Instagram’s had a bad rep lately: between FOMO and straight up envy (remember, real life doesn’t look like that), we’ve spent a lot of time thinking about and discussing the way the ever-present app can mess with our lives, from our self esteem to our productivity. Instagram, though, can also be a tool of expression and inspiration. Which is how yours truly discovered irreverent artist and fantastic dresser Camilla Engstrom.
She has one of those great accounts that shares moments from a creative life (clothes included) while not making you feel that your normal, ho-hum, office/school frequented life isn’t less-than. Camilla is cool and stylish, but she’s not Cool and Stylish. Follow her account for her art (both on paper and embroidered on clothing), her creative process, her collaborations, her outfits, and even sometimes, her friends. Then read below to get to know the woman behind it.
When I ask the usual questions about her style icons (Sonia Delaunay and Charlotte Perriand) and her process of getting dressed (“Pick the pants first; build around that.”), Camilla tells me she’s “very tired of the fashion industry.” Can you blame me for asking, though? Camilla, who was born in Stockholm and lives in New York, has a way of combining Scandinavian minimalism with a touch of bohemian louche-ness. She’s a fixture on many a Pinterest board.
Irreverent and provocative with a strange innocence, and frequently laugh-out-loud funny, Camilla’s illustrations often feature a character Camilla has named Husa. Husa is tubby while Camilla is lithe; Husa’s orgies are all over the Internet while Camilla is much more private. Nonetheless, Camilla insists that Husa is an extension of her. “She does things I’m afraid to try,” she explains.
“What things?” I ask her.
“I don’t know if I can say that,” she laughs. “She’s always honest and she’s always up to some obscene things. I’ll leave it there.”
It took a while for Camilla to move from womenswear, which she studied at FIT, to purely visual art. And though Camilla’s paintings and illustrations have taken off, she still combines fashion and art, painting by hand on canvas sneakers and men’s button-down shirts. She loves the idea of her art being worn on the body. “I want my work to be accessible.” (That few can pull off an oversized shirt emblazoned with a circle of Husa’s performing cunnilingus the way she can doesn’t seem to cross her mind.)
She identifies her biggest challenge as forcing herself to take breaks and take time off. What advice does she have for young women trying to make it in a creative field? “I wish I could give some solid advice but I’m still figuring out how to make it work myself.”
Right now, she’s sticking to her routine: not taking enough breaks, painting early in the morning or late at night, and working towards a solo show at Deli Gallery in November.
Photographed by Krista Anna Lewis; art works by Camilla Engstrom.