Fashion Illustration Meets Reality: Julie Houts
As I kick off writing for Cultivate22, I should outline my love for Instagram-promoted artists. Whenever I find a new artist on the app, I get a little too excited and immediately throw a follow. This obsession has translated into my writing for WFUStyle with a series called Insta-Crush Interview. I began my Insta-Crush Interview series in 2014 with a two-part feature on artist extraordinaire Donald “Drawbertson” Robertson. I also had the chance to interview rising college senior, Gucci-commissioned Chris Rellas of @copylab. The next installment of my series features Julie Houts, @jooleeloren, an illustrator who enhances your feed with her comedic fashion cartoons that depict the everyday struggles of the modern woman.
I stumbled upon Julie’s account last spring and immediately fell head over heels for her illustrations. By day, Julie is a chic New Yorker and a designer at J. Crew. By night, she becomes a beloved comedian and artist. I got the chance to talk to Julie and discuss everything from her work to her current obsession on Netflix.
What is your artistic training?
Growing up, my sister was always thought to be “the artistic one” in our family, but I think as a matter of convenience for my mom, we were both always enrolled in art camps, summer schools, etc. I always enjoyed it, and drew in my free time, but never took it particularly seriously. In high school, I took some AP Art Studio classes, then had to submit a portfolio for review to some college admissions boards for scoring (I think??). Anyway, I submitted mine to The School Of The Art Institute of Chicago, and they accepted me. I didn't realize that was even part of what I was doing in submitting my portfolio. I had other plans to go to another non-art school. Once I was accepted to SAIC, I reevaluated everything in the space of maybe two months, and much to my parents' confusion and horror, decided to go to art school. I studied painting at SAIC for about twenty minutes before realizing I was horrible at it, and soon switched to fashion design as a focus. Eventually I transferred to Parsons for fashion design and finished up there.
What is your go-to medium?”
I usually use pencil, pen, and marker – occasionally gouache.
*Gouache is type of paint similar to watercolor but applies opaque
Do you have any essentials when you are working to get into your creative groove?
Not really! I get into a tunnel vision sort of mental space when working and my surroundings aren’t so important.
Part of the reason I believe your drawings have become so popular is due to their relatability! Where do you find your inspiration?
Everything I am speaking to is just from my own experience or from observation.
A lot of your drawings feature mice. Is there reasoning behind your addition of these little creatures?
People ask this a lot! You would think I had an answer! I really don’t know. I draw a pig too. I think the mice are just helpers, really. A thought – I used to live in this hellish apartment that ended up having a major mouse problem. It was really sort of psychologically troubling for a while. Eventually, I think I came to just accept them as company or roommates – roommates that I occasionally had to murder, but roommates nonetheless.
Is the blonde girl in your drawings a representation of yourself?
Not necessarily! I don’t think that I’m drawing myself, but since most of the time I’m speaking to my own experience, I guess sometimes I use her as a proxy. Sometimes her appearance is just dictated by whichever markers I have on hand.
What is your dream commission?
I don’t know! I’m so into the phrase “a lifetime supply.” I have said this before, but I’m obsessed with these Janeke gold toothbrushes, and really all I’m after is an endless supply of them.
I’m working on a few collaborations now, which are all fun! I’m looking into making prints, but I’m pretty clueless about that process. I’m thinking a bit about book ideas as well.
On Social Media:
Did your Instagram begin as a personal account?
Yes, I’ve been using it since 2011! I was using it then just as an alternative to texting my friends photos of things. It was really a different thing back then. Zero self-awareness.
When did you start posting your drawings on Instagram? Was it embarrassing to post your artwork at first?
I don’t remember when exactly, but a while ago. I don’t remember feeling that self-conscious about it because only my close friends followed me, so it didn’t feel like an uncomfortable presentation for anyone’s critique. It was just like sharing jokes with my friends.
At what point did you realize you were gaining popularity and what was that like?
I feel like I’m still in that space! It’s a little bit uncomfortable and embarrassing in a way, but it’s been really positive. Mostly, I’m really shocked and overwhelmed by the response.
Who is your favorite person you follow?
I just started following Isaac Mizrahi, whom I am pretty obsessed with. I have a really deep and embarrassing fan girl fixation on skate culture, so I follow some like thirteen year old (I think?) little dudes who skateboard, which is borderline creepy. I follow a LaCroix Pamplemousse meme account. I follow an account of poorly drawn pencil sketches of celebrities.
Did you always want to go into fashion design?
No, I thought I would be a psychiatrist until the second semester of my senior year of high school.
How has majoring in fashion design at School of the Art Institute of Chicago and Parsons helped you in the industry?
SAIC was a great school to start out at. Their approach to fashion design is very concept-driven and more avant-garde than what came naturally to me. I think it pushed me to think more broadly when I was first learning. Parsons is great in that it’s a very intense and industry-driven environment. It’s very much about getting one ready to work in the industry.
What is the best career advice you have ever received?
The best advice I’ve gotten is that you have to be your own advocate. If you want to work less, more, get more money, have more or less responsibility, etc. you have to communicate it directly through your words and actions. People don’t just give you things for working hard.
What is the career advice would you give a college student aspiring to work in the fashion industry?
Intern as much as possible! I think it’s the only way to really understand what the job actually is. Also, the connections you make through that will become your first connection in getting a job once you graduate.
On Style and Life:
What is the secret to living in NYC?
Make millions of dollars and hire a driver.
What is your favorite thing to binge watch?
Currently Bob Ross! It’s on Netflix.
You have great hair! What is your typical hair routine?
Thank you! It’s naturally curly. The general vibe is to shower, wake up a poodle, then sort of dually straighten and curl it with a curling iron technique I should have patented long ago. Then don’t wash it for as long as possible –like until it’s embarrassing. Repeat.
What is your go-to outfit?
A dress of some sort – usually vintage. Heels – usually inappropriately high.
What is always in your bag?
Lip balm, red lipstick, a travel size of my perfume. Normal girl stuff. Usually a book or a magazine. Inexplicably, there seems to be a Dum-Dum lollipop in every bag and also granola bar crumbs or a singular raw almond.
Whose style do you admire?
Nan Kempner, Slim Keith, Kate Moss, Marella Agnelli, Lapo Elkann, Bridget Bardot, Jacqueline Bisset, Lee Radziwill… It’s a long list!
What are you most excited for style-wise this fall?
Not having to peel my sweaty dress from the backs of my legs when getting out of a cab.