An Interview With Fashion Illustrator, Julie Lee
The Rad Girls Interview Series is dedicated to uncovering the hidden stories behind the women who inspire us. While the outward style may have captured our attention, it is the talents of these incredible women that have captured our hearts. What curiosities lie beneath the perfectly coordinated outfit of the day? The GS LOVE Rad Girls Interview Series wants to find out.
The first thing that will capture your eye when meeting Julie Lee is her unmistakable sense of style. The Seoul-born, Ethiopian-raised beauty may quietly drift past you, but the vision of her sheer layers and brightly colored outfits will linger much longer.
You’ll catch yourself trying to steal another glance at how she managed to pair the latest corset belt with an oversized t-shirt into a work-appropriate mini-dress or how she’ll transform a button up denim dress into a perfectly fitted duster vest. It’s easy to find yourself asking, “How did she think of that?”
“Why be basic when you can be everything else?”
When asked about her personal style she replies in a sudden burst of unreserved amusement, “I never know how to answer these kinds of questions because I’m so all over the place. My friends link me to all these clothes saying “That’s so you,” “That’s so Julie.”
“So, I guess I emit a particular style when other people see the way I dress, but one thing is for sure — you will never see me dressed in a plain t-shirt and jeans. I try to avoid the basics. Why be basic when you can be everything else?
Current Fashion Obsessions: “bold, colorful tropical print jumpsuits and rompers & slit pieces – maxi palazzo pants and skirts with wide slit openings”
“Working at a fashion company I see first hand the upcoming trends and current styles that are trending. I would be lying if I said mainstream trends don’t have an ounce of influence in how I dress, but at the same time I end up buying and wearing clothes that most people avoid because it’s not easy to wear. I’m always on the lookout for avant-garde inspired pieces to add to my collection.”
What’s on Julie’s radar for S/S ‘17? “Bold, colorful tropical print jumpsuits and rompers & slit pants – from maxi palazzo pants/skirts with wide slit openings – whether they’re on the slit on the side, the back, or front!
The Beginnings of an Artist
Lee’s penchant for bold colors and the avant-garde doesn’t stop at her wardrobe. Elements of couture design — bold colors, intricate details, and embroidery —are found in her drawings and illustrations as well. But, it wasn’t until high school that Lee took her first class. “Well, I’ve always been one for arts and crafts. Making jewelry with my mom is one of my favorite memories growing up. I was always doodling or taking things apart or putting it back together to make something new.
“I didn’t realize the creative field was the direction I wanted to pursue until I took a class in high school. I realized how much I loved drawing, and even then I didn’t fully consider pursuing it. I wanted to simply learn more so I started taking classes at an art studio in Koreatown, Art Echo. Learning under the teacher there, Sang teacher, made me realize I didn’t want to do anything else but fashion.
“[I] learned everything from figure drawing, painting with different mediums: oil, acrylic, gouache, watercolor, charcoal, [to] rendering, creative thinking classes, 3D projects, and photoshop. Classes were intense, the critique sessions were intense, and there were A LOT of sleepless nights during those years . . . but those were the happiest moments if I think back to it. Being surrounded by like minded artists being led by a truly wonderful (but tough) teacher.
“It got so intense I actually got rid of my bed so I wouldn’t be tempted to sleep because I had so much homework.”
“A normal day attending Art Echo would go something like this: art classes started around 5 pm after school and went on until 9 – 10 pm. Through that, we would have some new material to learn and practice, receive in-class critique, get our homework checked and critiqued, and then receive more homework.
“Some of the students and I would pull all nighters in the studio and work on homework due the next day — as well as regular school homework. If I wasn’t pulling an all nighter, sometimes I would take a nap around sunrise on whatever was available; some slept on the small couch we had in the studio, or on top of their work tables, some curled up in their seats nodding off with a paintbrush— still moving on the canvas. And then, around 8 am, walk straight to school. Then the cycle repeats.
“It got so intense I actually got rid of my bed so I wouldn’t be tempted to sleep because I had so much homework. It was really intense to say the least, but through that I learned so much.”
Today you can find Lee reviving old sketches, working on her portfolio, and studying further towards fashion design and illustration when she’s not working her day job as an assistant buyer. She plans to add pattern making to her ever growing list of skills soon.
“I feel like Gouache is a combination of all the best features from the other paint mediums mashed into this perfect product. It’s fairly easy to use compared to the other mediums. Oil paint dries slow and it’s one of the hardest to learn, acrylic dries super fast so you have to work quickly, and watercolor … it’s hard to make corrections if you make a mistake.“
Has Los Angeles impacted your artwork?
“My art + direction I want to go heavily leans towards couture, costume-like, + traditional Korean dresses + Ethio prints and style. But the community I found in Los Angeles has definitely helped me go a step closer to the direction I want to go because of the creative people I have interacted with here and being able to see a diverse range in style and expression.
“In general I feel like a lot of creative minds flock over to Los Angeles. It’s a great culturally diverse center to connect with like minded individuals who are able to pitch in creative insight.“
Where can we find more of your work?
“I’m currently working on building an online portfolio through Instagram — my sketchbook pages, little projects I’ve worked on + working towards will be published there. I’ve always been hesitant and insecure about posting up my work . . . which is why it took me so long to decide to start this.
“I thought I would be able to start building up a page once I’m fully satisfied with my work, but… that is a process. I think it’s more important to show my journey towards progress & development in style instead of continuing to hide under this blanket of insecurity I have.”
Best advice to aspiring artists?
“Just two things: practice and confidence.
“Drawing/ painting are technical skills that you have to keep working at or else you become “rusty” and your skills deteriorate. And confidence is important because for me, this is what I lacked most when starting out. I was terrified of making mistakes and not being good enough. You need to make mistakes to be able to learn from them.”
You can find more of Julie Lee’s work and inspiration on the web here: http://reminisscent.tumblr.com
You can also find Julie’s work on her Instagram page: @Jewel_Lilies
Julie wears the Show Me Juniors Jumpsuit
Interview conducted by: Stephanie Fraide
Photos provided by: Tiffany Armstrong
The Rad Girls Interview Series is dedicated to uncovering the hidden stories of the women who inspire us. While her outward style may have captured our attention, it is the talents behind these incredible women that have captured our hearts. What curiosities lie beneath the perfectly coordinated outfit of the day? The GS LOVE Rad Girls Interview Series wants to find out.
Know a Rad Girl who NEEDS to be showcased? Email us with your nomination for a Rad Girl Interview at firstname.lastname@example.org!