My name is Angie Johnson, and I’m the fashion designer behind the line Norwegian Wood. I live in Montreal.
I knew pretty early on that I wanted to be a designer. I started my first clothing business I was 16 years old – my mom had to drive me to boutique appointments! After getting a degree in clothing and textiles, I worked as a designer in the mainstream fashion industry for 10 years. Then in 2008, I went independent once again and started Norwegian Wood.
For me, inspiration ebbs and flows with all the other things going on in my life. I’ve found that making sure to take time for myself – going to shows, galleries, camping, or really anything to get away from the studio – is absolutely necessary. Sometimes this means I end up creating a collection inspired by a certain time in history, or the work of a particular painter. I gather these inspirations on my Tumblr, or add them to a super secret list of ideas I keep on my phone.
To create a collection, I usually start with that magical list on my phone (seriously, I do!) and choose something that feels right for the season and current fashion mood. From there I select a color palette and start sketching designs. Seeking out fabrics usually leads to more sketching, and then I have way too many styles and I have to edit them down. I do this every single season, and break my own heart canceling styles.
The fun really begins when my assistant Lissa and I start working on the prototypes. It’s so exciting to finally see the garments come to life! We go over the sketches together and talk about which pattern bases will work best for each design. Then Lissa starts working on the patterns and sewing prototype mockups. We study the garment, pinning and marking, tweaking the fit, length, shapes, placement of buttons and pockets, and so on. Once all the kinks are worked out, we make the final sample in the correct fabric and use it at photo shoots – and as a quality reference while we’re sewing the production.
It’s been almost seven years since I started doing Norwegian Wood full time, and I can honestly say that Etsy was the number one thing that pushed me to pursue working for myself. I used to pore over the Quit your Day Job series and try to glean little snippets of info that applied to my situation. It’s hard to overstate how much that meant to me at the time — just knowing that it was possible. Going forward, I see myself delving even deeper into digitally-printed garments and spending a lot more time creating graphic artwork. It’s been really enjoyable to dig into that part of my creative side, and I love attacking fashion from an angle that was simply not possible for an indie designer 10 years ago.
All photographs by Norwegian Wood.