Home / BET kid Brett Johnson launches fashion line

BET kid Brett Johnson launches fashion line

 Brett Johnson Collection of Jackets at his apartment in the St. Regis Hotel at 2. E. 55th on Tuesday, July 23, 2013.

Enid Alvarez/New York Daily News

Fashion designer Brett Johnson shows off his new collection of outerwear.

Brett Johnson’s room at the St. Regis Hotel in midtown — featuring a gorgeous chandelier hanging over racks of leather jackets, t-shirts, and sneakers — isn’t just rented by him for a day to show off his clothes to the press, as so many other fashion designers do. It’s also his home during the workweek, so he can stay close to the fashion biz.

Johnson’s gearing up to officially debut his line at New York Fashion Week, but on the weekends, he takes the Acela train back to Arlington, Va. He grew up in the D.C. area, and enjoys the break from big city life.

“New York is really chaotic and I just need my peace and quiet sometimes,” the 23-year-old says. Going home on the weekends, rather than moving to New York full time, “is a lot more peaceful and relaxing.”

Johnson is the son of major power-player parents. Robert L. Johnson, who founded Black Entertainment Television with his ex-wife Sheila Johnson, is the country’s first African American billionaire. Their modest, affable son seems to have inherited his parents’ creative sense. He has an unswerving eye for detail and luxury evident on the leather lambskin jackets lined up on a rack.

One of Brett Johnson's latest designs.

Enid Alvarez/New York Daily News

One of Brett Johnson’s latest designs.

Johnson’s loved fashion since he was about 11. Since dropping out of the University of Michigan after two years (“I knew what I wanted to do,” he says), with the blessing of both his parents, he’s pursued design seriously.

“I finally got the opportunity, the blessing, that I should go forward with this process,” he says. Johnson — who has no formal design training and relies on a graphic artist to put his ideas onto paper — took two and a half years to conceive and design the Brett Johnson Collection.

He’s influenced by Italian designer Brunello Cucinelli, known for using luxurious fabrics.

“I really wanted the best quality materials and leathers,” Johnson says. His inspiration also comes from “the whole generation that I’m in. I like to call it the Mark Zuckerberg era. So, not dressing up in a suit, wearing a hoodie… I wanted to blend streetwear meets suit.”

Designer Brett Johnson with some of his designer jackets at his apartment in the St. Regis Hotel; he’s getting ready to present his line at the New York Fashion Week.

Enid Alvarez/New York Daily News

Designer Brett Johnson with some of his designer jackets at his apartment in the St. Regis Hotel; he’s getting ready to present his line at the New York Fashion Week.

He aims to dress men who don’t have to wear suits, but are maturing and becoming affluent enough to appreciate superior materials and fit.

His designs reimagine classics. The collection includes a lambskin leather motorcycle jacket with suede detail around the zippers, a leather baseball-style jacket with navy plaid wool sleeves, a brown leather sleeveless hoodie with shearling (the hood’s detachable), and a leather quilted jacket with a hood inspired by a car’s interior. There’s also a wool pea coat with leather epaulet detailing.

“I definitely feel like this fits Jay Z and Justin Timberlake,” Johnson says of his line. “But also David Beckham or Ryan Gosling.”

The jackets weren’t manufactured in China, like many first-time designers’ clothes are, or even in the nearby Garment Center, like the Row, Prabal Gurung, or other designers committed to keeping it in the U.S.A. Johnson went straight to Italy, even as his team was initially skeptical.

Ivan Dominguez models a Brett Johnson motorcycle jacket.

Enid Alvarez/New York Daily News

Ivan Dominguez models a Brett Johnson motorcycle jacket.

The collection was fabricated in a Florence factory.

“I honestly think that’s where you get the best quality,” Johnson says. “China’s good at copying, Italians are the best with their hands, materials, fabrics. You name it, they do it the best.”

That’s one of the business lessons his dad has been teaching him since he was a kid. “He always stresses that you have to have a good product. And you have to have capital.”

Unfortunately for customers, quality costs money. The jackets range in price from $ 695 to $ 1,675.

But Johnson makes his point. “I feel that you can buy 10 coats, or you can buy one good coat,” he says.

And here in New York, where the weather is unpredictable and style is taken seriously, everyone needs one good coat.


Lifestyle – NY Daily News

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