Jayde Cardinalli Fish and her dad painted a new mural on her childhood bedroom walls every year.
“One time, it was just my name in big bubble letters,” said Fish, who devoted herself to dance — not art — for 20 years.
While her mom was performing, Jayde explored — adoringly — the vintage costume closet and “had a ball” trying on makeup backstage.
On Sept. 21, the Stockton-born illustrator/designer was right out front — a center of global attention — at the Gucci Fashion Show in Milan, Italy.
Fish’s designs — discovered on Instagram by Gucci creative director Alessandro Michele, whom she admires greatly — decorated clothing and accessories being introduced for the company’s 2017 spring collection.
Now, she’s inundated by phone calls, emails and other cyber-communiques.
Being the subject of an article — “Gucci’s Spring 2017 Muse Is an Illustrator With Great Style” — in the November edition of Vogue magazine has intensified that attention.
“It’s true happiness,” said Fish, 33, a graduate of St. Mary’s High School. “I kinda just felt incredibly lucky and fortunate that some good luck had struck my life.
“It all happened pretty quickly. I thought, for awhile, I was worried that it wasn’t real. Maybe somebody I know — as a fan — was just fooling with me. It took a while to be convinced. It took awhile to figure out it was true.”
Fish and her husband were in Milan in 2015. They couldn’t attend the invitation-only Gucci fashion event, though. Jayde’s illustrating talents earned a coveted invite this time.
“I thought it was very powerful,” Kim Kardashian told Vogue’s writer. “I loved chain mail. I loved the sequins. It was so amazing to see the big chain and belts. That was probably my favorite.”
“It’s so amazing,” said Stockton’s Joni Morris, 66, Jayde’s mother who’s a country music singer. “It’s unbelievable. She’s always been an over-achiever. With everything she did, she gave it her all. She’d strive to be the best at whatever we put her in.”
Dad Matt Cardinalli, 64, a Stockton dentist, has been the technical guru of Morris' “Tribute to Patsy Cline” since 1995.
Jayde studied marine biology (on a scholarship) at Hawaii Pacific University for two years, before art redrew the picture.
Most of Fish’s creations are imagined as tarot cards. Her illustrations have appeared in Vanity Fair; The Bold Italic; Modcloth; Anthropologie; and Facebook “stickers” (foxes, prickly cactus). She’s also crafted a series of Imogi characters, business logos and other free-lance projects.
While Fish was “busy doing Instagram stories” in a Milan fashion warehouse, her designs were being strutted down the Gucci runway, one of global fashion’s most respected and envied.
Her favorites: A cardigan with her upside-down-monkey drawing embroidered on the back. A silk scarf with a “chariot” motif: “It’s a vehicle of conquest. In tarot … like the joker.”
Fish — accompanied by husband Jeremy Fish, 47, a highly-regarded artist —was “pretty busy doing Instagram stories on the Gucci account: "It’s more of a temporary posting. Quick videos. Writing. Drawing. More like a slice of life. Gucci asked me to do that. Cataloging my experience.” She saved a version for herself.
Internet activity, proclivity and visibility benefited her.
“Who knows?” said Fish, who received a random phone call from a representative of Gucci. “I’m really grateful to Instagram for giving us this platform to share our work and get it out to an audience that might not ever have seen it. I get emails from all over the world.”
After two years at the Art Institute of San Francisco, Fish started drawing a “bunch of stickers and, later, ‘emoticons.’ That’s, like, an emoticon meets an icon. You can express feelings with little characters.”
She specializes in monkeys, foxes, mermaids, cacti, super-heroes and a sailor. Such digital characters and images have produced a virtually universal cyberspace language.
The fox is “meaningful” to her because there’s one on Facebook’s Menlo Park campus that’s treated like a pet by employees: “Obviously, he’s really cute. He tries to steal sandwiches.”
While growing up, Fish, who has a brother (Jayson, a Navy veteran and DJ in Oakland) and stepsister (Jenn Cardinalli Mortenson of Oakley), took lessons in piano, gymnastics, ice-skating, karate, art (Aldridge School) and dance: “She was a fabulous dancer,” her mom said. She said Jayde got her artistic talent from her dad: "I can’t draw a stick figure.”
“I’ve always appreciated vintage things,” Fish said. “Antique fabrics, accessories with that theatrical vibe.”
She’s busy now organizing her first solo exhibit — at San Francisco’s Fifthy24SF Gallery, from mid-December through January. She’s not sure how many of her images ultimately will be part of the 95-year-old Gucci company’s spring thing.
“You know, I was nervous,” she said of her Milan experience. “It was gorgeous. Pretty amazing. I couldn’t even imagine how they would be used at all.
“My drawings were printed on satins, silks, beaded embroideries and appliqués. It all really was a thrill.”
— Contact Tony Sauro at (209) 546-8267 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @tsaurorecord.