Strong. Sexy. Structured. All adjectives to describe Johnson shorts. Designer Kristen Johnson has attracted a celebrity following (her first big client was Hillary Duff on the cover of Blender magazine and she counts Kate Moss and Mischa Barton among the style luminaries adoring her line) by reclaiming the short from drab, soccer-mom territory, and making it a staple in any fashion-conscious woman’s wardrobe. Johnson’s unique creations are finished with luxurious vintage silks and one-of-a-kind antique buttons. So what inspired her to build an entire fashion house around pairs of shorts, and what advice does she offer for how to style them? We recently chatted with Kristen to get the short story.
shopbop: What made you decide to create a line dedicated entirely to shorts?
Kristen Johnson: My first day of pre-school I wore Dolphin shorts. My first day of 7th grade was boy’s boxer shorts (rolled over at the waist). The first day of high school, super short white cutoff Levi’s … and on and on from there. To me, shorts are classic and timeless.
SB: What is your inspiration, or what drives your design?
KJ: Menswear is a big influence. I love the fabrics and details used in everything from work wear to business suits. New York is the place to watch people on subways and streets—people here make fashion their own. It is very inspiring.
SB: You use vintage buttons on the shorts, a lovely and special touch. Why did you start doing this, and where do you find all those buttons!?
KJ: I searched high and low for cool, interesting buttons and in the end the vintage one’s were my favorite. I have found them in many places but usually in old warehouses where they are treated as trash. The boxes are always covered in dust and buried under something new.
SB: What fabrics/prints can we look forward to for spring 2009?
KJ: Spring 2009 is sexy-tough. It’s a mix of men’s suiting shorts, pants and vests, rough distressed cotton shorts and cargo pants paired with sexy tops of sequins and printed silks. We are introducing the sexy side of Johnson with our new tops.
SB: How should a woman style her Johnson shorts?
KJ: The styling possibilities are endless. You can take it to the preppy place with a crisp button-down shirt and blazer or sex it up with a sequin top. No matter what top you choose, I always love the shorts with motorcycle boots—it adds a toughness to the look.