LA FEMME JOJO
Johanna Armstrong and I met when she came on board as an art director when I was working as a makeup artist at Gilt.com in NYC. When I saw her illustrations I truly wanted to learn the La Femme JoJo way of painting with watercolors.
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Art director at Kenneth Cole by day, illustrating La Femme Jojo by night
- What is your career highlight? How did you make it happen?
It was at a time when I wanted to shift my career from graphic design to the art direction of fashion photography. I had an interview for a Photo Art Director role and part of the interview process was to hire me for a day to test out my skills on set. I always refer to it as my ‘interview audition’ because I had to perform and impress them to get the job!
After years of freelancing in NYC, I was well conditioned to show up and be ready for anything. I spent a year practicing test shoots on weekends with friends to build a portfolio; however, I never was actually hired to art direct a photo shoot before then (shhh!). That was my big moment. A door of opportunity cracked open for me and that was my chance to kick it open to show them that I could do it.
I was extremely nervous on the day of the shoot but I stayed calm and followed my instincts. My heart was racing the whole time because I knew it was my big chance to art direct the hell out of that shoot. It was a real fake-it-till-you-make-it moment. And I made it!
- Career Low point? What did you learn from it?
I was in a position that was overloaded with responsibility and it gradually spilled over into my personal life to the point where I was expected to work evenings and weekends on the regular. I could no longer define where the work/life balance line was drawn because there was no line anymore. I was rapidly becoming burnt out from an endless workload and I lost all sense of creativity from the environment I was in. And because I was working so much, I didn’t have the energy to properly take care of myself to eat well, exercise or get enough sleep. It got to a point where I felt like I didn’t know myself anymore and after all the years of hard work, it was truly heart-breaking to be living that kind of life.
I was fortunate enough to find an exit from that job with a unique freelance project that allowed me to work from home this year. And thus, I was able to focus on healing myself to get back on track with who I am and think about where I want to be next.
Although it was a difficult experience, it truly changed my perspective on my career. I learned that no job is worth sacrificing your personal happiness (and sanity) and you must protect yourself at all costs. It made me much more critical when searching for my next opportunity to be sure that it would be the right fit for me. My best interviewing tip is to remember that you are also interviewing the company to see if you want to work for them! It is incredibly important to work with people who recognize your value and respect you as a highly-skilled professional.
- What’s in your personal makeup bag?
For Beauty, I have decided to be more high maintenance and properly take care of my skin. To cleanse, I use Lancôme’s eye makeup remover and my own DIY cleansing oil. I exfoliate with OZ Naturals Ancient Orient Rice Enzyme Dermafoliant. I recently switched over to Aesop products because I love the idea of skincare with a base of essential oils to benefit your skin. I am currently testing out the Parsley Seed Facial Cleanser, B & Tea Balancing Toner and Parsley Seed Anti-Oxidant Facial Treatment (great results so far!). I have been experimenting with essential oils and make my own tea tree oil blend to dot on blemishes. After that, I mist with Heritage Store’s Rosewater and moisturize with Embroylisse Lait-Crème Concentrate and Soin Lissant Contour des Yeux eye cream. And before I head out the door, I’ll mist myself with a Jo Malone perfume: Red Roses in the Summer and Oud & Bergamot in the Winter.
For Makeup, I wanted to buy a whole new line and couldn’t possibly ignore all the rave reviews of Rhianna’s Fenty Beauty line. I use Pro Filt’r Instant Retouch Primer, Pro Filt’r Soft Matte Longwear Foundation and Match Stix Matte Skinstick as a concealer. I found a brilliant Oil Control Primer at a little store in Soho called Too Cool for School. I dot under my eye with RMS Beauty’s Un Cover-Up when I really need it (which is always). To finish, I dust my face with the Fenty Beauty Invisimatte Blotting Powder and I am set for the day. I also swipe NARS Orgasm blush on my cheekbones and dot on some of Glossier’s dreamy Haloscope highlighter. I never leave the house without my eyebrows on! I love NARS Brow Perfector in Caucase. I don’t wear much eyeshadow but I have a nice palette from Le Métier de Beauté. From there, I like Lancôme eyeliner in a dark brown or Marc Jacobs eyeliner in black. And of course, a classic mascara like Maybelline Great Lash. I don’t often wear lipstick but if I do, it has to be MAC’s Ruby Woo that looks great on everyone. Or, a Clinique Chubby Stick is great to throw in my purse. I can’t live without my C.O. Bigelow Mentha lip gloss.
- What makeup technique do you wish you could perfect for yourself?
I wish I could do a fantastic smokey eye instead of ending up looking like a panda bear when I try!
- Who is your dream client?
Anyone who will pay me! Haha just kidding. As a creative professional, I am always trying to evolve and I have discovered so many interesting things on my journey, especially the past 5 years in NYC. Always in the world of fashion— I was a Graphic Designer who turned into an Art Director, who is now dabbling with illustration on the side. I don’t have a dream client quite yet because I am still dreaming up La Femme Jojo and working on developing my style.
- What’s next in fashion and beauty illustration?
I would say that there will be a lot more illustration out there. I believe there is more of an interest in illustration these days because our lives are so overly saturated with imagery through the daily use of social media. The digital age has brought us some incredible fashion photography, but perhaps the eye needs a moment to rest? Illustration is very authentic and playful and many brands have been dialing into that. There are a number of rising fashion illustrators who have worked on some wonderfully creative campaigns for fashion brands. I think we will be seeing more illustration collaborations in the future and I truly hope so because I want to be a part of it someday!
- Favorite Luxury beauty product?
Vinoperfect Radiance Serum by Caudalie. It does wonders to boost skin tone and even out my complexion after breakouts. Total luxury.
- Favorite Inexpensive beauty product?
You can’t go wrong with the drugstore favorite, Great Lash mascara by Maybelline. It still comes in the same pink and green tube from when I was a teenager. It’s a classic and does the trick.
- If you could change anything in the fashion or beauty industry what would it be?
Anything? Many things! The most important thing would be for designers to stop using underweight models on the runway, campaigns and e-commerce sites. There have been some small movements of brands committing to not booking extremely thin models, but there is still a long way to go. The industry needs to change the way they represent women because we come in all sizes! I am also passionate about a greater diversity being represented in the industry. I love the brands making statements by celebrating the diversity of body, race, age and gender. We need more of it!
- What are your favorite websites to go to for inspiration?
Pinterest would have to be my #1 Go-To for finding inspiration. I have a ritual of starting my mornings with a cup of tea and scrolling through my feed. After all these years (I was an early Pinner when it launched), my Pinterest account is pretty legit. I have endless inspiration for fashion, food, art, and everything in-between. I think it is a great tool to discover the best of what is on the internet. I might be addicted to it!
- Favorite shop in LA, NY, London and Paris?
LA — To be determined! I haven’t had the chance to properly visit, just a 48-hour whirlwind trip for a photo shoot.
NYC — ABC Carpet & Home. It is such a delightful store that you can get lost in looking at all the wonderful objects. I always pop in for some inspiration when I pass by and it is exceptionally magical at Christmastime. So much glitter!
London — Magma Books. It is a treasure trove of fashion magazines and books. It has everything wonderful for art, design and culture. I never make it out of there without spending a ton of money.
Paris — Annick Goutal. When in Paris, this is where you must go to buy the most luxurious perfume. It is worth the price.
- You can only use 3 makeup products for the rest of your life, what are they?
Oh dear. Well, first would have to be my NARS eyebrow pencil because those brows don’t draw on themselves! After that, it would have to be a nice mascara and my can’t-live-without mint lip gloss from C.O. Bigelow. It would be rough, but I suppose could survive with only those 3.
- What’s your secret talent?
Hmm… maybe not such a secret among my friends and husband but I think I am quite talented at cooking. Actually, I think I’m an amazing chef! Haha. I love cooking and eating so it is a win-win for me. It is a very meditative process and I love to experiment with new ingredients. I never follow a recipe, I’m too much of a rebel.
- What’s your ultimate career goal?
I have been quite introspective as I move towards 10 years of my career. I spent these years working extremely hard to build up my experience and skillset to become a very strong Art Director and grow my portfolio. I freelanced my first few years in New York and took a lot of risks so I could work on exciting projects and learn new things. It has ultimately lead me to an amazing new role and I look forward to all that I will learn and create there.
At the end of the day, I want to bring more creativity to my work and challenge myself to think in new and innovative ways. I would like to explore more of my own experimental personal projects and find a way to shift my career towards them down the road. I think that is why I created La Femme Jojo a few years ago to be more playful and get back to being more artistic with my work.
- How will you make it happen?
I have a plan! I enrolled in the Mastered Art Direction course for next year and I cannot wait to start that journey of creative exploration. I have worked for a lot of different brands but after all these years, I feel like I have not had the opportunity to develop my own personal point of view. I found my way into the art direction of fashion without much mentorship and I know the course is going to be incredible for me.
The other part of my plan is to really dig in and develop my illustration style. There is so much more I would like to explore to take my drawing to the next level. I have been hatching a plan for my own ‘drawing boot camp’ to try new things and I might even take a drawing class if I find the right one. Overall, my goal is to take all my skills of art direction and illustration to continue to push myself to a more creative, expressive path. Onward and upward.