When you hear Alaska, ball gowns aren’t the first thing that come to mind, but our latest designer Jamie Johnson of MAJ is about to change that. What started as creating custom dresses for friends has, for Jamie, steadily become a burgeoning business and brand built up over four years in Anchorage. It’s no surprise that the romantic arctic landscape inspires Jamie’s romantic draping style. We chatted with Jamie about transitioning from custom designs to designer brand and how dramatic scenery and travel translates to red carpet-worthy styles.
Why did you start designing?
I have wanted to be a designer since I was a very young child and started by doing custom designs. I used to cut up my socks to make Barbie clothes. I made my sister’s and my dresses in high school for dances and, when I was in my mid 20’s, a friend asked me to make the dresses for her wedding. It was great getting referrals but when you are creating what others are designing, you aren’t a designer. My dream has always been to be a designer. Two years ago I decided I no longer wanted to be a seamstress so I quit doing custom work and started to concentrate on my collections.
What is your biggest hurdle building a brand today?
Getting my name brand recognized is my biggest hurdle. But, if you keep working hard and if you really want it, it happens. My advice is to contact buyers from all over and do not confine yourself to your local area.I have gone as far as Boston to show my collection on the runway and I am planning show my new collection at NY Fashion Week this coming fall. The cost is high, but worth it! (Jamie was recently featured on CBS affiliate station KTVA for her brand and Nineteenth Amendment).
What do you think about fashion today?
I love fashion today! Just about anything goes! Even though I have more of a classic style, I still love to see designers creating outside of the box.
What is your fashion philosophy?
Dress for your body. Not everyone is stick skinny but everyone can, and should, look gorgeous. Don’t try wearing something that is not meant for curves and vise versa. My ideal customer is a woman who likes to dress up and go to cocktail parties and other events. It’s about the moment of glamour.
Where do you go and what do you do for inspiration?
Alaska has inspirational scenery but I like to travel, A LOT!! I am inspired by all of the people and places I see. For this line, I was most inspired by L.A. which is where most of the fabric was purchased. I went to a Lita Ford Concert and being around all of the rock bands inspired me to incorporate leather. My last inspirational trip was when I went to Boston for Boston Fashion Week. I visited Cape Cod and was inspired by the sea grass and the ocean. I am so excited for my followers to see the next collection.
Any tips and tricks of the trade?
As a designer, never stop learning or trying new things and take chances! And, as a shopper, if you are buying formal attire, it will most likely need alterations.
Follow MAJ today to learn when the red carpet rolls out.