My Fashion Illustration Career Journey



Eleven years ago I started this fashion illustration blog, Fabulous Doodles along with my Etsy shop Brooklit followed by Brooklit Bride. I remember being excited but nervous about putting my work out there for the world to see. I also recall thinking it would be a side job (laughable now!) that fingers crossed could possibly lead to more. Something I'd write once in a while, get commissions from here and there, because that would be nice and who knows, I'd see where it went. What did I know for sure was that fashion illustration was my passion and sitting at a desk in a corporate office from 9 to 5 as I had been was not. (Although I was a Brand Designer for Hearst Magazines, so I did style, shop and design photoshoots and get be creative. It's not like I was selling insurance in my former career.) But I digress.

The day I launched a coworker featured me and my work on her blog, which immediately lead to multiple blog features, some of which were by very big and well known names in blogsphere at the time. Not soon after came my first my first commission for a global brand and then my first feature in a magazine. Every article, job and write up was so exciting! It felt electric. I remember running to my coworkers desk to tell her anytime an email came in with a fashion illustration inquiry.  Not soon thereafter though I lost my job during the recession. I remember crying to a friend that afternoon, not knowing what I was going to do because I'd just resigned the lease on my Manhattan apartment for two more years so the option of even moving home was out...So I kept blogging and following my passion but in those first years it was tough. I collected unemployment, (which back then was a whopping $485 a week I believe) I took odd jobs and even though I was well past my teen years I was back to babysitting again because you gotta do what you gotta do to the pay the rent and bills. But through it all I kept the blog and my Etsy shop going. And I kept taking commissions and promoting my work. Because as I always tell aspiring illustrators, you need to be consistent and passionate about promoting your work because no one else is going to do it for you, especially in the beginning. 
I began to gain more name recognition, clients and my career took off once I began regularly illustrating for Vogue. Its honestly still surreal to me, being a lover of fashion my whole life that I get to type that sentence. But it is, and it was. I've told this story countless times before but being a key part of my journey I certainly can't leave out here, so here it goes. I was blogging, taking commissions and going about life when a fashion PR girl reached out to me to live sketch her midsummer night soiree for fashion bloggers. I said no. This was something I was asked to do frequently but always turned down. I hated it when people watched me sketch, I didn't draw fast and the whole thing sounded overwhelming. Well she was very persistent and kept asking and I eventually gave in and decided to just try it. To my surprise it went really well and I wrote a blog post about it. The very next day I had an email from Vogue's head of events inquiring about my event sketching services! We set up a meeting and within a few days I was sitting in the Vogue lobby with my portfolio fully about to pass out. The rest is history. She hired me for her event and it was the first of many, many events I've worked on with Vogue over the past 8 years. They've sent me to on sketching tours of the country for 3 or 4 consecutive years and have collaborated with brands such as Clinique, Dior, Gap, La Mer, and Viktor & Rolf. Having Vogue as a client opened the doors to meeting many other designers and brands as has just being a guest a Vogue events and meeting future potential clients in person, when Voguers introduce me as their illustrator! Since Vogue I now also work with Burberry, Chanel, Cartier, Salvatore Ferragamo, Harry Winston, Pierrier-Jouet and Mindy Wiess Events to name a few.

I'm sharing all this now is because its a difficult time once again with this pandemic and the economic fallout for many including me and my business which is primarily doing live events--which have obviously have all been canceled in the last 6 months and counting. I'm trying to remain positive though and taking solace in knowing I've gotten through tough times in the past and I'll get through it again. I'm also trying to focus on the areas of my business that are not event based, pivot my efforts and and work on expanding my website, rebranding, and creating a new collection of work. I hope sharing my journey was insightful and maybe even helped you in rethinking your own. You never know how saying yes to one event, writing one blog post or taking one meeting could be launching pad of your career. Do you have any questions? Let me know in the comments below! And be sure and check out my new newsletter so you don't miss any of the new things I'm working on!

Our Frontline Figure Custom Illustration Series



Towards the start of this health crisis I wanted to find my own personal way to give back to our healthcare heroes. The people on the front lines of the pandemic who are risking their lives every single day to keep us safe. I've been giving what I can personally, and now doing my part professionally. I launched my first Instagram live series titled Our Frontline Figures where for six weeks I created custom illustrations of our healthcare heroes inspired by photos submitted by their friends and families.
Every week my community joined me on Instagram live as I walked them through the custom illustration process. I taught how my process works every step of the way, people followed along and created their own custom sketches of a healthcare hero in their life and got to ask questions throughout. Throughout the six weeks
I received submissions of healthcare heroes from across the country (and people tuned to learn to draw from around the globe!) winners were chosen at random. We had an ER nurse, a Pulmonary Doctor, two Manhattan based Covid nurses, a newly engaged nurse from Georgia and a New Jersey nurse who actually hosted a socially distanced IG live margarita viewing party on her front lawn because she was so excited about being chosen. The messages of gratitude from these heroes who are saving lives and risking their own health everyday continually moved me to tears.
As many of us do, I have a tendency to be my own worst critic and occasionally devalue myself and my talent. But this global pandemic has made me thankful for my talent and the talent and work of other artists in my community. Now more than ever, with everyone quarentined and isolated at home, people have been turning to the art and entertainment industries. I'm in a membership group for artists and another artist in the community recently commented on Facebook that "artist are barometers and scribes of society and the times we live in." (Darcy Goedecke) I think we'll look back on 2020 and in addition to it being a history making year it will also be a pivotal moment in art. That being said, I'm excited to say theres more to come from me soon and Our Frontline Figure series was only the first creative creation series.
Thank you for all the submissions and thank you to all the amazing Healthcare Heroes who participated every week and more importantly thank you for all that you to do save lives everyday during this global pandemic. You're truly an inspiration.

Custom Fashion Illustrations for a Bridal Shower



Today I had a meeting about sketching for a bridal shower and it got me thinking that its been a while since I shared a bridal shower I've live sketched here on Fabulous Doodles. I've sketched custom illustrations at countless private events but this pink bridal shower stands out as one of my favorites. Custom illustrating this bride-to-be, and her sisters in their custom made ensembles was a delight. The party was in the backyard of a Long Island estate and I live sketched the guests custom illustrations in a tent poolside while guests mingled about. It was a fun fete where nearly all the illustrations were in my favorite color, pink, since unbeknownst to me there was a pink dress code!
The bridal shower meeting I had today was primarily about doing illustrations of the bride-to-be before the shower so the illustration could be used throughout the Soho party as shower decor. I'm so looking forward to seeing this one come to fruition. Its always exciting to see what event planners create with my sketches! Did you see this jaw dropping party that Mindy Weiss threw for NBA star Russel Westbrook by blowing up and repeating my one custom sketch?! If you're interested in commissioning a custom sketch for your own future event or would like rates on having me live sketch at your private party you can email me at FabulousDoodles@gmail.com.

Past posts you may have missed:



3 Ways To Find Inspiration When Facing a Creative Block



Fashion illustrators, like any other artist can face creative road blocks and ruts so I thought I'd share my top three ways to find inspiration when faced with a creative block and the dreaded blank page.

(One of my Met sketches inspired by Guo Pei gown at "China: Through the Looking Glass") 
1. Go to a museum or gallery. Whether you have time for the whole museum or just one wing or exhibition, go. You never know how discovering a new artist or even seeing an old master will get your creative juices flowing. Bring a sketch pad, snap some photos (if that's allowed) or simply stroll the galleries and see what you find. I've been visiting the impressionist wing of The Met pretty religiously since I was about 14. I can’t visit the museum without popping in to see my old friends Monet, Cezanne, and van Gogh and without fail every visit I find a new gem. A new favorite painting, a new favorite spot that day, a new detail of a painting I never noticed before, or a combination of colors that strikes me that given day. If its photography that inspires you go see a fashion photography exhibit. If its vintage fashion, check out the Costume Institute. Or just gallery hop and see what you find and where the day takes you. A clear mind and an open afternoon is sometimes just what the doctor ordered sort of speak.

(92nd Street Y) 
2. Take a class. This is one that, similar to a museum is probably easier in a city but if you look I’m sure you can find one at your local collage, art shop, or community center. If you’ve been wanting to learn more about portrait drawing, figures, watercolors, or fashion illustration, there’s a class for it. And if committing to an entire class is too intimidating then you may want to consider a workshop which is usually only one or two days. In the past I taught a few fashion illustration classes but I’ve actually been thinking about offering a workshop in the new year. (Click here if you’d like to add your name to a waitlist for info when it’s available.) The older we get the more distance grows between us and our school days so it can feel slightly uncomfortable taking the plunge but it's so nice learn something new and immerse yourself in learning and expanding your mind and creativity. Its also nice to meet to new people with similar interests.

(Ralph Lauren "Aviator" collection sketches by Audrey Schilt) 
3. See a period movie. Once in a while epic period piece film comes along that makes its mark on pop culture. These type of films historically can also be quite inspirational to fashion design. Two examples that come to mind immediately, although I’m sure if I gave it some more thought I could write a blog post on this topic alone, is in 2005 when Ralph Lauren showed his Aviator collection inspired by seeing the film The Aviator. A second example that stands out in my fashion minded brain is in 1998 when the J. Peterman catalogue offered early 1900's beaded gowns inspired by Titanic. I vividly remember looking at those drawings (remember the catalogue was all sketches!) and wishing the replica of Roses dress was within my budget for a prom dress! Unfortunately it was not, at $2000 for the replica and $35,000 for the original my babysitting money certainly didn't cover that.

I hope these ideas of mine inspire you. And let me know in the comments if you have any tricks for a creative slump that have worked for you.

Related posts you may like: 




Fabulous Doodles 2019 Gift Guide



It's been a few years since I've put together a gift guide but this year I thought I'd give it a go and share a few of my favorite things ranging from items I use everyday to new gadgets, client projects I've designed and the perfect little starter kit for the aspiring illustrator. I hope you like my little list and maybe it inspires you to shop for the creative girl in your life or better yet, add to your holiday want list!

1. For the boss babe: I received this gorgeous cup as a gift years ago and its been a stunning staple on my desktop ever since. Brass and moonstone cup by Addison Weeks adds an extra dose of glam to any desk, holding brushes, pencils, or a small bouquet. 

2. Embossed "Feminist" 18k gold plated keyring. I have a similar one on my keys that I look at everyday while riding my elevator up to my apartment and I love it! Will make the perfect gift for your wing woman. 

3. For the sentimentalist: Polaroid Lab Printer. The past few weeks I've had the pleasure of using this printer at Ferragamo events and I've been loving it! You can take and edit photos on your phone then once they're perfected place your iphone atop the printer and print an actual Polaroid! Its the best of both worlds. 

4. For the Fashion Design Major: An Apple Pencil is something I've been teaching myself to use for the past few years. It takes some getting used to adjusting from pen and paper to digital but once you get the swing of it the possibilities are endless. 

5. For the wine lover: Sociologie Blushing Rosé. My go to hostess gift for any party. I illustrated the whole Sociologie Wine line but the blushing rosé is by far my favorite. 

6. For the entrepreneur: Acrylic Kate Spade business card holder. If the entrepreneur in your life is anything like me her card are show-off-ready so this card case is perfect! 

7. For the fashion plate: Brooklit illustrated phone case. I change up my phone case pretty often but its always one from my illustration phone shop! Anyone on your shopping list who got the new iPhone will be in need of a new case. And if you use the link here you can get $10 off your first order and free worldwide shipping. 

8. For the aspiring fashion illustrator: a fashion illustration starter kit, complete with a large sketchbook, my favorite mini travel sketchbook and a pack of my favorite skin tone Copic markers will always be a great gift because you can never have enough good supplies! 

Previous posts to check out: 

Celebrating 10 Years of Fabulous Doodles Blog



Ten years ago today I hit publish on my very first blog post here on Fabulous Doodles! I had no idea back in 2009 the doors that this blog would open for me and the fashion illustration career I would build with this blog at its roots. I realize I sound corny and sentimental here but I can't help it. I'm actually getting choked up sitting here thinking about where I was when I started and where I am now, both physically and in my career. I started Fabulous Doodles because I was working as designer in corporate America and I published the first post sitting at that very corporate desk at lunch. Although it was a creative job and related to my field of interest it was corporate America. I hated the people I was working under, the 9-to-5 lifestyle, the corporate environment, and I really missed illustrating so I began to draw again. At the encouragement of friends I started blogging to share my sketches as well as feature designer sketches and work I found inspiring. I thought it could be a good creative outlet.
Jump ahead ten years and now instead of sitting at a corporate desk "doodling" I've built a fashion illustration portfolio and website (BrookeHagel.com) with a dream list of luxury clients in the fashion industry I've illustrated for including Burberry, Chanel, Dior, Ferragamo and Vogue. I used to have "illustrate a book" on my bucket list and over the past ten years, due to this blog, I now have more than twenty books under my belt. Its surreal to me looking at that "shop books" page of my site! And to top it off I'm writing this post from my new home office/studio in an apartment I love.
It wasn't always easy. It's not like the blog was a huge success from the start and I just up and quit my 9-to-5. (As you probably guessed if you took a look at that first post!) In actuality I lost my job in the recession. Promptly freaked out, didn't know how I was going to pay the rent. I took odd jobs, babysat, did what came my way but I kept blogging and the fashion illustration opportunities kept coming. Until eventually I no longer needed the odd jobs. It turned out that my corporate 9-to-5 was my last full-time job working for someone else and I've been working for myself ever since. The first few years it was rough and even the middle years I wasn't always comfortable with the freelance life of quiet-slow summers where not much or no work came in and insane holiday months but I've learned how to ride the freelance wave sort of speak and I'm okay with it now. I've learned to save, to budget and to manage my time and fluctuating income.
Theres a lot more to learn and a lot more I want to accomplish, more clients I'd like to work with and continue to work with, more products I'd like to see my work on, and more industries I'd like to have the opportunities to collaborate with. I'd also love to see my social media reach grow, become "verified" on Instagram, a featured grammer, and hit six figure digit follower counts but thats an ongoing struggle. Some people lucked out and blew up at the beginning, were featured early on, or just really know how to play that game. For me it's a struggle but I'm trying. Opening up and sharing is hard. Its hard to put yourself out there to strangers and share photos of yourself (like I am here) and videos. To be vulnerable, and authentic and not curate and perfect every post before sharing it. I know thats what people relate to and connect with but its hard for me. Its something I need to work on. Anyway, I digress. Today's a celebration. Ten years of Fabulous Doodles! Ten years of building my business and working for myself! I have a bottle of Perrier-Jouet champagne I've been saving from working on a project with and I think its time I popped that bottle, poured myself a glass and celebrated. And if you know me, there might just be a piece of cake with it! Cheers to you, my Fabulous Doodles readers!