get your imagination working, and I'd love to see what people come up with," she concludes. "We have also been making a little stop-motion animation with them!"

In the meantime, Fashion Play is available to order from Counter-Print now. And if you're lucky enough to snap up one of the first 100 copies, you'll also receive a free sheet of mix-and-match stickers.


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