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Jamie Johnson is getting into the fashion business. The Johnson & Johnson heir, whose official career until now has been documentary filmmaking (see: “Born Rich” and “The One Percent”), is launching a line for fall called Black Sweater. Comprised mostly of outerwear, save for one tuxedo and the namesake sweater, the collection is based on Savile Row-style tailoring and fine English fabrics. WWD caught up with Johnson from his apartment-slash-showroom.
WWD: What made you want to start a fashion collection?
Jamie Johnson: I was trying to have an informal khaki cotton suit made with a tailor. One person would say, “I can’t do that, but you should meet this person.” Through the course of meeting various craftsmen and learning a little bit more about the process, I really got into it. It’s all made in New York and produced by skilled people who understand this old trade. A lot of the characters involved are really fascinating older gentlemen.
WWD: So how involved are you in the design process?
J.J.: Because it’s supersmall [the line includes about six pieces for men and five for women], all the designs come from me. A friend of mine, who is a draftsman, helped me do some sketches, but otherwise there weren’t any sketches necessary because all the designs come from traditional men’s formalwear. It’s not as if I’m making complicated ballgowns.
WWD: What has been the biggest learning curve for you?
J.J.: The whole process has been a learning curve, because I really didn’t understand how clothing was made.
WWD: Did you get advice from anybody in the industry?
J.J.: I didn’t seek advice from many people other than the actual tailors who were making the clothing. I’m not really a fashion person. I’m approaching this from the perspective of real personal interest. I don’t think I’m trying to replicate something that other people have done in that sense.
WWD: The collection isn’t inexpensive. It wholesales from $300 to $1,500. Who do you see being your customers?
J.J.: It’s certainly high-end, and other than that, how else can I define it? I mean, it’s expensive clothing. My personal belief is there’s a market out there for it, and there are people out there who are buying clothing like this. [The coats are] very structured and substantial and the fabric is pretty heavy-duty stuff.
WWD: Would you ever consider having a presentation or show during fashion week?
J.J.: At this point, it just doesn’t seem necessary. It’s not what appeals to me about this. Really, the fun part is designing the stuff.