Exclusive! Interview with a Fashion Illustrator Emily Brickel

Emily Brickel Fashion Illustrator Interview

Are you as obsessed with fashion illustration? I am stalking hundreds of talented artists on Instagram, but there is one girl that really stands out amongst them all. From the backstage of New York Fashion Week to street style icons and celebrities, sketches by a New York based illustrator Emily Brickel are always brilliant and chic. I am very excited to have Emily as the Red Lipstick Club guest as she shares her personal style, beauty, and career tips.

Emily Brickel Fashion Illustrator

When did you discover that fashion illustration was your passion? What inspired you to pursue a career in fashion illustration?

I learned how to draw from an early age and always had an affinity towards fashion, so fashion illustration was a natural extension. I was designing clothing on paper when I was really little, but I never knew that fashion illustration could be a career. I used to look at Papyrus cards with drawings on them and be like, “Wow, I can’t believe someone actually gets paid to draw this–that’s amazing!” It seemed like (and it is) the best job in the world.

I was always designing fashion, which is really the same thing, but the next step was creating a garment, as opposed to selling the artwork. One day I was really frustrated, because it seemed as though my first fashion line was not selling like I wanted it to. I was having a creative block and my mentor told me to just draw something, to draw anything. So I drew her as a thank you for helping me and she ended up loving the illustration so much, that she made it her CD album cover.

Low and behold my mentor was Gabrielle Bernstein, the New York Times best-selling author and she said to me, “Girl, we gotta put you to work.” I started getting noticed by word of mouth and it was then that I realized I could actually build a career with fashion illustration.

Illustrations by Emily Brickel

What are your main influences and inspirations in your work?

My main influences are things that feel like effortless glamour, from people on the street, vintage photographs to fashion editorials. I just love being inspired by the female body, gorgeous clothes and accessories, because my brain is always thinking of what would be flattering to wear, what would make me feel amazing, what do I want in my closet right now. I think when creating a fashion illustration, it’s super important to remember that it’s all about how you make people feel and bringing to life something that is only on paper.

It’s not that I have a specific muse, but more so about the feeling of an image that captures me. I am constantly in search of inspiration. I get inspired by different things daily. A lot of my inspiration comes from fashion bloggers’ photos, Pinterest or other websites, photographers and artists like Tommy Ton, TheCoveteur.com, Megan Hess, Izak Zenou and Jordi Labanda.

ChicSketch Emily Brickel

How’s your average day look like? How does it differ from a Fashion Week schedule?

Every day is different and I love that. Usually, at some point in the day I will be working on custom illustrations, talking to clients for direction and feedback on their projects, coming up with new marketing strategies and promotions for Chic Sketch, blogging, sketching and illustrating. I also spend a lot of time looking in stores, online, or at street style to find inspiration for my illustrations.

During Fashion Week though, I run on a completely different schedule from my average workday. Starting early in the morning I show up ready for all the craziness that is about to ensue, I thrive on the buzz in the air created by the excitement of the shows. Fashion shows are just about my favorite thing in the world. Backstage I capture the excitement and process of getting the models dressed and ready for the shows. I do quick fashion sketches of the models and try to get the details of all the garments. After a day of shows are over, I head back to the office to polish up some of the sketches from the day, scan them in, post on social media, blog about it, catch up on my work like private commissions, emails, phone calls and responding to any inquiries. Fashion Week is the craziest week, but it generates so much inspiration for me for months to come!

LA Swim Week by Chic Sketch

Who are the celebrities you have worked with? What did you like the most about this experience?

In the past I have done commissioned drawings for celebrities including Nicki Minaj, Mariah Carey, Nick Cannon, and New York Times best-selling author, Gabrielle Bernstein. I have also worked with Kim Kardashian and Lady Gaga doing creative direction for Appetizer Mobile, working to create the look and feel of their apps. They all were super comfortable expressing who they were through their clothes and poses, and that made for some really amazing results. Celebs often get bad wraps, but I really love working with them, because a lot of the time they have a really creative and out of the box view on how they want to be portrayed.

fashion illustrator Emily Brickel

What are some of the perks of your job? What are the challenges?

I would definitely say that fashion and drawing are two of my favorite things, so working as a fashion illustrator is pretty much a dream come true. Looking at fashion websites, attending events and fashion shows, as well as getting gifted beautiful fashion and accessories are huge perks of the job. Also, since launching Chic Sketch, I work in collaboration with my husband a lot more, so I get to spend time with him both at home and at work.

For the challenges, when I work at runway shows, it can get a bit hectic, but it’s the best kind of hectic. I’ll be holding my marker kit and paper pad, standing backstage in the middle of the hustle and bustle of the fashion shows, and sometimes I only have a few seconds to capture the look of the models, but at the end of the day I feel like the pressure helps me do some of my best work.

Fashion illustration by Emily Brickel

What are some of your most favorite projects you worked on and why?

One of my favorite projects was a larger-than-life size fashion illustration of a couple shopping that is the front window display at Bene Rialto, a new and chic retail shop that is right off 5th Ave. I love the team there and it was amazing to follow in the footsteps of one of my fashion illustration idols Izak Zenou, the famed fashion illustrator whose work is all over Henri Bendel. Another favorite project was co-creating Chic Sketch with my husband Jordan Edelson. It was really exciting to create this app where we can take fashion sketches to the masses.

Emily Brickel Bene Rialto Illustration

What advice would you offer to those wanting to begin a career in fashion illustration?

I would say just start drawing and get your illustrations out there on social media. There are so many opportunities for your work to go viral and you just have to create the content. People will start noticing.


How can you describe your personal style? What’s your signature look?

Hmm… that’s such a tough question! I absolutely adore all things fashion, so categorizing my personal style feels almost impossible. If I had to come up with something though, I would say that my look is minimal, timeless, feminine and chic. I tend to gravitate towards figure-flattering silhouettes – often in black, white or nude – and then turn up the chic by accessorizing with fun shoes, bags, and statement jewelry pieces. I think it’s important to be aware of new trends and styles, but to always dress for your body and personality. It’s always better to go with what makes you feel great than to just go with what’s hot.


Emily Brickel Exclusive Interview

Emily shops at… Saks Fifth Avenue, Bene Rialto, ASOS, Revolve Clothing,  Zara, Necessary Clothing and anything online (it’s addicting).

Emily’s favorite designers of…

Dresses: Elie Saab, Giambattista Valli, Philipp Plein, Diane Von Furstenbergicon, BCBGMAXAZRIA, and ASOS.

Shoes: Christian Louboutinicon, Valentinoicon, Brian Atwood, and Saint Laurent.

Outerwear: Chloeicon, Gucci, Saint Laurenticon, Zara, and Andrew Marcicon.

Jewelry: I love anything with an evil eye from Europe, also Swarovski, Michael Korsicon, Jennifer Fisher, Chloe and Isabel.

Handbags: Chanel, Balenciaga, and Edie Parker.

Emily Brickel's favorite beauty picks

one // two // three // four // five // six // seven // eight

What is your skincare routine?

I wash my face with Alba Botanicals and Vichy Purete Thermaleicon. It’s a cleansing milk, toner and makeup remover in one. I try to vary it up depending on how my skin is behaving. I love Biore Blemish Fighting Ice Cleanser with salicylic acid and Jack Black Energizing Face Buff Scrub with vitamin c & menthol. It’s actually a men’s product but I love the smell and how deep it cleans. Two to three times a week I put on a mask of organic honey for 20 minutes and I swear it is the best skin discovery I ever made. I did this right before my wedding for three months and I had the smoothest skin I ever had in my life. For moisturizer I apply a variation of Vichy Liftactiv Retinol HA Concentrate or day cream. They are pricy but work wonders. I also love Dior Hydra Life Pro-Youth Protective Crème with sunscreen, but my must have product is unrefined virgin coconut oil that I slather on my face, neck and hands every night before bed. My husband hates it, but it works wonders.

What’s your favorite shade of lipstick?

MAC lipstick in Fauxicon and Milani Lipstick in Nude Crème #26, it’s a drugstore find and I love the smell. I wear it with lip liner by Jordana in Tawny.

What are your five go-to beauty products and why?

I would say, Maybelline Fit Me foundation and concealer, any black gel eyeliner, Rimmel Volume Accelerator Mascara and Nars bronzer/ blush duo in Orgasm and Laguna. I can’t forget the Urban Decay Naked 3icon eye shadow palette — it can create any look from day to night and always looks amazing.


Chic Sketch App Review

How did you come out with the idea of Chic Sketch app and how long did it take to make this idea happen?

Chic Sketch is an app that turns your latest look into a custom fashion sketch that’s obsessively instagramable. Jordan has always supported my work and me, and he began coming to the fashion events like trunk shows and launch parties that I got booked to live illustrate at. Seeing my work and the reactions people had to the sketches I was doing of them, he thought that we had to make an app that got my sketches out to the masses, and thus Chic Sketch was born. Chic Sketch would give access to fashion sketches to anyone with a smartphone, not just fashion insiders. Since we wanted to make sure the app was ready and launched by fashion week of February 2015, the team at Appetizer Mobile and I fast tracked and prioritized this app and had it ready in about three months.

Chic Sketch APP Emily Brickel

How exactly does Chic Sketch work? Who actually draws the illustration and how long does it take to receive your order?

With Chic Sketch, users upload pictures of themselves to the app, and for just under $10 per sketch, Chic Sketch artists quickly sketch the pictures into a highly stylized fashion sketch. These custom drawings are returned to the user typically within a few hours, depending on the number of people who have placed orders ahead of them. I am the lead fashion illustrator, but we also have a team of 3-4 super talented artists personally vetted by me, who create the amazing sketches for the app.

What are some of the tips on how to pose for the perfect fashion sketch?

When I am illustrating for a client I always encourage them to be natural and pose how they want to be drawn, so in that sense there really isn’t a “perfect pose.” I think that my job is a lot about making people feel comfortable and capturing their spirit, so I really love it when a guest showcases their personality with a fun pose. As an illustrator, the most frequent request I get is to make my clients look thinner, so I always do my best to slim and elongate. For Chic Sketch, the best image to submit would probably be a full-length body shot, so our artists can capture the whole fashion look from head to toe, but our artists can turn just about any picture into a beautiful custom sketch.

Photo credit via @EmilyBrickel and emilybrickel.com.

  • I do love this series of yours, Katya. It’s so lovely to read the interview because you ask one of the best questions. She seems really sweet and wow, what a great job to work in!

    Shireen | Reflection of Sanity

  • GoFashiondeals

    Great post! Love all the sketches! So much detail. Love your interviews.

  • So cool! I had the chance to meet Emily and get myself sketched when her app first launched!


  • What a cool interview! She is really talented! She seems like such a sweet and humble woman!

    Denise | Fashion Love Letters

  • Amanda Amaya

    She listed such a nice mist of drugstore and highend beauty products! I’ll have to try some of them. I great read as always, Katya!