We recently sat down with Claudette Barjoud, also known as Miss Fluff, to chat about the inspiration behind her squeal-worthy pin-ups, her loyal followers and what’s coming next for the Fluff brand!
Tell us how your journey began...
I have been drawing since I was five years old and my mom handed me some colored pencils and said, "Get busy!" Since then, drawing has always been my greatest joy and escape.
After college, it was tough figuring out what to do with an art degree. I started by doing brochure and logo designs, but I wanted to be more creative. I always kept a little fantasy sketchbook where I scribbled fun designs that I would make if I could create whatever I wanted.
You eventually did illustrations for Frederick’s of Hollywood, right?
Yes, years later I ended up working at Fredrick's of Hollywood, which was my favorite job up to that point. I felt at-home being surrounded by lingerie and with co-workers flinging thongs across each other’s desks!
One day, I was handed a special design project: They were about to discontinue a line of novelty gifts like edible panties and body creams, and wanted to give the packaging design one-last ditch effort.
Most people insisted, “the line is dead, just try to make it look as attractive as you can,” but I was so thrilled for the opportunity to design my own packaging that I ended up working late perfecting the illustrations.
I had stumbled across some 1950’s Frederick's catalogs in the back room, and I loved the classic pinup styles so much that I used those as inspiration. The new packaging was such a hit, it had its own fan base. People started collecting the products just for the art, and customers wrote in asking when new items were going to come out.
Those illustrations were the beginnings of my signature Fluff style - cute, girly and cheeky!
So how did you break out on your own?
The success of my Frederick’s products got me thinking—especially since I did not get even a tiny raise, haha! After secretly scribbling my dreams into that little sketchbook for so many years, maybe it was time to put on my big girl panties (with lace of course!) and give myself a shot at making those dreams a reality.
Maybe I really could make art for a living.
So I took two weeks off of work, put together a line of illustrated greeting cards and went to the California Gift Show. The cards were just printouts from my little desktop printer, but after taking my first few orders I never looked back. I ended up getting licensed by different manufacturers that expanded my line into purses, cosmetic bags, apparel, a pet line and more.
I am so excited to have my artwork available on Card.com alongside my idols, Hello Kitty and Betty Boop! It has been a fantastic way to get my work in front of people who might never have otherwise discovered it. Plus, it is so much fun to have cute debit cards—although they are a little dangerous because they make you want to shop more!
Tell us about the name “Fluff”
I named my line “Fluff” because it perfectly captures the feel of my art. It’s fun, a little frivolous, and offers an escape into a fantasy of cute girliness.
My work is heavily inspired by things I loved from my childhood: Vintage Barbie, 1930's cartoons like Betty Boop, Disney, Little Golden Books, Meyercord decals and Old Hollywood glamour. I love to capture the charm of that time.
My products always say: "Caution: May cause squeals of spontaneous delight!" I admit it, I do squeal with delight when I see things that are just too irresistible. And that’s the reaction I hope to inspire in my fans.
Are you encouraged by the trend toward plus-size models?
Oh yes, definitely. I think beauty comes in all sizes and body types.
I am inspired by all kinds of ladies. Whenever I draw curvier women, I always get a good response from fans. They like to see themselves in the art.
Good point. You mentioned loving Barbie, have you heard about Barbie coming out with ‘real’ body sizes?
Yes, and I think it’s great that they’re doing it. Having options is a good thing. Personally, I grew up with the old style Barbie so I will always love her the best. I know she’s not supposed to represent a real person, but that’s what I love about it. Barbie isn’t supposed to be realistic, she’s got these tiny dainty feet and impossibly small waist. I love that she is a fantasy.
Would you call yourself a feminist? Do you think your pin-ups represent an old-fashioned view of women?
If by feminist you mean wanting equality for women, then of course. My drawings of women are inspired by vintage glamour so yes, they have an-old fashioned look but I don’t think it’s demeaning, in fact I think it’s empowering to be sexy. What’s wrong with that? I think there’s strength in being sassy and owning your beauty.
Do you ever envision doing something totally different?
Yes, I have often dreamed donning a sequined turban and becoming a composer of exotic organ music. But I will save that for next year.
For now, I’m gearing some of my designs towards kids, with subjects like baby animals, unicorns and squirrels. Okay, they are not only for kids. They are just super cute! But they are in my Fluff style—I can’t help it! I’m never going to do abstracts, or draw photo-realistically. My goal is just to get fluffier and fluffier.
What advice do you have for young artists who also want to be commercial successes?
My advice would be to ask yourself what really excites you. If you go for what’s popular now, you might get some work out of that, but it ultimately won’t be original and or enjoyable.
What really makes art successful is that it has its own voice, and it’s unique to you. People can see and feel if you are being true to yourself. If you are authentic, the audience will come.
How has your style changed over time?
My art used to be a little… lumpy (laughs). Now it’s much more polished. In fact, you can see the evolution of my style in the art shared for this article. I hope that seeing my older sketches alongside my newer art will inspire other artists to keep at it. Remember:
no artist is amazing out of the gate, it takes time for your skills to catch up with your imagination!
With Sparkling Kisses,
Claudette Barjoud a.k.a Miss Fluff
(In an interview with Linda Castillon, SVP of Licensing, CARD.com)
From my latest book on Magical Mermaids!