ON THE UP AND UP: Ulla Johnson is in growth mode.
The Brooklyn-based designer known for her relaxed, bohemian clothing and accessories has revamped her web site and will open her first flagship in February in Manhattan’s NoHo neighborhood.
Johnson, who launched e-commerce in 2014, wanted her new site to emphasize storytelling and ease and conceived the redesign in collaboration with RoAndCo design studio. “One of our biggest challenges was to try to communicate the tactile [nature] of our brand online. Our brand is so much about hand-feel, touch and story,” she said. “So how could we tell that in a flat medium? It was bringing the story of the product, the travel, the partners and weaving communities that we work with into the sales experience as much or as little as the customer wants to explore it. We tried not to overwhelm with information. It’s a process of discovery, and you can explore the story of the season, the brand, the travel and other components to the development of our products if you choose to….It’s not forced down your throat.”
Another important function: a streamlined checkout process: “This idea of ease is [central] to my line,” Johnson said. “We’re all super busy and we want to be able to find things we’re looking for. In addition to that, we made sure that it was accessible on mobile. I’m always online shopping in the back of an Uber.” The site also offers free U.S. shipping and international shipping for the first time.
Since launching her business in 2000 — and growing exponentially after a three-year department store exclusive with Barneys New York, which recently came to an end, though her collection is still stocked there — Johnson has expanded her line to include footwear, handbags, scarves and other accessories. Her label will launch on Net-a-porter in January with a resort collection.
“We’ve had an incredible amount of growth at wholesale,” Johnson said. “And we felt that the next stage of growth for the brand should be our own retail [outpost]. Online, we saw that people were really buying into some of the new categories we were introducing — soft suiting, shoes, underpinnings. A lot of these things weren’t available at our retail partners, and we saw that there was pent-up demand.”
Johnson’s upcoming 1,200-square-foot flagship at 15 Bleecker Street, slated to open in late February, will have a residential feel, housing exclusive items from the collection, from homewares and jewelry to designer collaborations. “This sense of a personal touch is important to our story and to what people come to us for,” she said. “Bringing that into the retail experience has been preeminent for us. We worked with all of the same teams that I worked on for my house, bringing custom-made furniture and fixtures sourced from Europe into the space. The context around the clothes and the brand is important.”