Step inside the kaleidoscopic world of the Brooklyn-based designer, Ulla Johnson who has garnered a cultish following for her footloose dresses
“My personal style is quite eclectic; I try on clothes like personalities. I reinvent myself every day – for me, that’s the magic of fashion,” says Ulla Johnson who eschews the strictures of a uniform in favour of constant transformation. The Brooklyn based designer who for many years was something of an insider's secret for New York creatives, is now a go to for women like her seeking feminine (but not too fussy); bohemian (but not too granola) designs that appeal to the footloose muse in us all. The store on Bleecker Street, New York has become a mecca for diversity of women seeking out her joyous prints and not too precious style. The appetite is witnessed in the sheer speed women strip off in the changing rooms to try on her free flowing, chromatically rich designs.
The daughter of archaeologists, Johnson has a passion for handcrafted skills and intricate prints that are rich with storytelling and carry the influence of her travels to Peru, Kenya and India. She works with mostly female worker communities to source and commission specialist materials that might be woven, knitted and crocheted.
“My personal style is quite eclectic; I try on clothes like personalities. I reinvent myself every day – for me, that’s the magic of fashion."
@ullajohnson // Instagram
The 49 year old mother of three and wife of Zach Miner, an art consultant, knows too well the drill of wanting to appear carefree but not unkempt, feminine but not cliched and balances off frills, flounces, puff sleeves with sultry colour palettes and dense floral prints that signal a happy complexity rather than pure innocence. “We can be wildly feminine and still be strong,” said the self taught Johnson to Vogue who has managed to capture the Chloe spirit of yore. “The whole design team wears the clothes, we live the lifestyle,” says Johnson of her in-house lab of ‘testers.’
This self owned business is thriving with a new boutique in L.A. (with an interior by Kelly Wearstler and a garden by Miranda Brooks) and Amagansett. Her training in psychology and women’s studies at University of Michigan helps fuel the complicity she shares with her customers. Time short schedules and the multiple roles we play are at the fore. She has trained herself to get ready in a flash and relies on Dr Barbara Sturm glow drops, Joanna Vargas’s sheet masks to boost her complexion and Perfumer H scent.
With her mind on sustainability and circularity, Johnson launched preloved in March 2023, where you can shop past collections. Meanwhile, for Pre Fall 2023 (the campaign was shot by Nadina Ijewere in Jamaica) find super saturated pigments like hibiscus and tangerine in a waterfall drape maxi dress; fractal screen printed florals and rich textures. A highlight is the new Shibori silk twill Jude shirt dress with a print made by a women-led collective in Bangalore that uses sustainable dying practices and natural fibres; the printed Lyla jacquard bubble top and the limited edition crochet Lennon skirt made in Turkey.
These vivid designs go a long way to making summer really feel like the best yet.