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Focus On – Lauren Tamaki

Meet Lauren Tamaki, the illustrator behind the our first Artist Series Tee – the Lady Tee

Lucky me, she also happens to be a dear friend (we met at fashion school 15 years ago). Lauren's work always exudes an ease + brings a sense of soul to her subjects – whether she's creating portraits of famous actors, writers + politicians, documenting her fashion runway loves or illustrating daily life in NYC. It's very easy to get lost in her prolific-ness on her insta or website.

Today on the Journal, Lauren shares some details of her daily routines, gets real about life as a creative freelancer and explains the inspiration behind her sketch of for the Lady Tee.

What’s your favourite time of day? Are you a morning person or a night owl?

I always identified as a night owl, but as I grow older and crustier, I need to sleep. No more all-nighters. That said, I usually get into the swing of things at around 5pm (when I feel inspired to actually draw or paint).

Do you have a particular way you like to start + end your day?

I’m pretty basic in the morning – coffee. Food. I like to end the day with a joint and Star Trek.

When you have a day to yourself, to do whatever you like, what does that look like?

Museums! Galleries! Movies! When I was single, my perfect Saturday morning was running errands in my neighbourhood: at the farmer’s market in Grand Army Plaza I would get too many cut flowers, buy mussels and crusty bread and then pig out. I still have a facsimile of that perfection nowadays, but sometimes the bear (Ben) accompanies me.

As you’ve navigated working for yourself for the past few years, are there any struggles or successes in how you go through your day or tackle a project?

Too many to name! There’s the struggles you have with yourself (procrastination, disregarding your health) and then there is the client navigation. Because I freelance, I have dozens of bosses/collaborators a year - all of them require a different approach.

What’s your earliest memory of wanting to be an illustrator? How did you find your way into this career?

I’ve always wanted to be a designer who drew. Nothing made me happier then drawing but I knew that I couldn’t be a fine artist - even at a young age I knew I liked working within a brief (even though I didn’t know what that was at the time). I came to illustration in a bit of a roundabout way: first Fashion Design school, then Alberta College of Art + Design for Visual Communications and then 4-ish years of working in graphic design and art direction. I always knew the end goal was freelance illustration, so I always worked on it on the side.

Do you have a favourite part of working for yourself?

No pants.

What are your 3 weekend essentials?

Prospect Park, beer, drawing.

What are your 3 weekday essentials?

Seamless [a takeout service in the states] because I’ve been too stupidly busy to make food, coffee, drawing.

You were one of our first Soft Focus customers (and collaborators!) Do you have a particular way you like to wear or place you like to wear your lounge set/robe?

I wear the Palomino [Lounge Shirt + Pant] with everything and it goes everywhere with me (its been to Hawaii, it always comes to Toronto). As I type this I’m wearing the button-up with a pair polka-dotted Ganni pants!

Can you describe a bit about your process of developing the sketches for the Lady Tee?

I knew I wanted to get at the heart of SF - luxurious lazing about. I love drawing ladies and I wanted to try my hand at a classic nude. I think at the time I was obsessing over Ellsworth Kelly’s plant drawings so a minimal approach was especially appealing. My favourite medium is still pencil after all these years and I’m thrilled SF managed to keep that tasty texture in the screenprint!

Do you have a dream role or type of project to work on?

I want to draw for T Magazine - its my favourite publication and I’m actually wildly jealous when I see illustration within its pages. I also want to work on more books: children’s books, cookbooks, fashion books…. I love drawing a wide range of things so hit a sister up!

What is next for you?

I’m illustrating a book with an intense subject matter that is very close to my heart as a Japanese Canadian… I think that’s all I can say!

Lauren in the Lady Tee.


Some early sketches + inspiration references for the Lady Tee (including Ellsworth Kelly's drawings of plants + Yves Klein's Anthropometrie in blue).

Lauren in the Palomino Lounge Shirt + Pant.


During Fashion Month Lauren documents her favourite looks + moments from the runways. Her eye for style + admiration of designers is pure + glorious + joyful.

Lauren giving FACE in the Denim Tux Robe.

Scrunchies + tattoos.

A NYC moment captured by Lauren.

Photos by Chelsee Ivan


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