Among the ever-growing assortment of sustainable fashion brands, ethical manufacturing concerns, fair trade workshops, and more, few brands have built as strong a following as Ulla Johnson. Raised in New York by a set of archaeologist parents, her designs carry a predisposition toward travel and the careful exploration of different global cultures through cultural artifacts and heritage techniques. Add to these sensibilities a degree in psychology and women’s studies and it’s easy to see the authenticity in Johnson’s commitment to handmade garments in developing economies like Peru’s Sacred Valley community of weavers and knitters.
Johnson launched her eponymous line of bohemian designs in 2000, self-funding her initial product line of only 5 designs on a bootstrapped budget of a few thousand dollars. Unlike many of her contemporaries in fashion, Ulla self-taught by exploring global possibilities in New York City’s Garment District. Her relationships with manufacturers and producers is a cornerstone of her brand vision and recurs frequently throughout her 18 years and counting. Her relationship with workshops in Peru have blossomed into a source of inspiration, as well as a resource.
“I have been there close to a dozen times, and I am never at a loss to explore new regions and find fresh inspiration. The country is so vast and varied, with the most biodiversity to be found in any region of the world, and within that, there is such an array of traditional artistry.”
Likewise, her partnership with Manos del Uruguay, a non-profit social organization creating work for women artisans in rural areas of Uruguay, has proven time and again that designers can work hand in hand with artisans to create something extraordinary.
From her first collection, customers responded to the effortless bohemian sensibilities inherent in Ulla Johnson’s stunning array of printed dresses made from natural fibers. More recently expanding to shoes and bags, her designs carry a sense of her personality: simplicity, versatility, and a whimsical sense of wanderlust are equally suited to Ulla Johnson, traveling wife and mother, as they are for Ulla Johnson, high fashion designer. Now approaching 2 decades, her brand has continued to grow, as has her cult-like following. Regularly showing at NYFW, her development as a designer was slow and deliberate, ensuring that all aspects of her brand are thoughtful and sustainable.
Putting off large buys and mass production in favor a slow fashion and a sensitivity to the capacity of her long-standing partners, she has often commented on the challenge of being a mother to 3 children, who regularly accompany her on trips to India, Morocco, and Japan. Celebrities also discovered Ulla Johnson, falling openly in love with the effortless chic so prevalent in her pieces. Her celebrity following including Jennifer Lawrence , Sarah Paulson, Greta Gerwig, and others. Similarly, the media caught on, featuring Ulla herself as a model of what a designer should be. Still an editor favorite, she recently quipped to Vogue,
“I design things that I love. Not every piece is for me personally, but we now have this ability to make the kind of clothes that we dream about.”
Here at Accompany, we’re proud to support Ulla Johnson’s global romance. We continually find every design to be elegant, easy, and made with the utmost attention to detail. Her commitment to unearthing heritage crafts, textile history, and cultural expression gracefully accents each adorable dress, bohemian blouse, and patterned pant.