Illustrator Ilse Valfré's Designs Are Quirky and Fabulous

The 28-year-old artist discusses her career so far

Photographed by Amy Harrity.

The following feature appears in the October 2016 issue of NYLON.

The doe-eyed, star-freckled Bettie Page types that inhabit Ilse Valfré’s illustrations might go sunbathing in BDSM-style harnesses. They may melt their own pretty faces off with a blow-dryer or strip out of their skin so that their skeletons can take a bubble bath. Sometimes they’ll even sip from a carton of “100% Boys Tears.” People are so drawn to Valfré’s cast of playfully subversive female characters—which are, as she explains, cute, “but not too cutesy”—that she’s been able to translate her aesthetic into a popular cult clothing label and garner a loyal Instagram fan base of more than 600,000 followers who eagerly await her latest work.

Born and raised in Mexico, the 28-year-old artist always had a knack for drawing, and turned to it when she needed a creative escape from her teaching job at a Montessori school. “My sister randomly said, ‘Why don’t you become an illustrator?’ and I was like, ‘What? Is that a thing?,’” she recalls. “I Googled it and thought, ‘Wow, you can make money for just drawing?’” Valfré quit her job, moved home with her parents, and started the journey to being her own boss—which wasn’t as glamorous as she imagined. “I was really broke,” she concedes.

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