Industry Insiders: Julie Houts

INDUSTRY INSIDERS IS A SERIES DEDICATED TO GIVING MICHIGAN STATE STUDENTS AN EYE INTO THE FASHION, BEAUTY AND ART INDUSTRY.

Julie Houts is an illustrator and former J.Crew designer who somehow has the ability to see straight into our souls. Don’t believe us? Check out her Instagram. She’s made illustrating her full-time job as of late, thanks to her nearly 200,000 followers and her book titled Literally Me. She talked to us a bit about creativity, the fashion industry and how social media is changing the game.

Photo credit to Julie Houts. Picture from her Instagram page.

Q: To begin, how did you get where are you are today?

“Professionally, I went to art school for painting at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago for two years before switching into fashion design there and eventually transferring to Parsons.  I graduated with a BFA in fashion design.  I worked briefly at Bill Blass as an assistant designer, before working at J.Crew for almost seven years.  Throughout my time at J.Crew, I posted drawings casually on Instagram just for a small following of my friends.  I slowly grew a following, and then in the past year, the account took off in a big way, and I began getting more work for illustration.  I signed a book deal, and soon after, started to try to figure out how to ease out of designing and into illustration full time.  I quit my job at J.Crew in May, and have been working on illustration since.”

Q: What was your experience like at Parsons? 

“The fashion design BFA program at Parsons was really demanding.  It was an intense experience.  A lot of not sleeping, a lot of pressure.  Looking back, it seems insane. It instills a certain work ethic that I think is valuable to one once working in the industry.  I think Parsons has become a bit of a brand itself, and I think for some people, that brand recognition means something when looking to hire a designer.” 

Q: Any advice for some Midwestern girls trying to break into the fashion world? 

“I think its important to get yourself to New York and get an internship.  I learned more about what it would mean to work through internships than I did through school.  I also was able to make connections that served me down the line.” 

Photo credit to Julie Houts. Picture from her Instagram page.

Q: What was it like to work for J. Crew, and in the fashion industry in general?

“I don’t work at J.Crew anymore, but I loved my time there.  I had a lot of internships throughout college, and saw first hand how much of a nightmare working in the industry could be.  Long hours, little pay, insane personalities, etc. All that.  J.Crew is a bit of a unicorn company in the sense that everyone is truly kind and fun to work with.  I think it came from great leadership.  Ego was something that was not really tolerated, top down. That isn’t always true in the industry, at least in my experience.” 

Q: How do you think social media is changing the art and fashion world? 

“I’m able to illustrate full-time now, freelance, because of Instagram, so for me, its been actually life-changing, however laughable that may seem.”

“Beyond that, I’ve just noticed that companies are sometimes struggling to reach their customers in a way that feels authentic and natural.  I think the rise of social media has created a culture of accessibility that fashion companies have to respond to now in a way that was never demanded before.” 

Photo credit to Julie Houts. Picture from her Instagram page.

Q: Where do you find inspiration? 

“My friends, books, just looking around.” 

Q: What does your creative process look like?

“I usually have a conversation or read something which will spark an idea.  If I can, I’ll sit down immediately and draw it out.  If I don’t have the time, or I can’t draw, I’ll take a note for later.  Some drawings come easily, others take more time for whatever reason.  Once I’ve decided something is finished, I don’t usually look at it again.” 

Photo credit to Julie Houts. Picture from her Instagram page.

Q: What does success look like to you?

“For me, it changes daily. It’s a shifting marker.  The second I achieve any measure of success; the marker moves to some further distant point.” 

Q: Who are some artists, designers, or illustrators, you admire? 

“I’ve recently become represented by Illustration Division, an agency here in New York.  I respect the work of all the other illustrators in the agency.  I’m so humbled to be counted among them.  I always loved David Downton, Kenneth Paul Block, William Steig, Rene Gruau… there’s a long list!”

Thank you, Julie, for speaking with us, and make sure you shoot her (@jooleeloren) a follow on the ‘gram!

Allison Fargo

Leave a Reply