Letters

Letters from the issue of Thursday, September 1, 2005

ClothesHorses

Homegrown talent: With regard to the story about Arizona's fashion scene ("Angela's Ashes," Joe Watson, August 18), I strongly disagree with several points. First, the author suggests that talented designers leave the state. But there are talented designers with very successful lines that choose to make Arizona their home, including well-known designers such as Christy Fisher, Christa Hilda (both members of LabelHorde), Estelle Inc., Ancient Vibrations, Bisadora, and Poochie of Beverly Hills, that sell to hundreds of stores nationwide. There are also two very big manufacturers here that sell internationally, Antigua and Fatigues. Some of these designers have made a conscious decision to purposefully move from places like Los Angeles or New York to Arizona.

I also disagree with the suggestion that, for the most part, the Valley's fashion scene consists of kids silk-screening tee shirts and women making fashions from men's neckties. Some research would have shown that two of the 30 apparel designers listed in our directory make silk-screened designs. (Not that that isn't a legitimate form of fashion. In fact, it sells better than any other form of fashion in the junior market.) The necktie fetish was a really big fad last year and, yes, a few local designers did use neckties in their clothes, including me. So did thousands of other independent designers around the world.

I want to clarify that the annual Fashion Ball, which will be held in November, is open to any designers who want to participate, not just LabelHorde members. The Fashion Ball kicks off Fashion Week, which is sponsored by a number of fashion organizations in town, including Fashion Group International of Arizona. It is not "Johnson's Fashion Week," as Joe Watson wrote. Furthermore, I believe that Watson's statement that, "Of the 50 local designers who pay their dues to LabelHorde, nobody's doing any better than Johnson," is unsubstantiated and displays Mr. Watson's unqualified bias.

Watson also implied that I had something to do with the timing of an award I received from Arizona's Fashion Group International chapter. He was told he could verify this with the directors of FGI. He chose not to. This is a huge insult to me, and a defamation of character. This was one of my greatest honors and one of the things I am most proud of, in addition to the Artist of the Year award from the Scottsdale Cultural Council that he failed to mention.

Finally, Watson made a mistake in the following passage from the story: "And in May, in a press release promoting Johnson's first runway show of brand-new designs in almost two years -- 'Sideshow Freak in the Padded Room' -- Johnson led off the release by referring to herself as the 'mother of Arizona's fashion community,' which isn't necessarily untrue (after all, no one else seems willing to claim the title), but a little modesty wouldn't hurt.

"'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.'"

I did not write that myself. Another writer did, and I do admit that I knew about the article and allowed it to be posted on the LabelHorde Web site. No, I didn't tell the writer to remove her comment about me from that story, and it did get put up on the Web site of the organization that I created to promote local designers. So you could definitely accuse me of self-promotion. I don't have a problem with that. But I did not send out a press release proclaiming myself the "mother of Arizona's fashion community."

The other creators of LabelHorde and I have put a lot of time, effort, emotion and finances into doing something positive for this state, with the hope that it will bring jobs, opportunity, creativity and culture. I am saddened and disappointed that a publication like New Times, which should value progress like this for Arizona, would go out of its way to purposefully try to make me and the community look bad for doing so. Starting and running a business like LabelHorde that is geared toward promoting other people -- with no financing, and just the will in your heart -- is difficult enough as it is. We struggle! So, may I say, nice way to kick us when we're down! You must be proud of yourselves.
Angela Johnson, Scottsdale

Designer dressing-down: Thank you so much for the wonderfully accurate article on Angela Johnson. Finally, someone in this Valley sees Johnson as a poor excuse for a designer; I must say that it's an embarrassment to call her the "mother of Arizona's fashion community."

I am a fashion designer myself. I have gone to numerous SMoCA shows and others put on by Johnson and have been highly disgusted with her work, as well as with that of the other designers. Their clothes are poorly constructed and hideously made.

In your article, you point out that Angela doesn't like big-name designers. This is because she can't understand the quality, time and craftsmanship that go into each one of their pieces. She throws together a bunch of shows with stuff that looks like it was made in two hours, tops.

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