The LA-based fashion illustrator talks about her new direction.
The LA-based fashion illustrator talks about her new direction.
Text: Hannah Hightman
In 2015 Vogue declared Jeanette Getrost a fashion “it-girl.” With clients like Chanel and Dior, Getrost remains one of the most well-known fashion illustrators of the past decade. She has a dedicated fan base (which she meticulously built); her IG account boasts over 100k followers. But, over the past year, Getrost’s art has evolved beyond the title of fashion illustrator or social media superstar — or titles in general, for that matter.
“You’re catching me at an interesting time in my life. In a good way,” she said. The way she converses feels a bit like her art, ethereal, gracefully floating from one position to the next, ephemeral, but with a lasting impact. Indeed, her art has changed. While her illustration work was bold and vivaciously minimalist, using every stroke of the pen to its fullest potential, the paintings that occupy her Instagram grid now feel more introspective, more methodical, quieter in their power, but also demurely joyful. “I’m probably the happiest I’ve ever been,” she laughed. And it shows in her work. “I feel like I’m coming out of an incubation period, in a way, where my work has shifted from what I was originally known to do, fashion illustration,” she mused.
Getrost’s career trajectory almost seems like the stuff of fairytales, but that’s underselling her talent. She’s mostly self-taught. She went to school for journalism, not art. “I went to city college first because I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do. And then it was one of those things, where I was told I couldn’t make money [through art.]” Nonetheless, she always had a natural affinity for art and fashion, even when she was unsure if she could make a career out of it. “I’m such a perfectionist, and I really love studying. I didn’t go to art school, but I studied a lot of painters.” She was inspired by the fashion on various TV shows, including I Love Lucy. At first, she sketched clothing without incentive, without even realizing it was a career option. Even after rising to prominence as a fashion illustrator, Getrost was hesitant to call herself an artist. “I feel like Imposter Syndrome affects so many of us,” she said. “I always wanted to be a painter, but I was always a little bit afraid of it. I started oil painting last year and it was a new medium for me.” Now her oil paintings are what she’s most proud of.
Even though Getrost admits she owes most of her opportunities to Instagram and social media, it would discredit her work ethic to say she was an Instagram sensation. Her followers didn’t come out of nowhere; they came on the heels of years of hard work. “I was on Instagram all day, trying to reach people,” she said. Though there is still the perception that success on social media is effortless, gaining a faithful audience is not an easy matter. Getrost found the process of marketing herself on social media to be particularly harrowing. “Looking back, I don’t think I was doing anything to stay grounded while I was on social media.”
Her work, in regards to Instagram did pay off though. Getrost started off taking smaller gigs, and as she built her following, bigger brands and publications began to take notice, which eventually spurred the aforementioned Vogue article. When asked about if she thought the title of it-girl was fitting, she laughed. “Can you imagine if I was like, ‘Yes, I do think it fits!’” she exclaimed. “To have a publication like Vogue call you that, that’s huge. I mean, I do love fashion and experimenting with my personal style.” But Getrost’s newfound fame also raised several personal questions. “It was scary, because when your dream becomes your job, is it really your passion anymore?” she pondered. Getrost is happy to be known as a fashion illustrator, with only amicable things to say about her clients, but she also described how her illustration work began to feel a bit impersonal. “As grateful as I am for all the opportunities I’ve had over the years, about a year ago, I started to feel a little detached from the work,” she said. “But it was really that I was looking to create differently.” Getrost is entering a new phase in her career. “I’ve been really into painting lately, and I’ve kind of turned my apartment into my art project. I’ve been doing interior paintings and things like that, looking to live my life a bit more beautifully and creating based on those impulses,” she said.
Attention on social media comes at the cost of the fear of being pigeonholed. The plight of those who have garnered supporters through a very specific style is whether or not their audience will stick around if that style changes. But Getrost’s audience welcomed her newer work, despite her fears that they wouldn’t. “It was terrifying at first,” she remembered. “But I’ve gotten mostly positive feedback.” It’s unsurprising. Getrost’s latest pieces are arguably her best, mixing the elegance of her previous work with a distinctive rawness and truth.
Getrost hasn’t abandoned fashion illustration completely. “I still need a paycheck. Last month, I shot a commercial in New York, because they needed someone to do fashion illustration. It’s like playing a part in a way, which is kinda fun to do.” There are some parallels between Getrost’s fashion illustrations and her paintings, too. Both can be seen as a celebration of feminine power, from the artful silhouettes of her sketches that embrace the female form to the delicate detailing of an earring or a shirt sleeve in her paintings. When this idea was mentioned, she seemed surprised. “I hadn’t heard that before, but that makes me very happy,” she said. “I actually used to struggle with leaning into my femininity. Looking back, I think there was a part of me that feared I wasn’t going to be taken seriously as a woman working predominantly in fashion and beauty.” She also expressed the slightest bit of guilt towards her love of beauty. “I also just love beautiful things, and sometimes I wonder about that.” In time, however, Getrost has embraced her feminine identity. “The older I’ve gotten, I believe there is so much strength and honesty in the vulnerability that comes with being in one’s feminine. I’ve become softer as an individual and feel more confident with my vision and intention of bringing beauty into the world.”
Getrost’s latest work is, in many ways, the resolution of a personal conflict, the conflict of whether or not she was an artist, whether or not she had to do what was expected of her, whether or not she could be feminine and powerful, whether or not she could live a beautiful life without being frivolous or vain. She answered these questions beautifully through her work, which is both revelatory and still inquisitive. “I’m exploring and creating works that feel honest to me. I’m embracing this shift. That’s where I’m at right now.”