Friday, 12 February 2010

The High Street Gets Crafty

Etsy's star label Norwegian Wood hits the high street, we caught up with creator Angie Johnson to hear more

With online craft and design communities like Etsy already established in the global marketplace, and DIY fashion blogs getting hundreds of thousands of hits everyday, it was only a matter of time before canny High Street chains like Topshop logged on and snapped up the work of online design talent. Etsy star Angie Johnson of Norwegian Wood was kind enough to give us an exclusive insight as she prepares for her collection launch at Topshop.

Where do you live and work at the moment and is there support for independent design?

Currently I live and work in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. Montreal as a city definitely is a strong supporter of independent design. The arts are a large part of the cultural identity of Montreal, although it can be a tough city to do business in. The low cost of living and creative atmosphere make it a great place for artists, musicians and designers to live, but we all know how much extra money most artists, designers and musicians have floating around; not much! That's where the internet comes in. Without the internet, I would not have a business. Period.

Did you have traditional training at art school?

I have a degree in Clothing and Textiles with a minor in marketing, and I also took a bit of graphic design in my fourth year of uni. Other than that I began learning to sew, crochet and embroider from my mother and great-grandmother when I was about 6 and just never stopped.

Who or what inspires or influences your designs?

Random things really;
- Old music
- Textiles, both new and old
- Books (I read pretty much anything I can get my hands on)
- Photography
- People on the street (including the streets of the internet)

How would you describe your personal style?

My own personal style is pretty schizophrenic and completely based on my mood at a specific time. It can range from a feminine retro outfit to a minimal modern look. My closet is about 60% vintage, 10% handmade and 30% new. I have an incredible weakness for impractical shoes. When I get dressed I try to challenge myself. I think it's too easy to just dress to make oneself look skinny or pretty to fit perfectly into a trend. I like to make it more challenging by trying to work with a hard-to-wear piece, a strange colour combo, or working around some new bizarre accessory I've picked up or made. Basically I do what I seem to do with most things, I complicate it. For me easy is boring.

Your designs seem to be clothing embellishments rather than just functional pieces, do you agree?

Definitely. Initially when I came up with the fringe necklace I was thinking of making tops and dresses with fringe detailing, but then I starting thinking "well how the hell will you wash this top? Wouldn't it be better if the fringe was removable?" Which made me come up with the idea of making a necklace instead. I really like this idea of making clothing that transforms what you already have. I think that anything that adds detail to or changes the silhouette of things you already have is a really interesting way of growing a wardrobe.

Do you have any fashion tips for the coming season that you can share with us?

Hmmm, I'm going to be another one of those supporters of the over the knee boot. I actually bought a pair in London about 3 years ago now, so I've endured 3 years of people thinking I was a stripper, and now that they're finally more acceptable the heels have completely worn out. My recommendation is to try to find a pair with a lower heel. This is not an easy task, but you want these boots to be something you can wear all the time, trust me! I also love them since they fall into that category of "difficult to wear" since you don't want to fall into the trashy category, so it's a bit of a challenge to figure out how to de-sass them a bit, very fun.

Do you collaborate with other designers, if so what if anything changes in your creative process?

I recently collaborated with a craftsman friend of mine on a leather version of my cage skirt that is now available in my shop. Marc (the leather worker) is a close friend so the process was great as we already knew how each other worked. I'm a pretty decisive person though, so working alone is fine too.

What are your plans for the future and is there anything exciting in the pipeline?

I'd like to keep adding more clothing to the collection, and eventually build up to having seasonal collections. Financially it's a big jump to start doing full seasonal collections, so I'm just going to keep working hard and wait for the right time. I'm a big fan of waiting for the right time.

I am also working on my capsule collection for Topshop (Oxford Circus). It's a 6 piece collection with a few of my favourite current pieces that will be exclusive to Topshop. The concession is called EDIT and will be featuring clothing and accessories from around 20 international designers. This is the second season Topshop is doing this program, and I love them for being so involved in the independent design community, it's a rarity!

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