Elisa Johnson's Sunglasses Line Is A 20/20 Stylistic Vision
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PHOTO BY MATTHEW JACKSON
You've always been a fashionista. Do you remember what initially drew you to fashion?
Both my parents are very into fashion, I would say. Watching my mom get ready every morning, she had her own thing and her own routine. Both my mom and my dad liked to pick their outfits from head to toe. They're old school. I watched them do their thing with whatever they were wearing for an event or wherever they were going. So that was my first peek into fashion, just knowing that how to get ready. Then, at school, I was at a private school. We could only wear uniforms was uniforms. And I hated that because I felt like I couldn't express myself. I found ways to express myself with accessories, scarves and oversized glasses. All those things landed me in detention, but I was able to express myself through that.
You went to FIT to study and interned at Luxottica and with Coco and Breezy Eyewear. What did you gain from those experiences that you now use for your own line?
What I loved about Coco and Breezy was their originality; they always kept it real and I just loved how creative they were and how they tried to still keep classic styles but make it their own. That’s what I wanted to do. Their price point was a little bit higher than mine, but I wanted a luxury-type brand [and] I wanted it to be more affordable. [Those were] just my key points. But it was just keeping those classic styles but then somehow finding a way to make it my own. And not to be afraid to think outside of the box in terms of colors. I definitely just go for... what I feel first and then see how it does.
Elisa Johnson sketches her own designs for the brand PHOTO BY: MATTHEW JACKSON
You make sure you’re giving the best quality while also making sure anyone at any price point can afford it.
Eyewear has always been my signature piece, so I’ve always sought out unique sunglasses. But also, beyond that, I found myself more than any other fashion piece thinking of eyewear designs I wish existed that I wasn’t seeing on the market. But I also felt like things were overpriced. I was a college student as well. I didn’t want to pay $400 for a pair of sunglasses that I might lose or break. So, it was super important when designing that I give everybody the quality I wanted. When doing my price point, I didn’t want to overcharge people at all like these big designer brands.
The Sham comes in gloss black and gloss purple colorways. PHOTO BY: ASHLEY TONG
You also love to draw and sketch. When did that passion first come about?
I've always been a drawer in high school. But when I went to FIT, I was contemplating whether I wanted to do design or to do business. When I started meeting up with the manufacturer, it just worked out. Once I put that pen to the paper, it just flowed.
Where do you seek inspiration for your designs?
I will be out and about and anytime I see someone with glasses, I stare at the person for a very long time because I’m just like, ‘That tortoise is really nice.’ I’m always looking at glasses. When I’m honed in on something, that’s what I’m gonna always focus on. And for me it was New York and L.A. It’s a mixture of both cities. Also, the ’70s inspired me when I first dropped because my bestseller—the Jane—has this ’70s feel. But it’s mostly street style. I’ll see things internationally. As soon as it catches my eye, I’ll screenshot it. I’ll put it down and think, ‘Let me figure out how to make this an Elisa Johnson original.’
The brand's latest style, the Y2Kinspired The Sham PHOTO BY: JAMES T BEE
One thing that I personally love about sunglasses is they're like armor. If you're not feeling the best, you just throw on your sunglasses, and then all of a sudden, you feel like Superwoman. So I feel like different styles could also match or maybe shape your identity for that day.
It's funny that you say that because in the beginning, I was always wearing sunglasses because I felt like I could be whoever I wanted to be. On my Instagram, I was literally the sunglass queen. I switched out sunglasses all the time. So definitely, that is what I use sunglasses for, as well.
Is there anything else that you have in the works?
I want to dive deeper into the accessories space. I’m working on jewelry at the moment. I feel like it’s the perfect transition for me.