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From canvases to carpenter trousers - meet the painter turned designer

By Isabella Jaramillo

There once was a time where you could spot Juliet Johnstone frantically running around New York City in her carpenter trousers. She was constantly in and out of galleries, modelling and studio-assisting five different artists. The plain carpenter trousers were her staple piece, so when she started painting on them, she unknowingly created a brand that everyone is now dying to have in their closet.

As I sat in front of my laptop on a sombre winter evening, I waited nervously for Juliet to pop into our zoom call. It was dark and cold on my side of the screen. Juliet soon joined the call from Los Angeles, with the sun shining through her studio. She was sweet and warm; what felt like a chat with an old friend quickly turned into a conversation about anything and everything.

She’s a Cali girl through and through. She grew up near Malibu, surrounded by a family of musicians. That was her youth. Music was her calling from early on, but when she discovered her love for visual arts, that passion was long gone. Even after graduating from Parsons in 2017, fashion was never on the cards for her. “I’ve never really been super interested in fashion, I never followed designers or bought anything expensive, I loved putting on different outfits, but it was never my world,” she adds.

Juliet would describe her brand as a light-hearted mix of colours, a brand that doesn’t take itself too seriously. Her brand consists of One of One painted trousers and printed tops, fleeces and other accessories. Influenced by her love for California and typography, her pieces are the perfect blur between nature and 60’s psychedelic posters. Juliet is simultaneously combining all these worlds to create her own. A lot of her drops sell out in a matter of minutes, and it’s clear why everyone wants to get their hands on something created by her.

“I find so much comfort in painting flowers and natural things, I try to keep things earthy because it’s what feels like home for me. California definitely influenced everything.”

Whilst I continue to get to know the woman behind the brand, I can hear the gratitude in her voice. What started as a “complete accident” turned into a sensation overnight. Some, including myself, would say it’s a beautiful accident. With no background in business, fashion or pattern making, she’s quite literally “learning as it goes”.

Unlike a lot of us, Johnstone’s lockdown hobby turned into a successful brand. When I asked her if she ever expected this to happen, she let out a loud giggle and almost instantly followed an even louder “fuck no”. As mentioned before, her brand is the fruition of a lockdown project; with many art stores in Los Angeles having shut down, Juliet forced herself to scrap the canvases and pursue her vision of painting on clothes.

What makes her brand special and distinctive from others is the fact she doesn’t have full collections. A lot of the time Juliet spends months perfecting one design. Each year, it will change. And in the special case of her beloved sherpa fleeces, she spent a whole year designing them. So please feel extra special when rocking your JJ fleece. “I feel super grateful every time someone buys something; I love the opportunity it gives me to be creative – I genuinely only make pieces I want to wear all the time or that I’m obsessed with.”

Entering the fashion scene completely clueless, with the help of her friends and her undeniable talent, Juliet is championing the game and really hasn’t shied away from brushing her bristles on almost anything. There really aren’t any surprises with the young and gifted artist. As we fast-forward to today, she’s running a booming business and has a lot of surprises in store for those who support her and her brand.

After an hour of laughter and getting to know the little secrets of the JJ brand, our conversation came to an end. The birth of her brand commenced by her painting on some carpenter trousers for a night out, now it’s blossomed (no pun intended) into something that’s completely personal to her. She may be a fashion designer now, but her artistry roots are imprinted in every single item she sells.

“Painting is the centre and the heartbeat of the entire brand, without painting none of this would exist. With every single piece that I do, all the elements that are printed on… were painted.”

Words: Isabella Jaramillo

Photography: Emma Berson

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