Julie Houts Is Basically Illustrating Your Life

Julie Houts aka @jooleeloren is a womenswear designer by day, and creates the most relatable and hilarious illustrations by night. Her Instagram account is loved by countless celebrities and fashion industry insiders.

Julie manages to roast all 20-something while somehow making us actually enjoy it?!?!?!? We spoke to Julie about working for J.Crew, her favorite place to people watch in NYC, and her upcoming plans now that she’s illustrating full-time!

Why did you transfer from The School of the Art Institute of Chicago to Parsons The New School for Design in New York?

I initially went to SAIC for painting before switching into fashion design. At the time, the program at SAIC felt more conceptually driven rather than industry driven. I was always really focused on having a job. In addition to being in New York and having the ability to intern with different companies, Parsons also had a reputation for being more industry-driven. I felt like my portfolio and internship experience would be stronger graduating from there as opposed to SAIC.

In the end, I’m glad I went to both. SAIC gave me a really strong conceptual backbone that I’m not sure I would have developed at Parsons. Parsons gave me a really polished portfolio and exposure to many internship experiences.

How important was your art and design education for your career and freelancing?

I don’t think I’d have been able to get a job without the education I had. I think it is really hard to get your foot in the door without having a degree. In terms of illustration, I’m not sure. I learned about fashion illustration at school, and developed an interest in it through studying it,  though I think I might have found it on my own anyway.

You’re a J.Crew womenswear designer by day, and a freelancer by night, take us through a typical day in the life.

I am actually finishing up at J.Crew in the next couple weeks in order to freelance full-time! But it has been my life for almost seven years.

A typical day is waking up around 6:45 and doing a Pilates class if I’m being a real go-getter. More often than not, it’s waking up at 6:50 with the intention of going to a Pilates class and then sleeping through it.

I get to work around 9:30, and from that point on, the day is varied. Some days I will be in a fitting for a couple hours, and then in meetings all day. Other days I’ll just be at my desk sketching for most of the day, answering emails intermittently. Sometimes it’s about working on fabric developments for the next season, or working on production issues for bulk styles. The fact that it’s so varied is what has made it interesting to go to every day for so long.

Throughout the day, I’m always doodling. I have a stack of paper next to my keyboard, and while I’m on the phone or during downtime, I’ll sketch some ideas out quickly. If I like them, I’ll take them home with me to work on more. After work, if I don’t have a dinner or drinks planned, I’ll head home and park down on the couch and just work on illustrations until I’m ready for bed. Usually around midnight. Repeat repeat repeat…

How do you come up with material for your illustrations and the words that accompany them?

Everything is just based on my personal experience or something I’ve read or just observed over time. I don’t usually try to sit with any one drawing too long. I’m usually just trying to work through an idea in my head or to point out something that I’m bothered by.

How long does it take you to complete one illustration?

It depends! Sometimes everything just falls together perfectly and I can do one in fifteen minutes. Other times, I’ll be sketching and re-sketching a pose off and on all day long and still not really get it right. I’ve done work for clients that has taken weeks to complete. Rounds and rounds of edits and revisions.

Where is your favorite place in New York to go to find inspiration for your illustrations?

I always love going to the Upper East Side. I used to live up there for years before moving to Brooklyn, and I’m always happy to make the pilgrimage back up and people watch. A lot of looks, and a lot of good eavesdropping. It’s not always the best in terms of inspiration for illustration, but its nice little vacation at least.

I read somewhere that you didn’t plan on becoming a fashion designer at all. What did you want to do? What made the switch?

I thought I wanted to be a psychiatrist in high school.  I think I just decided it one day, and then never questioned it.

I had a friend in high school who was also in my AP Studio class who knew she wanted to be a fashion designer and go to SAIC. I didn’t even know people went to school for fashion design, but was always interested in fashion. I just didn’t think I could actually DO that as a career. It seemed too impractical in some way.

I had to submit my portfolio to some art schools for judging for AP credit, and SAIC accepted me based on my painting portfolio. It was a total surprise. I think at that moment I just pretty quickly decided I would be a painter or a fashion designer. My parents were obviously not pleased, but thankfully they let me go in the end.

Who are your muses?

My friends.

What are the most annoying clichés you take part in?

Any, all. I feel like I’m kind of just one big walking, talking, guzzling cliché.

What do you do to get shit done when you’re not feeling creative?

Take a walk or something. I’m trying to get better at this. I’ve wasted a lot of time just sitting and sketching into an oblivion and making things that just suck because I’m so focused on my own output. Sometimes just physically getting up and moving around and coming back to the same thing will free up some mental space to work.

Obsessed with #nosebleeds rn

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What do you like to do when you’re not designing and drawing?

Normal boring stuff! See my friends, have dinner, drinks, movies, walks, museums…

What are you working on next?

I’m finishing up work on my first book at the moment! It’s called, Literally Me, and will be out at the end of October. I’m also working on an animated TV show with my best friend Katherine Bernard. Beyond that, I’m praying to everything holy that I can take on more jobs now that I’ll be freelancing full-time. I have rent to pay….! 🙂

Follow Julie on Instagram and pick up a print or 5 HERE (because, rent.)

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