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.
It doesn't take a designer to know that this stuff is crap. Many boutiques in the Valley that once carried Angela's stuff have stopped doing so or gone out of business. I have been in classes with some of her well-known designers and have noticed that their stuff looks homemade. One designer whom LabelHorde sees as talented doesn't even use patterns or take measurements when designing clothes. Angela needs to take those 18-hour days she spends working on her Web site and devote that time to improving the quality of her clothes, as well as those of her students.
Her fashion show "Sideshow Freak" was exactly that. The clothes in that show looked like clothes that only circus freaks would wear.
I have been studying under a true designer in the Valley; he has designed clothes for many debutantes in the country, including some of the past presidents' daughters, and he even worked briefly for Christian Dior. He has tutored many students who have gone on to pursue degrees at Parsons and FIT.
Angela doesn't traditionally help anyone move on to bigger and better things. She wants them to stay in Phoenix to make her look better. He, unlike Angela, doesn't have to parade his designs in fashion shows to get noticed. His clients have been so impressed with his work that he has received business solely from word of mouth. He can take a picture of a garment out of a magazine and create it so that you couldn't tell the difference between his piece and something that Chanel made.
You have been getting a lot of nasty remarks from LabelHorde members. But, hopefully, you opened up their eyes enough to realize that they aren't getting anywhere working with Johnson.
Lua Rae, Mesa
A positive influence: I'm shocked at the untruth written in the "Angela's Ashes" article. Angela Johnson has been nothing but a positive influence and saint to Phoenix.
She has worked her ass off every day and has made so many extreme sacrifices all in the name of others. She didn't start LabelHorde for any other reason than to see others in our city succeed.
Heaven forbid that we try to create another source of income and attraction to Phoenix! I just don't understand how such negativity can be written about this honest, hardworking and giving woman. Phoenix owes her a lot!
Tiffe Fermaint, LabelHorde member, Phoenix
The fashion school of hard knocks: Amen to "Angela's Ashes!"
Thanks for sharing the truth about the Arizona fashion scene. If anyone really thinks they're going to make it big in the fashion industry, they must move to New York and go through the school of hard knocks.
Salvador Calvano III, via the Internet
Making a fashion scene: Your story on the blowhard Angela Johnson was right on target in one aspect. But you should give Phoenix a break. So it isn't New York or L.A. So what? At least local fashion designers are trying to make something happen in this town.
While I agree with you on Angela's lack of talent, I resent the condescending tone of the article. It's like New Times is saying that nothing good could possibly happen in this hick town.
Like I say, I agree that little that's good has happened so far fashion-wise, but I'm still betting on the future. We are a new big city, and someday we will come into our own in this arena, too.
Toby Zealous, Phoenix
And this person is an optimist: A fashion scene in Phoenix! This is a major, absurd non sequitur. This is a journey to impossibility. Someplace unreachable. Something invisible. Like that which is sought by the man who digs a bottomless pit or who counts the grains of sand on a beach.
Just you try to find a fashion scene in Phoenix! It's a walk through a petri dish of psycho-death germs. The writer of "Angela's Ashes" actually spoke with the Passage boutique people and decided they were the fashionistas in this town? Was he in the middle of a bad romance, or are his ideas just dialectical short circuits? The Passage people are, at best, like dangerously inbred welfare recipients reflecting the tragic complexity of the banal. They are the reverse of glamour, a magnificent eyesore, one of the many reasons Phoenix fashion is in lapse.
I recently awoke to someone with Down syndrome giving me oral, while a group of water-headed people sang "God Bless America" accompanied on the piano by the guy from Shine. No, then I realized I was just at a Passage fashion show, an artificial society that fakes love, sincerity and orgasms. I had awakened to a pneumatic, undersexed, trailer-of-trash nightmare.
Writer Joe Watson did dig up Phoenix Art Museum fashion curator Dennita Sewell, one of the foremost authorities on fashion (old, new, hip and historical) in the world. She was right under his runny nose, and he gave her one comment on some local seamstress. Dennita is royalty, and she should be treated as such. How dare you not allow your readers access to such a brilliant woman, whom this city is so lucky to have!
Instead, we get overlapping, mutating and merging cultural and social territories. Let me translate: Stop boring us with a catfight between supremely untalented people and give us real content, instead of just foreskin -- something I'm sure Watson is familiar with.
Phoenix fashion is a contaminated whore full of parasitic fashion relationships. We need someone with cherry-stitching ability. We need to re-virginize the city and start over. A hymenoplasty would be best. We need real artists, not people with a divine, narcissistic drive to make themselves phony works of art. These people live only for how they appear to others. This is pop hysteria.
Give us something radical, stimulating, unpredictable, subliminal and unprecedented, or else I'll have to take your jobs!
Name withheld by request
Get the This Week's Top Stories Newsletter
Every week we collect the latest news, music and arts stories — along with film and food reviews and the best things to do this week — so that you’ll never miss Phoenix New Times' biggest stories.