Meet Angie Johnson: The Norwegian Wood Wunderkind
all images from S/S 2010 lookbook
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 thehottest 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!
To Mark Fast, A Love Letter
Mark Fast and lovely model. image credit: Raymund Galsim
I’ve been called a hopeless romantic. Some whisper it in whimsy and understanding, while others choose to the spit the words at me, almost hissing with disdain.
I am a romantic. But am I hopeless? Yes. I believe in it more than religion and science.
For romance is love, and love is good.
Love is great! Love is everything and anything you want it to be.
I tend to fall in love often.
I am in love with my friends and family.
With chocolate biscuits, the nineties and camels crossing deserts.
I am in love with pop art, flat faced kittens, sketchy loft parties and afros.
With melodies, memories and men.
There is one man in particular who holds my current fancy (and no I don’t mean Cole Mohr, although my love for him is eternal).
The man I speak of is the darling Mark Fast,
the Canadian born wunderkind that I was lucky enough to meet, one frosty morning. It was my first ‘real’ interview, and one that I wasn’t at all prepared for to be completely honest. Only expecting a few moments to glance at Fast’s pieces I was pleasantly surprised to find that his initial appointment was running behind. So I jumped at the chance, and I am still grateful for the chat!
“No, No, don’t worry!” the soft spoken Fast ushered me to a white lounge chair where we sat and I had admitted my fear of looking like a fool. “You’ll do fine.” We spoke of his homecoming, and how happy he was being back to his beloved great white North. Based in England for the last eight years, Fast, welcomed Toronto’s change of pace but there was nothing but love for the great London Town. “There is inspiration in every corner and every alleyway. You can’t help but be inspired.” And what of Central Saint Martins? A school so steeped in history and talent and where Fast graduated with both a BA and MA degrees. “At Saint Martins I was allowed to explore. There was always someone there for you, but we were given free reign. It was just so great because you were mixed in with all the artists, photographers and MA designers. All of us in one building… it was exciting.”
Long before the London Fashion Week commotion, and the scrutiny to follow, it was my mother- a great admirer of Stuart Vevers and the Loewe brand- who turned me on to Mark Fast after their collaboration for the brands Fall 09 collection. Fast forward a year later, I sat, skimming through style.com and marveling over his SS10 pieces. Here cocktail dresses were spun together with Swarovski crystals and pearls. The intricate cobwebbed knits were barely covering the models’ delicate bits, skin playing a teasing game of peek-a-boo. My favourite, the little grey number, where little leather scallops were stitched tight around the sleeves and body. As the model walked the leather pieces would swish and dance, a sense of movement I found to be total genius.
“I’ve always been texture driven.” Fast replied when asked about his use of knits. “In knitwear you are in charge of the texture, in charge of the fabric itself, so anything is possible.” He describes the use of the A-Poc machine, made famous by Issey Miyake, as his state if the art kitchen. “It used to be fire and sticks at first, but once you get a kitchen you can start cooking.” He adds walking me through his pieces, and the detailing behind each. “(Now) this is fine cuisine.”
And I couldn’t agree more.
Then came the big question- or at least the one most asked. Hesitant, I looked down at my notes, before biting the plus-size model bullet. “As a curvy girl I was thrilled! But were you expecting such an overwhelming response?” I asked, expecting annoyance, but in turn I received a smile and was answered with such genuine honesty. “No! It’s just that my clothes suit girls with real curves.” He replied laughing. “I knew that the clothes would be for all types of bodies, because it stretches, and that’s the nature of the product. I just thought these women were gorgeous and why not? Let’s have fun with fashion, let’s not be so serious and robotic.”
We chatted a bit more, ate chocolate cupcakes, and gossiped about the lovely British ‘It Girls’ I admired. “Who your ideal Mark Fast woman?” I asked at one point. “She changes all the time. Tilda Swinton, or Jen Brill. Do you know her? Terry Richardson’s girl friend.”
Yes! I agree. Total girl crush. My zeal catches him off guard, and we laugh again. But soon it’s time for me to leave, and I feel oddly heart-broken. I mention my move to London at the end of the year, and my combined sense of fear and excitement. “You’ll love it,” he replies as we air-kiss good-bye. “Come by the studio and we’ll have tea!” And it was at that very moment I realized I had fallen in love.
The Mark Fast collection and the diffusion line Faster can now be found at Holt Renfrew, Browns Fashion and 10 Corso Como.
This was posted by Kiwi on the 9th of February, 2010
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Errol’s Phonemera: photography in real time.
The internet fascinates me. Simple.
The amount of really good shit floating through the fodder and crap is so thrilling to seek out and find. Usually it starts of as a regular social media crawl. Then I skip from page to page, raiding the blog-osphere for something truly unique. Where passion, beauty, pain, pleasure and all other manners of emotion are scribbled down for the entire world to see.
There is something incredibly terrifying about articulating my musings here, but also quiet liberating. So I thank you for your kind words and emails. Please keep them coming! I would love to know your thoughts, and what you find fascinating.
But this isn’t about me!
It was during one of my many internet stumbles that I spotted the exceptional work of the young Errol Rainey and his mad ‘phone-ography”skills. Skimming through the images I had figured he was talented with a camera (which he also very well happens to be). But It took me a moment or two to realize that all images and edits were courtesy of his little cellular device.
- Who are you?
I’m Errol Rainey, I’m a London based freelance photography assistant and budding photographer. Full time hustler, like everyone else. I also do a photo blog on my phone.
- And what’s your work all about?
My phone photography, “Phone-ography”, are just documentations of my day to day life, looked at from a “living fashion shoot” kind of angle. Shoots usually have themes, but a lot of the time it’s everyday life. I’m very fortunate to get a lot of days off being freelance, so most of it is myself and my wonderful other freelance friends doing everyday things, just take a snap from a different angle, bending reality almost. The blog is also Live, so I take a pic on my phone, edit it on the phone, then send it to my blog. So the key is knowing that you’re seeing things in the now, as opposed to back then, which don’t get me wrong I do like!
- Phone Photography is genius, how did the idea come about?
Well to be honest the phone itself was advertised for its camera, its super quality and all that jazz but it’s still a phone. Its shit quality, but that’s the charm. I hate the mediocre quality of your standard digital cameras, I still like film best of all. I always carry a little 35mm snap camera, a little digital, my phone, and when you add my iPod it’s all too much. I always upgrade to the latest camera phone when I can. It was last summer I realized while messing about on my phone and editing the pics, they can looked kinda cool. If it’s a nice moment, some nice light, framing is okay, then it doesn’t matter what camera you’ve used. Your eyes will usually see something nice, hopefully.
- What kind of phone do you use?
Well, I hate to answer this one because I asked for sponsorship and never got a reply. Could have been a wrong email address, so I’ll tell you, it’s a Sony 5mp camera phone with 3 stripes down the sides like a pair of adidas joggers. I haven’t a clue on the model name. But there ain’t many to choose from with those specs.
- How do you handle shots where you need more specific focus or lighting?
I rarely shoot at night, because the camera on the phone goes blind and the flash is weaker then birthday cake candle. I tried using a bike light as a fill to help, but that kinda flopped. So just have to shoot where it’s bright and then find the shadows, you can’t get much bokeh in the images so I usually focus on the subject, everything else is usually in similar ranges. But to put it bluntly on that question I don’t shoot it, if the lights too low or the subject is too fast.
- Which do you prefer film or phone photography?
Film for sure, but love the phone more than I used to, because with out it I would have never have taken any of the pics on the blog. Or ones that couldn’t make it and I think there are a few cool ones up there.
- What is your worst vice?
Smoking good weed and just chillin’ all day with cosmo, happens far too often. Buying bottled water also, but Hackney tap water ain’t too nice.
- What is in store for you this year?
Shoot more, assist more and learn more. Got a few things that excite me lined up for the summer but if nothing comes from them I’ll look like a fool for mentioning them.
Late this past spring, I had the honor of interviewing wunderkind of the basic white t-shirt, Clayton Evans. Designer of complexgeometries, and easily one of my favourite up and coming designers to date. I had originally stumbled upon complexgeometries in the winter of 2008, when I had fallen in lust with a bat wing black sweater which could be manipulated in to a variety of shapes. Since then I have worn my little number ragged and own a few of Evan’s fun high fashion yet functional pieces.
This young label has already been receiving incredible amounts of international attention and is currently stocked in cities as far away as Tokyo. Evan’s recent A/W collection boasts bigger collars, multi-layered draping, and the softest of silk jersey. All twisted, cut, shredded and reshaped to create a mathematical equation for those who covet style over trend, and can truly appreciate and make an item truly their own.
1. Could you tell me how you started and why you got in to design?
I started designing when I was at art school. I began making clothes more and more often to complete my assignments, and in the process, I realized I preferred the challenges of design to the freedom of art.
2. Describe your Complex Geometries man and woman?
I can’t really. One of our main objectives is to design clothes that fit as many different personalities as they do body shapes.
3. Can you describe what “Between Good and Evil” is about and the inspiration behind the collection?
“Between Good and Evil” is an examination of the vague and disputed area between good and bad. The ways we interpreted it were sometimes quite literal (using a lot of grey) while other ideas were explored a bit more cereberally (the ideas of good and bad taste)
4. What’s your favorite part about conceptualizing a design?
The moment it goes from “that’s ridiculous” to “that’s really cool”…and back again.
5. What was the thought process in having the collection translated in to film?
The idea to use film and video to present the collection originated as a practical choice. We were trying to find ways to present the clothing to buyers that would show the garments more thoroughly than the usual photos or linesheets, since there was often confusion. After the first collaboration (aw08 directed by Olivier Groulx), it was clear that it still wasn’t going to make things any more clear for buyers but it was an exciting and enjoyable way to present the line.
6. What are your greatest design challenges?
Everything is a challenge in fashion design. From finding the right fabric and figuring out how to construct it to putting a price on it and trying to sell it. Ideas come easily, but everything from there out is a hurdle.
7. With this collection you continue to push the boundaries of unisex wear. Where would you like to go next?
A few journalists have pointed out that what is unusual about complexgeometries’ unisex styles is that they aren’t necessarily androgynous. This wasn’t the initial intention, nor was creating unisex style, but I am interested in the idea of creating genderless clothes that don’t make the wearer androgynous and would really like to push that.
8. Are there any designers you would love to collaborate with?
I’m usually pretty excited to collaborate with anyone. There is always some tension in collaboration, generally positive, and the most creative ideas spring from negotiating that tension.
9. Why did you choose to start your career in Montreal?
Montreal is cheap. And that affordability attracts a lot of creative people who can sustain themselves on very little while they try to build their careers. It makes for an interesting community of creative people.
10. What was the first article of clothing you ever designed?
Oh god. Probably a dress for my sister’s Barbie; a tube with fringe on it. Not much has changed, I guess.