ULLA’S SMART START

Byline: Jessica Kerwin

NEW YORK — “I hate shipping,” moans Ulla Johnson, who will be sending out her signature line to stores such as Barneys New York, Hedra Prue, Louis of Boston, Curve and American Rag this week. “But as much as I hate it, I’m fastidious about shipping on time.” Meeting a deadline might not seem like such a big deal to megabrand designers, but Johnson, 26, has been working alone for the past three years, perfecting a look that is fashion-forward without seeming faddish. The fall line, which has wholesale prices ranging from $80 to $300, includes sleek leather jackets, simple tweed skirts and lush knits that are handmade in Italy.
Though she learned her trade at the Fashion Institute of Technology here, Johnson is also a graduate of the University of Michigan, where she majored in psychology and women’s studies. “People thought it was incongruous,” she says of her big switch, “that by becoming involved with fashion I was capitalizing on women’s compulsiveness.” Instead, Johnson explains, she was actually furthering the feminine cause just by entering the fashion business in the first place. “My studies have informed the way I’ve designed and the ways I’ve done business,” she says. “I’m a young woman who doesn’t have a rich father funding me, and I’ve had to work doubly hard to get a level of respect from my vendors.”
Johnson’s studies may have affected her reaction to seeing clothes from the line worn by strangers on the street, too. “I try not to stare,” she says, “but for someone to put something that you’ve made on their body — it’s kind of profound.”

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