Today we’d like to introduce you to Stacy Johnson.
Stacy, let’s start with your story. We’d love to hear how you got started and how the journey has been so far.
After graduating Parsons School of Design, I started my fashion career on Seventh Avenue apprenticing for Calvin Klein, J. Crew, and Cynthia Rowley before breaking out on my own, starting the brand Stacia out of my Brooklyn brownstone apartment. Taking the unconventional route, I opened a Stacia boutique and atelier in Brooklyn and retailed my custom creations directly to the consumer. I pioneered one of the first online shops in the ’90’s, with stacianewyork.com, which helped level the playing field and extended my reach far beyond NYC.
Craving the beach lifestyle that I grew up with in Hawaii, I moved to Santa Monica in 2004 with husband and newborn. There I launched my Stacia wholesale business and created a line of one-of-a-kind beach-inspired, space-dyed knits that sold in 300 stores across the country, online at shopstacia.com, and at my Santa Monica boutique.
After years of being a slave to the “fashion calendar,” I stepped back from the rigorous fashion wholesale & retail machine to take a breath. Balancing lifestyle, family, and a continued passion for fashion has led me to focus my designs on “what I need now” and limited edition products that let me flex my creativity. It has allowed me to explore creative projects that I otherwise would never have time for when I was handling the day to day wholesale business. A few recent projects include developing a signature fragrance line of products, called Bungalow, and inventing a portable Wet/Dry beach bag for surfers and athletes.
My years of experience in fashion has also inspired me to write and illustrate Mabel the Fashion Muse, a children’s picture and activity book that gives future designers an authentic look at a fashion design career, and empowers young girls to adopt an entrepreneurial spirit. The animated dress form was my original hand-drawn Stacia logo and my vision of her is finally coming to fruition after twenty years!
Has it been a smooth road?
Almost 20 years later having gone through the Dot-com bust, 9/11, and the Recession, my business is still surviving the roller coaster fashion industry. There have definitely been struggles along the way to say the least! For me, the key has been to adapt and constantly re-inventing myself. You can never sit back and relax when you run your own business. And working super hard doesn’t always equate to success. It’s working “smarter,” not harder that allows for success and endurance. The struggles over the years have been many. When you own your own business, growing it is the hardest part. You tend to wear a lot of hats and juggle all aspects of the business. It’s easy to say “farm it out” or hire someone, but when you’re small, it’s not that easy.
In NYC, the struggles were managing my own sewing factory with employees and keeping the retail store afloat after 9/11. Moving to Santa Monica brought its own challenges, mainly having to re-invent my brand and making a shift from retail to wholesale so that I could work from home with a newborn. The wholesale business challenges have always been managing inventory and finding new outlets to sell to as many were closing during the 2008 recession. Opening a store in Santa Monica helped distribute my inventory better, but then that had its own challenges of managing more employees and driving traffic to a brick n’ mortar location.
Today’s challenges will be driving traffic to a web site and navigating social media which is a new era for my business.
We’d love to hear more about your business.
When I launched my wholesale business in 2004, I honed in on the best-selling item from my NYC boutique, sweaters. I wanted to create a niche market for myself to simplify the manufacturing and wholesale operation. I developed a custom-dyed bamboo yarn that was silky soft, washable, and translated beautifully in my beach-lifestyle designs. I became a textile designer of sorts creating one-0f-a-kind space-dyed colors in the yarn so each sweater was unique in pattern when knitted on a flat-bed knitting machine. My clothing designs mirrored how I wanted to dress as a new Mom living in Southern California, surfing in Malibu, and living the quintessential beach lifestyle.
The wholesale business quickly grew across both Coasts, but after 10 years I pretty much got bored of designing the same product over and over for my buyers. Let’s just say my niche began to stifle me as a designer and I was craving to design new products and categories, but my wholesale buyers just wanted one thing from me, space-dye. So what ultimately set me apart from other designers (and what I was known for) was strangling me as a creative person. The answer was to just step away from the success and take a breath.
Today, I am much happier and have more control of my creative process. I’m proud of how I’ve been able to re-invent my brand from the NYC retail days to my wholesale space-dyed sweater business, but most of all that I’m still here and the brand is still in business after all these years. I’m re-inventing the brand again as an online business and maybe the third time will be the charm!
Is our city a good place to do what you do?
California has been a great place to restart a business. Having started my business in NYC, I’ve been able to compare and contrast the two cities as an entrepreneur. New York City, at the time I started my business, was an easy place to stand out as a young designer. I lived in a neighborhood filled with journalists, editors, and stylists so having a storefront made it easy to get press and be “discovered.” In California, the system works a little differently, it’s more about what celebrity is wearing your clothes rather than being discovered by an editor.
Although LA is very spread out compared to NY there is an energy of “newness” always inspiring me as a designer. To me it’s become an incubator for designers and creatives, an energy that NYC had in the early 2000’s. The city in all its vastness is also very small in the sense that you find your tribe, whether it be on the Westside, Echo Park, or Venice.
- Wet | Dry bags $125
- Bungalow Perfume Oil $52
- Aloha Beach Sweaters $148
- Karate Shorts $78
- Website: http://shopstacia.com
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org