The colorful halter dress in slide 18 of Ulla Johnson’s lookbook is made from silk habotai hand-dyed in Bangalore, India, still boasting fine pleats and wrinkles from the dyeing process. It’s an easy knockout, as effortless to wear as it is impossible not to notice. Also vibrant: a bed jacket and strappy evening dress in a short, fuzzy, all over fringe. If Johnson’s collection registers as more exuberant than usual, it might be because she was looking at Niki de Saint Phalle, the eccentric French artist who famously built a 14-acre “Tarot Garden” in Tuscany of sculptures representing the tarot’s 22 major arcana so monumental that their heads clear the tops of the olive trees their nestled between. Not that there’s anything overtly referential to these looks.
Johnson started her brand 25 years ago and her aesthetic is well-honed by now. Her showroom was bustling with buyers not because she flits from one esoteric theme to another, but because of how reliably she breathes new life into her polished bohemian dresses. This season, one midi-length number combines 10 different kinds of lace, and another is made from eight different kinds of knit. That hand-dyed silk habotai is particularly special—more of a 100-units kind of dress than a 1,000-units, she pointed out, saying, “in fashion, the question is always what’s next? I’ve been thinking about what’s necessary.” Her business is growing. Denim and knitwear are developing categories, as is footwear, which she recently started making with a licensee, but she’s expanding thoughtfully. The braided t-strap flats, for example, are made with vegan leather.