September’s New York Fashion Week is one of the biggest gatherings around the runway featuring new collections from household names and up-and-coming designers. Fittingly, Brett Johnson is a rising designer in town to promote his new menswear clothing line.
The 23-year-old founder and creative director of the Bethesda, Maryland-based Brett Johnson Collection is taking entrepreneurial cues from, and following in some powerhouse footsteps, his billionaire parents. He is the son of BET co-founders Robert L. Johnson, chairman of The RLJ Companies, and Shelia C. Johnson, CEO of Salamander Hotels and Resorts and Chair of the Board of Governors of Parsons, the New School for Design in New York City.
Johnson’s collection of men’s apparel and footwear includes fashion sneakers, polo shirts and T-shirts, and outerwear that were crafted in Florence, Italy. His outerwear includes recognizable tailored fashions like classic pea coats, but also cater to the more creative customer with items like a quilted leather hoodie, wool and leather vests, and a biker jacket. Prices range from $225 to $300 for low-top and high-top sneakers to $500 and $1,675 for jackets.
As a designer, Brett Johnson has always been passionate about fashion, sports, and entertainment. He has worked with Italian automaker Ferrari, one of the world’s most iconic brands. While most first-time designers have their garments made in China, Johnson’s manufacturers in Italy and New York-based G-III Apparel.
He started working with long-time family friend Morris Goldfarb, chairman and CEO of G-III Apparel, about three years ago when he began building his collection. He was referred to an Italian outerwear firm by his mother who also has a line of scarves produced in factories throughout Italy.
“I honestly think that’s where you get the best quality,” Johnson says. “China’s good at copying, Italians are the best with their hands, materials, fabrics. You name it, they do it the best.”
As for offering advice to other aspiring designers, Johnson stresses the importance of picking manufacturing and business partners carefully, people you can work with and who will help ensure you’re comfortable with the relationships both financially and personally.
“The idea is to select someone you can trust, who will not take advantage of your ideas or vision and will be a part of what you are trying to build,” he says.
Johnson hopes to appeal to buyers from young professionals to celebrities like Jay-Z and David Beckham. He wants to provide a fashion line that’s a happy medium between street wear and dapper suit and tie.
Johnson’s line is being launched when men are buying at higher levels than women. Moreover, insiders say that there is a great opportunity in the industry for Johnson to offer a brand that fills a gap say between Sean John and Ralph Lauren.
To check out the Brett Johnson Collection, click here.