derek desierto 3 scaled - We Interviewed Derek Desierto, the Illustrator behind Eva Chen's New Book

Photo: Courtesy of Derek Desierto

One of my favorite people on fashion (and on Instagram), Eva Chen, it’s writing a book. She is the head of fashion at Instagram, former editor-in-chief of Lucky Magazine and beauty and health director at Teen Vogue. The book, Juno Valentine and the Magical Shoes, Macmillan imprint Feiwel & Friends (on pre-order at Amazon) is a children’s book inspired by Ren, her little girl. A fairy tail with a message about self love and self acceptance.

She invited Derek Desierto, an artist based in Canada to illustrate the book. Derek did an illustration about Eva and Ren that got her attention, ans shared on Instagram, of course. It’s amazing how social media its such a platform to young designers to show of their work for the ones paying attention.

And I got to interview Derek about this amazing opportunity. He’s so talented and sensible. Parents, you should all watch the animated movie he did “Wouldn’t it be nice?” below, it’s a wake up call.

I’ve been inspired by her work (and her outfits) since her days at Lucky, and the thing that always got me is how down to earth and friendly she is.

01 eva chen new childrens book - We Interviewed Derek Desierto, the Illustrator behind Eva Chen's New Book Photo: Courtesy of Feiwel & Friends


So, Derek, tell us more about how you started working as an illustrator. 

It was a natural progression from my work as a concept artist in animation. I casually just started posting my work on Instagram and slowly I started getting little jobs here and there. First it was with a clothing store, then it was a greeting card company and so on. It was a very organic evolution of my career.

You were that kid who always did the coolest drawings? 

Haha! I don’t neccesarily know if it was the coolest things. I do remember growing up, I went to an all boys school and all my friends would draw cars while I would draw the Disney princesses. My friend at the time asked me why I kept drawing girls in dresses and I said, “Because I like them!” It’s still very true today.

Where do you look for inspiration? 

In everything, really. With my animation background, I really think of myself as a storyteller. Even if I didn’t do animation I would probably go into documentary film making or something because people and their stories always interest me. But I would say anything and everything. From something low brow like a comic to fine art. Everything is fodder for inspiration!

I once read an interview with a designer – which I can’t remember who was, she is a girl and works with lettering – and she said she tries to step away from Instagram and Pinterest when looking for inspiration to avoid being influenced by other designers. But how can one shut down that kind of information, sounds like a tough brain exercise. What do you think? 

I totally get that. You don’t want to be so referential when it comes to your work but it has been described to me before as an artist tree. Every artist before you has been influenced by one person or another. I’m just at the bottom of a very tall tree! Ultimately, I go to where my passion and interest leads me. If it’s an artist, I love looking at their work and researching who they also loved and then looking into their work. It leads me down this glorious rabbit hole of inspiration.

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You are the illustrator on the upcoming Eva Chen’s book, that sounds exciting! How was it when she contacted you? 

A bit surreal. You don’t really expect someone like Eva to reach out to you asking if you would consider doing their first book with them.

02 eva chen new childrens book - We Interviewed Derek Desierto, the Illustrator behind Eva Chen's New Book Photo: Courtesy of Feiwel & Friends

And how is the process of designing a book from abroad? Since you are based in Canada, and as we all Eva’s fans knows it, she lives in New York. 

We have spent a lot of nights on FaceTime just getting this book together. Not very glamorous at all. Usually both Eva and I have had a long day at work and we’re still chipping away at our book trying to finish it on time.

I would tell her that I felt like I’m in the September Issue and I’m Edward Enninful and she’s Anna” this caption comes from you IG account, and I have to say it’s amazing. I am a huge fan of Edward Enninful, (aka the Editor-in-Chief of Birtish Vogue) he is my fashion crush of the moment. Do you feel the same? 

Oh, absolutely. I am so thrilled and excited for Edward to be the new EIC of British Vogue. I’m a big fan of his work and love that he’s such a champion for diversity in fashion.

I love the idea that the book has a final message, a moral, about self acceptance and self love. Something every mom is figuring out when raising girls. And it’s something we need to work on ourselves first to pass a long a good message to our girls… Also, Eva’s comes from the fashion industry, a tricky place when comes to self love. But she seems to navigate with such grace and confident. I am positive that the book will help us, fashion aficionado mother’s, that is ok to love fashion without jeopardizing who we are to fit in. And I thank you for illustrating that on a positive and beautiful way! 

(Prayer hands emoji) Thank you! I had a really fun time illustrating it and I hope people like it when it comes out!

Your movie, “Wouldn’t it be nice?” it’s a wake up call. I really need to work better with that balance between my phone and the kids. What was the idea behind it? 

I was inspired to do that film because of my own addiction to the internet and social media. There was a time when I would spend so much time on it and realize that I was getting a lot of validation from likes and so on. It led me to taking a bit of a break from social media all together. I actually deleted my original Instagram account and taking a few months off. Since then I feel I have a much healthier relationship with social media in general. It’s fun, it allows me to connect with amazing people but at the end of the day I feel I can also step away from it and live more in the present. That’s what I intended the film to be all about. Live and enjoy your life!

You also design glasses – that’s sounds like a lot of engeneering. How does that work?  

Yes, I do. Before animation I also went to fashion school and I worked as a glasses designer for a few years. I have an amazing team around me that helps me realize my ideas into beautiful frames. So I give that credit to our wonderful manufacturers!

How many frames do you have? Are you always chaging?

I have a small shoebox of glasses but I actually only really wear three frames on rotation.

How do you unwind? 

Hmm… I like to eat chips and watch tv. Haha!

Favorite drink? 

Honey green tea bubble tea.

Favorite things to do on your hometown?

I live in Vancouver so I’m very lucky to live so close to such amazing nature. I like to bike or hike but if I’m not doing any of those things, I’m eating at the fantastic restaurants in town.

Are you watching any series now? 

Yes! I just finished watching the Mary Tyle Moore show for the first time ever. I love love loved it! Of course, Ru Paul’s Drag Race is a favourite along with Broad City.

01 juno - We Interviewed Derek Desierto, the Illustrator behind Eva Chen's New Book Photo: Courtesy of Feiwel & Friends

by Rosa Zaborowsky

Editor & Founder of Lolla.