My first introduction to the multi-talented Angie Johnson of Norwegian Wood was in the early Spring of 2008 as I meticulously clicked through StyleBubble, the dot-com home to the blogosphere’s most fashionable femme Susanna Lau. I was immediately taken in by Angie’s unbound creativity and D.I.Y aesthetic. Her fringe, leather and lace confections along with the now famous cage skirts, whipped up quite the internet fashion frenzy. Fast forward a few years later and Angie’s Norwegian Wood is easily the hottest Etsy shop and when she’s not creating eclectic covetable pieces she manages her own boutique, Headquarters, with her partner Tyson Bodnarchuk, is dreaming up her Fall 2010 collection and planning her pending nuptials. And yet despite her insane schedule I was fortunate enough to catch up with the lovely Angie and whip a few questions her way.
1. For those not in the know, who are you?
My name’s Angie Johnson, I’m the designer of the clothing and accessory line called Norwegian Wood. I live in Montreal with my fiancé, illustrator Tyson Bodnarchuk.
2. How did you get started?
I started sewing, crocheting and embroidering at a very young age, around 5/6 I think. I distinctly remember accidentally stitching an embroidery piece I was making to the front of my dress then cutting my dress in order to not ruin my work… and getting in SERIOUS SHIT for that. I was around five at that time, that’s my first real sewing memory. From there it kind of just kept developing, I learned more about sewing from my mom and then through classes in high school and university. I started my first small clothing line which was sold in a few local stores when I was 16, and continued with that on and off throughout the rest of my teens and early 20s. In my 2nd year of university I also started working for a denim company in Winnipeg (close to where I’m from) and continued there full time after graduating. In 2003 I moved to Montreal and continued to work in the mainstream fashion industry at a few local companies, first as an assistant designer, then as a head designer, and eventually decided to go for it on my own in 2008. And here I am.
3. What inspires you at the moment?
Not the best answer, but honestly I’m inspired by things I see all around me every day. History (both my own and the world at large), colours, fabrics, food, travel, books. Sometimes the problem is being OVER inspired, and the challenge becomes finding a way to reign it all in to create some sort of cohesiveness.
4. What is your current spring 2010 collection about?
The collection was inspired by a group of local ladies from an old neighborhood I used to live in. The area was a little rough, especially the main high street where my apartment happened to be. It was very grey, rundown, lots of concrete, few trees. But there were these ladies who would get all done up in traditional dress in Sundays to go to church. I was always mesmerized by the bright graphic patterns of the West African wax cloth fabrics used to make their outfits, contrasted against the ugly grey background of our area. They were so happy and excited to see all their friends and although I’m not a religious person, I could see that their religion and church was very important to them. It immediately would put me in a good mood, and I never forgot that.
5. What kind of fabrics have you been working with this time around?
For my spring collection I worked with a lot of printed cottons, specifically West African waxcloth, mixing it with new or vintage jersey, as well as sheer mesh. I like strong contrasts within my collections, mixing natural and synthetic, etc.
7. Do you have design challenges? And if so, what are they?
Time, there never seems to be enough time to get everything done. I guess that’s more of a business challenge than a design one though….The designs are the easy part, it’s all the other aspects of running your own business that are hard!
8. How has the blogging community helped in your career?
Without the blogging community I wouldn’t have been able to achieve the success I’ve had so far with Norwegian Wood, simple as that. You can be the most talented person in the world, but if you can’t get your stuff out there for people to see, it doesn’t mean much. I’ve been lucky to have some of what I consider to be the best bloggers out there get my back. Now it’s my job to keep pushing myself and my designs so I don’t disappoint!
9. What advice would you give to up and coming designers?
Don’t be afraid to work in the mainstream industry for awhile before starting your own line. You’ll learn so much (about how to put together a collection, fabrics, production, scheduling, selling in other countries, shipping, suppliers, invoicing, working with press and sales agencies, etc) It’s a HUGE advantage to have a little background experience in these things before starting your own line.
10. What is your greatest vice?
Candy, I eat way, way, way too many refined sugars!