Angela's Ashes

The party's hot, but the Valley's fashion scene? Not so much

"When the mother of Arizona's fashion community throws a runway show to promote her fall line," the release said, "one can assume it will be a momentous event . . ."

"That's part of the business!" says Rhonda Zayas, who recently referred to herself in her PR for "SoundStyle" as the "Andy Warhol of Phoenix." "There's nothing wrong with self-promotion!

"If you want to get noticed, you have to be willing to throw yourself out there for criticism. Anybody could have done what Angela did. Anybody could write up press releases and send them out and say whatever the hell they want to! But Angela was the only one who did."

Angela Johnson, the "mother of Arizona's fashion community," flanked by models Caitlyn (left) and Daynalyn in Johnson originals.
Jeff Newton
Angela Johnson, the "mother of Arizona's fashion community," flanked by models Caitlyn (left) and Daynalyn in Johnson originals.
New York transplant and designer Susan Di Staulo (left) says Angela Johnson "gave me a real reason to live. I'm serious."
Peter Scanlon
New York transplant and designer Susan Di Staulo (left) says Angela Johnson "gave me a real reason to live. I'm serious."


It's a stormy Saturday, the first in August, and Angela Johnson is happier than she's seemed in weeks. Of course, a keg and some Jägermeister tend to dull the worry and stress she says she's been coping with, trying to figure out if LabelHorde will still be around by the time Fashion Week kicks off in November.

She's surrounded by friends at her house who have surprised her for her birthday. Rhonda Zayas is here, as well as a few local designers, including Tiffe Fermaint and Hector Primero -- a pair of designers Johnson raves about.

"I just want to make a toast to my wife," says Johnson's husband, Ryan, holding up a shot of Jäger, "and wish her a very happy birthday. I love you, baby, and I promise to love you for at least the next 365 days."

Then Zayas, Johnson's sister Summer, and the small clique of designers become defensive of their friend and benefactor.

"I think Angela should be hearing more of a 'thank you' for putting this fashion community together," Zayas says, admitting she might be approaching inebriation after downing a shot of Jäger. "She should be getting more acknowledgement from the community.

"There are a lot of people that go and do shows and then don't go back to improve their designs. But that's not Angela's fault! She's just running, really, a Yellow Pages!"

"Yeah, totally!" Johnson's sister and a few bystanders grumble in unison, like an angry mob at a political rally.

A few days before her birthday party, Johnson wrote to LabelHorde members, telling designers how excited she is for Fashion Week in November. "So designers . . . start getting your lines ready to show during that week!"

Johnson is coordinating Fashion Week, Phoenix's small-scale version of Manhattan's calling card to the global fashion community, complete with runway shows, boutique mixers and seminars for design and marketing students. She's collaborating with the Art Institute.

Lately, Angela Johnson is feeling the love again.

"I don't know," she says, dripping wet after playing volleyball in her pool. "I kinda think that things may work out after all.

"Maybe people don't hate me as much as I thought they did."

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