Nicole Jarecz rejects the idea that you need to reside in one of the world’s fashion capitals in order to make a successful career as an illustrator. Although she sampled a slice of life in Paris for six years, Jarecz is Detroit-based and has never been busier. Illustration is her sole line of work which she splits between doing commission pieces, editorial work and live fashion sketching. Her varied client list includes Marie Claire, J Crew, Saks Fifth Avenue, Glamour, Roger Vivier, Fiat, Ford Motor Company, Chandon, Macy’s, and Neiman Marcus. She tells FashionUnited what a day in the life of a fashion illustrator looks like.
How did you choose illustration as a career?
I didn’t intentionally choose illustration as a career. It found its way to me in the most unexpected way. One of my high school art teachers noticed my talent for drawing during my senior year and said I should definitely check out the College for Creative Studies. Up until this point I never thought that someone could make illustration into a career. I thought what exactly is illustration? Long story short, I ended up going to CCS and studying illustration. I learned that it’s such an expansive field. Ultimately I fell in love with fashion illustration and that is the career I have today.
How did you make a name for yourself?
Ever since I moved back home to Detroit I feel like I’ve been able to establish myself. This has been largely due to the live sketching events I have brought to the community. There is a very small but very involved fashion community in Detroit that has allowed me to make a name for myself here.
Has being located far from a fashion capital such as NYC proved any hindrance to your career?
Not at all! It has been a blessing for my career to be in Detroit. I spent six amazing years living in Paris, the fashion capital of the world. It was so enriching to my life as an artist and for that I’m forever grateful. But it was a difficult time for my career. I think that the timing when I lived there was not right. I didn’t know what I wanted to do with my illustration career. I was young and starting a family as well. When I moved back to Detroit I thought it would be a fun idea to propose to some major luxury stores the idea of live sketching events. Everything took off from there. I offered something so unique and special to the community that nobody had done before. I was lucky in the sense that i was the first one in Detroit to offer live fashion sketching. Could I have done this in Paris? I think it would have been much more difficult because the big city is so saturated with artists and so many people wanting to make it in fashion. I’m lucky to call Detroit my home base.
Do you have an agent ?
Yes. I have an agent, Colagene, who represents me in Canada for editorial enquiries.
Do you follow a regular 9-5 schedule with weekends off ?
The great thing about what I do is I can make my own hours. Now that my kids are both in school I try to stay consistent and work in my office from 9-3 Monday-Friday. The work I do during the week can range from commission pieces to editorial to filming content for brands such as Faber-Castell and making my own content for my Instagram page. I often prep for live sketching events during the week: I cut paper to size, practice sketch (all the boring stuff!). My weekends are usually full of live sketching events. Now that my kids are on summer break I am taking most of the summer off to be with them. I am only booking live events for the summer. Illustration is great in my case because it allows me to be flexible for myself and for my family.
What qualities apart from talent do you think fashion illustrators should possess?
You can have all the talent in the world but that can mean nothing if you don’t possess other important qualities. I think that staying consistent is a big thing. You have to love what you do, not be afraid to fail, and realize that failing is an important process of learning and growing. As an illustrator you are always growing and evolving. As trends in fashion change so will your style of art. Don’t ever let anyone tell you that you need to have one particular style. It’s so important to experiment so that you don’t fall into a rut.
What is the favorite and least favorite part of what you do?
My favorite thing is that I simply love my job because I am doing something creative every single day. Yesterday, today and tomorrow always look different and I am always learning and growing as an artist. My least favorite thing is the hustle can be quite tiring at times. Sometimes I need a break from important business tools such as Instagram. I need to disconnect sometimes.
What is your idea of an ideal client or brief?
I love when the client is passionate about their vision and when it aligns with my own. The client may be very specific about what they want overall but still tell me to use my imagination and go with it. This is when the best work happens in my opinion. When the client has a vision but is open to your interpretation.
How important is a social media presence to your work?
Social media presence is so important. On my Instagram feed I post anything and everything I do from the smallest of sketches to large, detailed pieces. It’s my whole universe that I share and I can’t imagine being able to promote what I do without it. I have so many job offers through Instagram and it’s where I stay in touch with old and new clients as well as peers who work in the same field as I do.
Looking ahead how would you like your business to develop or evolve?
My business has grown so much this past year, especially with live sketching events. I would love for that area to grow even more. It seems like every weekend is booked with a different type of event. I love it. I’m hoping that next year I will be able to travel and bring my sketching services to other states. At some point it is my dream to go back to Paris and do some events there. I’d love to work on a more international basis in the future. You never know what the future holds!
Do you feel it is important to maintain experimentation and creative fulfillment while being a commercial illustrator?
100% yes! When I keep doing the same thing over and over again I start to feel depressed about it. It is so very important for me to create work for myself. I try to take time during the week to create something completely different even if I don’t show it on Instagram. It’s so important to experiment with different techniques or styles of illustration. You never know when this can be applied to your own work in the future.