“I love the idea of creating clothes that announce a woman,” said Ulla Johnson, referencing the skirts and dresses in her spring 2020 collection that were hand-embroidered all over with tiny shells, hundreds of hours in the making, and made their own kind of music as models walked the runway.

It’s special artisan details such as these, along with Afghani embroidery on an Army green, puff-sleeve dress; hand-loomed red picnic plaid made into a puff-sleeve blouse and asymmetric skirt; shibori dye on quilted jackets and vests; Maasai beadwork belt bags, and recycled glass sculptural flower jewelry by craftspeople in Kenya that keep Johnson’s bohemian brand message feeling fresh. There was even some Victorian threadwork in the mix, as on a gorgeous cream blouse with pom-pom passementerie.

The designer has been interested in Africa as of late, and had the Dutch-wax-print tiered dresses, shorts and miniskirts to prove it. “It’s a simple fabric, but we treat it with this lavish attention and create something richly layered…putting it on poplin and also on French lamé,” she said. But this collection was really a global celebration, inspired by the diversity of her hometown, New York City, she said.

Johnson is a go-to for dresses, but for those tiring of the Laura Ingalls Wilder look, a floral Lurex cross-front gown, or macramé halter top over an embroidered wrap skirt offered some sex appeal.

She also showed a compelling range of separates including high-waisted, fold-over pants; pegged jeans with ankle ties, and denim jumpsuits that should add merchandising might and help catapult her growing lifestyle collection to the realm of global players like Isabel Marant.

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