100 Creatives

Phoenix Fashion Designer Angela Johnson on What It Takes to Build an Industry

Every other year, New Times puts the spotlight on Phoenix's creative forces — painters, dancers, designers, and actors. Leading up to the release of Best of Phoenix, we're taking a closer look at 100 more. Welcome to the 2016 edition of 100 Creatives. Up today is 19. Angela Johnson.

Instead of bemoaning Phoenix's lack of fashion industry infrastructure, Angela Johnson did something. She started building it.

"When I faced the obstacle of having no fashion manufacturing resources in Arizona," Johnson says, "I decided to take action and change that and spent the last 15 years creating a fashion industry."

After working in Los Angeles and designing a sportswear line called Monkeywench, Johnson returned to her native Arizona to be closer to family. But what she gained in proximity to loved ones, she lost in business resources. Johnson discontinued the sportswear line, but with a little ingenuity launched a fresh outlet for her designs. 

"I had to get creative to figure out how to make clothing in a city without manufacturing resources or wholesale fabrics," Johnson, 45, says, "so I decided to make custom handmade items out of recycled/thrifted T-shirts instead."

The designer garnered a following with her punk-infused ballgowns, blazers, and assorted separates. But the bigger picture still bugged Johnson. She saw Phoenix's potential — and that there were others who shared her entrepreneurial spirit.

In the early 2000s, she launched LabelHorde, a directory of designers and fashion resources in the Phoenix area. After a bit of a hiatus, Johnson relaunched the project in 2013. And now, it has expanded to include an incubator space. 

Headquartered in Mesa (with plans to relocate this fall), LabelHorde has partnered with AZ Fashion Source to serve as the Valley's go-to brick-and-mortar space for designers both aspiring and established. "We offer classes/lessons, consulting, design services, sourcing, manufacturing, co-working, supplies, a fashion directory, jobs classifieds, vocational training, events space," Johnson says. "So, now no other designers will face the same obstacle that I did when I tried to manufacture my collection from here."

Her work is anything but complete, however. Johnson says her average workday stretches 18 hours, and involves a lot of sitting in front of a computer. "I also do a lot of fashion consultations to help designers get their brands started and learn the manufacturing process," she says. "I also sketch a lot because I teach fashion illustration and I draw fashion flats [technical blueprints of clothing] for other designers."

Which only fuels Johnson's creativity. " Other design entrepreneurs keep me motivated to start this fashion industry," she says. "The need to create keeps me motivated to create my upcycled T-shirt dresses."

I came to Phoenix with my husband and baby and years of fashion industry experience from LA.

I make art because my inner demons make me do it.

I'm most productive when
I’m alone.

My inspiration wall is full of succulents, Halloween imagery, avant-garde fashion, sea life, insects, industrial interiors.

I've learned most from just doing it myself.

Good work should always be photographed/documented before it leaves the artist’s hands!

The Phoenix creative scene could use more financial support.

The 2016 Creatives so far:

100. Nicole Olson
99. Andrew Pielage
98. Jessica Rowe
97. Danny Neumann
96. Beth Cato
95. Jessie Balli
94. Ron May
93. Leonor Aispuro
92. Sarah Waite
91. Christina "Xappa" Franco
90. Christian Adame
89. Tara Sharpe
88. Patricia Sannit
87. Brian Klein
86. Dennita Sewell
85. Garth Johnson
84. Charissa Lucille
83. Ryan Downey
82. Samantha Thompson
81. Cherie Buck-Hutchison
80. Freddie Paull
79. Jennifer Campbell
78. Dwayne Hartford
77. Shaliyah Ben
76. Kym Ventola
75. Matthew Watkins
74. Tom Budzak
73. Rachel Egboro
72. Rosemary Close
71. Ally Haynes-Hamblen
70. Alex Ozers
69. Fawn DeViney
68. Laura Dragon
67. Stephanie Neiheisel
66. Michael Lanier
65. Jessica Rajko
64. Velma Kee Craig
63. Oliver Hibert
62. Joya Scott
61. Raji Ganesan
60. Ashlee Molina
59. Myrlin Hepworth
58. Amy Ettinger
57. Sheila Grinell
56. Forrest Solis
55. Mary Meyer
54. Robert Hoekman Jr.
53. Joan Waters
52. Gabriela Muñoz
51. ColorOrgy
50. Liz Magura
49. Anita and Sam Means
48. Liz Ann Hewett
47. Tiffany Fairall
46. Vanessa Davidson
45. Michelle Dock
44. Nia Witherspoon
43. Monique Sandoval
42. Nayon Iovino
41. Daniel Davisson
40. Andrew King
39. Michelle Moyer
38. Jimmy Nguyen
37. Tiffany Lopez
36. Kristin Bauer
35. Donna Isaac
34. Douglas Miles
33. Sierra Joy
32. Francisco Flores
31. Amy Robinson
30. Julio Cesar Morales
29. Duane Daniels
28. Kelsey Pinckney
27. Ben Smith
26. Rembrandt Quiballo
25. Corinne Geertsen
24. Tess Mosko Scherer
23. Slawomir Wozniak
22. Elly Finzer
21. Josh Brizuela