Womenswear designer turned fashion illustrator Julie Houts has an impressive talent for capturing the darkest inner monologues of modern women with vivid accuracy. She is the mastermind behind cult-followed Instagram account @jooleeloren, book Literally Me, and most recently, brings her signature style of illustration to On Pedder in celebration of their Spring Summer 2019 collection.
Read on to discover more about what makes her tick.
Text: Bridget Barnett | Illustrations: Julie Houts
1. Where are you, while writing the answers to these questions?
“I’m at my desk in my studio which is the very narrow second bedroom of my apartment in Brooklyn, New York.
2. What is your morning wake-up ritual?
“My boyfriend wakes me up when he leaves for work in the morning. He brings me a cup of coffee. Most often I go back to sleep and wake up to cold coffee an hour later. Some mornings I actually get up and have coffee in bed while checking emails and Instagram. Essentially just building up my reserves of anxiety for the day ahead before I even set my feet on the ground. Some mornings I’ll just go straight into my desk and begin working in my pyjamas and won’t stand up again until 3pm to have lunch and possibly brush my teeth and look in a mirror. Other mornings, I’ll get dressed right away for meetings, or just because. There really is no constant every morning – except coffee!”
3. What is the most interesting thing you’ve seen or read this week?
“I saw a white cat nap in a very compelling way last night.”
4. Your art provides an escape from our escapism-filled Instagram feed, and makes people feel better about how they feel and think. Was this the goal when you started out in 2011?
“No, not at all. I was working full-time at J.Crew as a womenswear designer. I kept illustration as a side-hobby, and I’d just make illustrations on my lunch break for fun, and post them for my very small following of friends. The account grew over time into what it is today. It’s different from 2011, but I’m very grateful! I was able to quit my design job to pursue illustration and writing full-time as a result of Instagram. I could have never imagined that in 2011.”
5. Your account tackles everything from fashion to feminism, and corporate politics. Which issues are your favourite to observe?
“I don’t have a favourite topic – I enjoy making an illustration when there’s energy behind it. When I really feel like I must, must, must get the illustration finished, or figure out a way to communicate the message ASAP, then usually I enjoy the process and the drawing turns out well. I don’t enjoy the process when I’m just sitting for hours, trying to wring a drawing out of myself.”
6. Literally Me aside, what books do you think should everyone read?
“I can’t pick favourites! I’m a big fan of the classics. I try to read a balance of new fiction and classics. For humour, I love George Saunders, David Sedaris, Nora Ephron. I love this book called The Presentation of the Self in Everyday by Erving Goffman. It’s a sociology book and sort of dense but very interesting. I’m kind of all over the place.”
7. What are your impressions of Hong Kong? Have you been, and were those local snacks a bit bizarre for you?
I have not been! I’d love to go. I love all snacks!
8. What places in New York inspire you the most, and are there any places in the city that are particularly great for observing modern life?
“I love to walk around my neighbourhood in Carroll Gardens. I really love the Upper East Side, where I used to live, which many do not understand. If I’m ever feeling sort of down or flat, I go up there for a day to walk around and pop in consignment and thrift shops, go to the park and read, or go to a museum. In terms of people watching, I think Central Park is great, or the subway. Really anywhere. The Sant Ambroeus uptown or shopping on the Upper East Side on a weekday morning for some fancy ladies. The East Village has changed a lot, but there are happily still some weirdos around. The Upper West Side has some good New York people watching as well. And, Zabar’s on a Sunday morning…”
9. Which other illustrators should we be paying attention to?
“A long list! @richard_haine and @bildonovan. I am biased but @illustrationdivision, my agency, represents the best illustrators! @alexfoxton, @loufratino, @damienfcuypers, @willmcphail4, @jordilabanda….. I am missing some!”
10. What Netflix shows are you watching at the moment?
“Finishing the last season of Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, Terrace House, The Great British Bake Off. I’m also curious about a new one called Russian Doll…”