Fashion Designer Stacy Johnson Draws on Experience in NYC to Pen Debut Children’s Book from the Highlands
By LILY TINOCO | Reporter
Palisadian fashion-designer-turned-author Stacy Johnson has announced her debut children’s picture book “Mabel the Fashion Muse,” unveiling a story that draws inspiration from her life in New York City.
Johnson grew up in Alaska and Hawaii before leaving for New York City’s Parsons School of Design where she learned the necessary skills to enter the world of fashion design: how to draw, how to create a pattern and more.
She went on to work on Seventh Avenue for several designers, including Calvin Klein, Cynthia Rowley, J. Crew, Michael Kors and many others. She said working on Seventh Avenue taught her the business prospects behind fashion, from putting a collection together to merchandising a line.
Five years later, she said she felt ready to launch her own business.
“It was always in my mind to be an entrepreneur and have my own label some day,” Johnson said to the Palisadian-Post. “I launched a line in Brooklyn in an unconventional way, I opened a boutique in an up-and-coming neighborhood and had an atelier in the back of the store where I would make everything that was sold on the floor, as opposed to doing wholesale and getting my line in a department store … I went directly to the consumer, this was in 1998.”
In 2004, Johnson moved to the West Coast after starting a family, landing in Santa Monica where she opened a shop on Montana Avenue.
“My line in New York was very career oriented … jackets and suits and more polished-looking clothes, and that’s basically what my collection was at the time,” she said. “But I always enjoyed designing the spring collection, making sun dresses and beach-inspired clothes because I have my Hawaiian roots.
“So when I moved out here, my collection shifted to the lifestyle I was living … more of the Westside lifestyle.”
Johnson and her family later moved to the Palisades where she spent time working on limited edition products for her label Stacia and a book that she said she has always wanted to write: “Mabel the Fashion Muse.”
“It was an idea I had in 1999 and never had time to execute because I was so busy running my business,” the Highlands resident said. “It was nice to take a breath and execute it and get my idea out there, it’s very sentimental to me.”
Johnson said she wanted to write a children’s book that realistically depicts working in the fashion industry.
“I have a daughter who is now 14, but when she was growing up, I would see how fashion was depicted towards kids … in a lot of petty, social drama,” she said. “That’s not realistic.”
Her main character, Mabel, is described as a “chatty dress form,” which is a model of a torso used for fitting clothing that is being designed or sewed, of a “budding fashion designer.”
Johnson said a lot of the adventures and plot lines Mabel goes through are things she went through when she was working for designers in Brooklyn—from the rush of completing a fashion collection to meeting fashion show deadlines, including a taxi fiasco and a missing pièce de résistance.
She described the book as having a vintage, early 2000’s vibe with watercolor illustrations. Johnson said she did the illustrations for the book herself since it was so personal, and she drew from old photographs of her Smith Street boutique, Dumbo atelier and Seventh Avenue fashion district.
Johnson explained that Mabel has been a staple character throughout her career.
“When I had my website back in 1999, she was an animated stylist who would help people curate a shopping cart,” she said to the Post. “I always wanted to use her as a vehicle to show kids the behind the scenes world of fashion.”
Johnson said there are definitely plans to follow up on her debut children’s book, which may offer a backstory to Mabel’s Yorkie-sidekick, Brooklyn, or follow Mabel on her adventures to Paris and Italy.
Johnson is currently offering a series of virtual classes to children. She provides access to different templates and resources for kids who show an interest in fashion.
“The class can be anywhere from three to 12 kids, there are kids from all over the world,” she said. “I’ll have a child from India or a child from London … it’s cool to connect with kids from all over, not just my community, and share my experience in fashion.”
“Mabel the Fashion Muse” is currently available in paperback and hardback on Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Goodreads.
For more information about Johnson, her fashion portal for kids or her book, visit mabelthefashionmuse.com.
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