Artist Profile: Valfre
The trajectory for young internet-native artists, especially those based in LA, seems to follow a repeating track: from artist, to social media maven, to brand. Making her way from Tijuana to LA on an expired tourist visa was just one of Valfré’s mountains to climb. Through her persistence and dedication, Valfré constructed a global fashion and social media empire (currently approaching a million followers). Her organic success lead to the development of a comprehensive brand: a true American dream story. A self-made girlboss.
Over the past couple years, internet-native artist Ilse Valfré has undergone an evolution from her Archie comic, Frida Kahlo inspired illustrations to her vintage-inspired fashion designs. With her wit, curiosity and whimsicality, her successful brand has sprouted from social media popularity to quirky clothing and accessories (distributed in 28 countries, in over 250 stores worldwide), taking her from Tumblr to Forbes. Her newest fashion line has given way for more sophisticated graphic heavy apparel, but the augmented themes remain the same: celebrating women through music, art, nostalgia and fashion.
Did you move to L.A. for personal or professional reasons? How has your relationship to the city changed since you first moved here?
Both! My then boyfriend, now husband / business partner is pretty much from L.A. As for professional reasons, Los Ángeles is the city of dreams and opportunities. If you work hard, this city is very giving. I tried in other places but no luck. Seems like life wanted me to be here. I just made a decision to focus on my craft full-time and through a lot trial and error, things started to fall into place.
What’s your preferred medium? Are you still a pen to paper type of gal or do you use digital illustration tools?
I still draw with pen and pencil. I like to color things by hand and then scan them and saturate the colors digitally.
How important is fashion when it comes to your illustrations?
Very… I like to incorporate things into my artwork that inspire me personally. Fashion is definitely up there towards the top of the list.
What’s your wardrobe strategy? What would we find you wearing on a typical L.A. day?
I usually either wear jeans or dresses but right now I’m all about statement jackets.
Favorite L.A. shops?
American Rag, Iguana Vintage and the Rose Bowl Flea Market.
Who is your style icon?
Always and forever Chloe Sevengy. She is just so effortlessly cool.
What does your free time consist of?
Spending time with my family and our dog Shiloh. Hiking and traveling to new places whenever possible.
Have your babies influenced your art?
Definitely. Kids have a pure quality and they’re so innocent and unaware of judgment. It’s this freedom that’s so addictive to be around and I think it’s inspired me to let go and be a little more carefree with my creative process.
Your site is now a lot more than e-commerce. Why is it important to you to grow the community aspect of Valfré?
In this day and age, people don’t like being sold. They want to discover naturally and through channels that they trust. The DNA of Valfré is deeply rooted in art, fashion and music and we love to share these things with our community. Therefore it’s a lot more about the experience rather than just shopping at another e-commerce shop.
Your livelihood and passion is about creating and imagination. What boils your inspiration? How do you get your juices flowing?
It just happens when it happens. Some days I can design a whole collection within a few hours or do 5 drawings with no problem but some days I get writer's block. Creating for me is a mystery and after all these years I’m still trying to figure it out. I once heard a quote that stuck me " inspiration has never kissed me, it's just my brain" and I couldn’t agree more.
How has your relationship to social media changed over the years?
My social media started out as dairy of me, my friends and of course my drawings. Since we launched the company, I’ve decided to take myself out of the equation and just focus in on the art and the brand. I prefer it this way.
What’s the key to a successful Instagram?
It’s important to showcase the lifestyle and to not be too salesy. Figure out what your niche is and focus on it. Content is key and the more substance your posts have, the more followers you’ll get.
Your Valfré girls have a simultaneous strength and softness— your brand encompasses femininity in a very physical form- how would you describe femininity?
To me, it’s just all about celebrating who we are as women. The good, the bad and the sometimes cray cray.
Explain the Valfré dolls in 3 words
Witty, humoristic and feminine.
In our uneasy political environment, how important is it to make a statement with your brand? There is an obvious feminist undertone to your work- what other issues are important to you?
For us, we try to keep things positive and focus on supporting causes rather than launching smear campaigns. Beyond female-based causes, we like to support orphanages and environmental and immigration charities.
What was the last trip you went on that inspired you?
I just went to Japan and was blown away. The culture, food and fashion was out of this world. The craziest thing was just how safe it was. I saw 7 year old kids riding the subway to school by themselves. The level of respect that they show for each other there is next level and it’s wonderful to see that this still exists somewhere in the world.
Are there any exterior influences such as personal relationships, musical discoveries, pop culture, etc that you find trickle into your designs and drawings?
My husband, he is someone I admire a lot. He’s really creative and driven and has inspired me to be a better business woman. He’s also my go to source for new music.
Written by Kirsten Judson