Ulla Johnson Doesn’t Need to Follow Trends

by Freya Drohan

Ulla Johnson always marches to the beat of her own drum, and thanks to her Fall/Winter 2020 collection, I plan on doing the same. 

With this new offering, Johnson celebrated a woman’s many contradictions while defining her own version of assertive femininity. Johnson’s muse has always been someone who cannot be pigeon-holed: both in terms of her approach to fashion and life itself.

This commitment to individuality and a fierce sense of self was evident in how the brand’s signature whimsical garments — cascading ruffle dresses in abstract prints and lurex chiffon blouses — were contrasted this season with impeccably-structured leather, 1980s-throwback silhouettes, and more sporty elements that we previously haven’t seen from the designer.

Johnson said she was inspired by the French architect Charlotte Perriand’s concept of “L’art de Vivre” — the art of living— and she certainly gave her customers some masterpieces. On her color palette for Fall were jewel tones like emerald, magenta, and a regal purple, but also flesh and neutral tones borrowed from the works of Irish artist Francis Bacon. When these hues were rendered in molded leather trousers, cloqué tops with rounded puff shoulders, and liquid satin minidress,  the result was an aesthetic that is undoubtedly Ulla.

Season after season, the New York-based designer takes her bread-and-butter staples (floaty frocks and knitwear crafted in Peru) and tweaks them only ever-so-slightly with new and exciting elements to firmly cement the ethos of her brand. People wax lyrical about the timelessness of a wool coat in a particular shade, or a little black dress that looks like it was made for you. Johnson delivers the same firm reminder that trends are fleeting and sticking to your guns — albeit with a bohemian dress and a nonchalant attitude — is key.

So, what got me so excited? The idea of cinching a frothy, floral number with an architectural leather Obi belt. Daring to pair a crochet midi with socks and high heel sandals. A silky anorak with bishop sleeves as outerwear. And what about those suede animal print boots! Thanks to this show, this homegrown brand’s future looks brighter than ever, making the launch of sunglasses extra fitting.

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