The Valley of the Sun is home to local designer Angela Johnson who “fashions T-shirts into couture.” Her designs are unique and inspiring, as she makes beautiful creations from what others might toss aside as simply an old T-shirt. According to her website, the designs are “eco-friendly, sustainable, one-of-a-kind fashion ‘upcycled’ from ‘thrifted’ and scavenged T-shirts.” Her couture has been recognized around the Valley. She’s also held strong as the winner of Best Local Designer for AZ Foothill’s Best of Our Valley Competition every year.
AZ Foothills got the chance to speak with Johnson about the inspiration behind this one-of-a-kind couture. Read what she had to say below.
AFM-How did you start the couture?
Johnson- My tag line is “Turning T-shirts Into Couture” but the funny thing is that I only call it couture as sort of an ironic nod. To truly be couture, a collection has to be invited by the Chambre Syndicale de la Haute Couture in Paris and follow a lot of rules. I think there have only been about 2 American designers who have been given the right to be called couture. So, technically, I’m not a couture business. But, I love the irony of calling it couture (because each one is one-of-a-kind and made specifically for a particular customer) when it is made out of such an every-day mundane material like T-shirts. The juxtaposition of this is really in line with my entire aesthetic. I love making something so structured and tailored like a ball gown out of something that is casual and mass produced. So, I started it because I wanted to create something unique that represented my aesthetic of mixing casual fabric with tailored construction. It was originally an idea that I created for a single fashion show about 14 years ago that ended up becoming my entire collection to this day.
AFM-What makes your couture unique?
Johnson- I think its unique because I make ballgowns/event dresses and other tailored garments out of such a casual fabric…T-shirts. Also, customers can chose their own color, size and even T-shirt logo theme so their garment is very personalized.
AFM-What are your future plans for the line?
Johnson- I have been “Turning T-shirts Into Couture” for individual customers through my online store for about 14 years now and I don’t want to change a thing! I love doing it and I want to continue to do it. I would love for it to grow even bigger and possibly dress a few celebrities.
AFM-What’s your favorite fashion piece you have designed?
Johnson- This is so tough to say because I like many of them for different reasons. I love the fantasy themed T-shirt ballgown I created out of all unicorn and fairy T-shirts . This is my most popular silhouette so I make a lot of these T-shirt Ballgowns and there have been some really fun themes that I loved just as much as this fantasy one. For instance, I created this breast cancer survivor one that I obviously loved for more reasons than just the shirts that were used. I also really loved the little black dress I created for the Phoenix Fashion Week LBD contest. I also really liked this rainbow dress I made out of 50+ T-shirts.
AFM-What gave you the idea to fashion designs from old t-shirts?
Johnson- It is tough to compete with the mass produced clothing collections that you find in the mall because they have millions of dollars to manufacture thousands of the same piece. When you can afford to manufacture thousands of the same piece, the price of manufacturing goes way down exponentially because you can buy fabric in bulk and sew in bulk which makes each piece so much cheaper. So, the independent designers / design entrepreneurs like myself can’t compete with this. Therefore, to be an indie designer, you have to really come up with a very unique product so that it is worth it to the customer to spend the money on it that you’ll have to charge to stay in business. So, because of this, I had to really think outside the box. I wanted to be sure to come up with a product that was unique, that could be personalized and that would be worth the high price I would have to charge in order to make it worth my time and skill to design it, make the pattern, sew it, market it and sell it myself.
Below are some of the images of her favorite designs.
Unicorn and Fairy T-shirts
Breast Cancer Survivor
Phoenix Fashion Week LBD Contest
To browse her many glamorous designs, visit AngelaJohnsonDesigns.com.