How Illustrator Careaux Became a Successful Sneaker Designer
Caroll drew something Staple-related and then tagged me on it. I caught a glimpse of it and then checked all the other artwork. I had no idea who or what a “Careaux” was; but I thought, there’s something dope here. Something artistic. Something street. Something fresh. And something also very easily digestible, whether to a sneakerhead or not. That’s when I offered her to do a solo exhibition at Reed Space in NYC. Besides what I said about the artwork itself above, there’s Caroll herself. She lives authentically as a fan of the culture and contributing in her own way. She hustles hard and gets her work exposed in ways other simply don’t. Also, in a male-dominated street / sneaker world, Caroll brings a rare combination of femininity and talent. Add to that her being based in the center of Europe, being multi-lingual, having a strong social media following, and you pretty much have the perfect storm for any brand to want to get behind.
Intro by Jeff Staple
Caroll, nice to have you for this interview. Please tell us a bit about what you’re doing at the moment. Where are you and what’s happening in your life right now?
Hi! Thank you for having me. At the moment, I just woke up. Just a normal week day: I just check my emails, check Instagram and get ready for work. Not much happening. I decided to take a few steps back and focus on what’s important for me personally.
What does a typical day in your life look like? When do you get up in the mornings, and what are your most brilliant hours of the day?
I was up around 7:30-ish. My boyfriend makes me a tea and leaves for work while I stay in bed drawing till 9. I feel those are the times when I’m most active for Careaux. After a long working day of 8 to 10 hours, I just want to come home to have dinner and chill. So after work I don’t do much drawing.
A lot of people know you from your Puma collaborations or through Instagram – but you have a whole lot of things going on at the same time. Can you fill us in on Careaux projects in 2018?
I decided to focus a lot more on collabs. I have been in touch with brands I always wanted to work with, so this year will be fun and new working with other brands. Other than that, we are starting the new season of Filling Pieces soon.
You’re best known for your very colorful and oftentimes flowery designs. When did you first discover the flower for your work, and what does it represent to you?
I feel a flower shows your growth – it’s blooming. And I was in a big stage in my life where it bloomed so quickly.
You mentioned that you took up illustration when your dad was in a coma after a car accident. Does art have a therapeutic effect on you, and does it still today when art has channeled into a professional career?
It does. When I grab my iPad and draw, it helps me to get my mind off things. Even while I’m busy working in the office. When focused on new designs, I always forget the time.
Illustration isn’t your only talent though. Besides that, you are also the women’s footwear designer at Filling Pieces. How did you get in touch with the guys, and was it tough to learn footwear design?
I’ve known Guillaume since I was 20. I had my internship in Amsterdam. He loved the illustration of Kanye I made, so we decided to meet up and trade art. He gave me a pair of Filling Pieces, and I gave him a big canvas of the Kanye piece. Not long later, he asked me a couple of times to work for him. I did technical work mostly. In 2015, he asked me again if I could stop by the office. I was 25 at that time, and I haven’t left since. It was definitely tough to learn about footwear. I came from a graphic design study. I used to work inside the box. Everything is with rules. Advertising comes with rules. Magazines. Shoes was a whole other level, and to be honest, we all still learn every day.
What are the things that you find inspiring yourself?
Traveling. Leaving your comfort zone has to be the advice I would give other creatives. You can’t stay in one place and think you get inspiration out of it. You need to experience new things, feel new vibes.
Speaking of changing places, you’re from the Netherlands but recently moved to Sydney. How did that come about, and how often do you travel back to Amsterdam?
I actually moved back to Amsterdam in April 2017, almost a year ago. I felt I was stuck here, and I needed new energy. So I left in 2015 and moved back and forth. The reason I came back to Amsterdam was for Filling Pieces. If I didn’t have FP, I know I wouldn’t have come back. I would have found a proper job in Sydney. But Filling Pieces wasn’t just work for me. I felt really responsible for all the shoes I made, so I wanted to involve myself more and decided to focus on FP 100% and not leave to Sydney anymore.
You are friends with Jeff Staple and already did exhibitions together with him – for example, at Subtype Store in Sydney. How did you get in touch with him, and did he have an influence on you as an artist?
Back in the days when Instagram was just fresh and I was illustrating 24/7, I drew his Dunk and posted it on my ’gram. I tagged him, and he saw it. He reached out to me, asking if I was interested in an exhibition in NYC. A year and a half after that exhibition, we decided to do another one – but in Sydney, since I lived there. It was dope. I kinda miss those events!
Besides Jeff, who are some of the people in the industry that you look up to? Who are your favorite artists?
Always KAWS and Murakami. But I recently got into murals as well. I painted my first wall at POW! WOW! Hawaii. They flew me over. It was super cool. And there were so many talented artists. I also love Drew Merritt, Telmo Miel and Tristan Eaton.
Instagram has obviously also helped to shape your career as an illustrator or make you more popular. Has Instagram, or how it’s being used, changed compared to when you started? Do you think it will remain as powerful as it is?
Instagram has helped me so much to get where I am now in my career and definitely with what I’ve been doing. This must be the reason why I still hold onto it so much, but it hasn’t been as effective to me as it used to. The algorithm doesn’t show my posts anymore. I miss out on a lot of releases cause I don’t know about them. My feed is basically Hypebeast/Hypebae and some random food posts… not helpful and definitely not inspiring.
In your still very young career, is there a lesson – or more than one – that you have learned that helps you?
When you fly too quick, make sure you don’t fall too hard. Learned a lot…
What does 2018 have in store for you? What are you looking forward to?
I just see where life takes me. My main focus is Filling Pieces and trying to bring “female” to another level within our brand.
So if you had to pick one sneaker to wear for the rest of your life, what would it be?
Any last words?
Live life like it ends tomorrow.
Careaux on Instagram
This interview first appeared in SNEAKERS MAG #38 – Released in April 2018