Axelle Rose Zwartjes, freelance Illustrator

How did you get the international attention you got?
I lived in LA for two years, which was a great introduction to the international scene. Moving abroad is a great (and fun!) kickstarter for an international career.

In what way is Belgian creativity unique?
Even though we are raised in a small country and are challenged to work with small budgets, we manage to do worldly things. Maybe it’s because our mindset is not to be big, but different.

From what you observe, what do you think are the main differences between working in Belgium and abroad?
The biggest difference for me is personal time. My work life balance in Belgium feels more healthy. Personal time fuels the creative mind and I lost that a little bit abroad.

Who inspires you in this industry?
As an illustrator, fashion designers always inspire me. I can spend hours watching documentaries about their creative process. I love how Dries van Noten works with colours and prints. I once read in an article he finds inspiration in the things he finds ‘ugly’ but ends up using them in his collection. I find that really fascinating.

Despite the attention you and your work has gotten, do you ever feel invisible at work still?
I have a lot of moments where I still feel invisible and insecure about my work. Every project has its ups and downs – one day I’ll find it marvellous and the next everything looks bad. I try to be less hard on myself and be happy with what I achieved so far.

For people who feel invisible professionally, what would be your advice?
When feeling invisible and insecure, do not start checking out other designers’ portfolios. It will only make you feel worse. Instead think about why you’re feeling this way and try to find a creative solution. Last Summer I felt so invisible I decided to create a magazine to send out to agencies, brands and other creatives to say ‘Hi, I’m here’. Just be yourself and don’t question your skills too much.

What is the campaign you’re most proud of having worked on?
A few years ago I did a collab with The Style Club. Together with the founder I created a small collection for Lou & Grey and Lisa says Gah. I had no idea how big this project would be. That same summer I was in New York and discovered my designs in the window of the store on 5th Avenue. I will never forget that moment.



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