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Designer Juliet Johnstone talks butterfly symbolism; Dua Lipa, Emma Chamberlain wearing her bikinis

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NOVEMBER 03, 2022

There’s nothing that personifies Los Angeles more than phoning in for an interview during rush hour traffic, and Juliet Johnstone is a Valley girl at heart: “Sorry if it sounds a little weird! I’m just sitting in the car driving to the fabric store.” 

The Los Angeles local, entrepreneur and artist — you name it — has no traditional background in fashion or business. In fact, she went to college at Parsons School of Design to study fine art. “I’m a painter; that’s kind of the heart of my brand,” Johnstone said in an interview with The Daily Californian. Nevertheless, Johnstone has found overnight success with her self-titled clothing brand, which currently releases in limited drops of one-of-a-kind pieces that she creates herself. 

Your favorite fashion-forward celebrity has probably worn a piece from Johnstone. Think Bella Hadid, Kendall Jenner. Johnstone worked with SSENSE and Nike, and was featured in a “Brands to Watch” list by ComplexCon. In snapshots on her Instagram, Johnstone can be seen vibrantly laughing amongst her designs, flashing large smiles or teasing out a new drop. While most designers hide elusively in their work, Johnstone is candidly facing the spotlight. “I feel like I’m able to make my own rules, which I’m excited about,” Johnstone said. 

After graduating from college, the designer worked as a studio assistant and continued to paint on the side. One day after running out of canvas, Johnstone decided to casually paint on her beloved carpenter pants. “I wore them around LA and people were like, ‘Oh my god, what are those? Can I buy them?’ ”

Johnstone, in disbelief, described starting her own brand as a complete accident, one derived simply from a love of painters pants. She noticed the way mens carpenter pants awkwardly fit her body, so she made her own, claiming the tagline: “This is weird, but okay.” In her quirkiness exudes a relatability that’s purely authentic. Speaking to Johnstone over the phone, it’s easy to put together why she’s been able to grow a cult following. Her art is dynamic and welcoming, matching her bubbly personality; Johnstone’s designs may be spotted on “cool girls” around the world, but it takes one to know one. 

Johnstone giddily describes celebrities wearing her designs as “so weird, but a huge compliment,” but is even more taken aback by shipping off tank tops to countries she’s never had the chance to visit. “Just the fact that someone wants to buy something is crazy,” she said. 

But who wouldn’t? On her website, her psychedelic designs feature florals, doves and peace signs, all radiating her punkish yet feminine style. In a small LA-based office, the artist paints on tank tops, baby tees, pants, tote bags and whatever else her heart desires. 

When she first started her business, Johnstone would repurpose vintage painters paints with her own designs. Taking inspiration from brands like Patagonia and their approaches to ethics and sustainability, she cultivated her brand with these values in mind. As demand continued to grow, she designed her own carpenter pants, creatively aiming to accentuate the female body rather than hide it. When recalling how the men’s pants didn’t fit her body, Johnstone cited the “annoying gap” that many women experience with an ill-fitting pair of pants. 

For Johnstone, the backbone of her brand is its brazen approach to femininity. Butterflies that represent freedom and womanhood for the artist have become iconography that resonates with her brand. Over the summer, she went viral for her butterfly-inspired bikinis that graced Dua Lipa, Emma Chamberlain and earned a feature in Seventeen magazine. Being from Southern California, it only felt right for Johnstone to launch swimwear where bikinis are often in her wardrobe rotation.

During Paris Fashion Week, Johnstone was able to host a mini pop-up shop for fans to source pieces in person. Although Johnstone doesn’t have traditional experience in the fashion industry, her peers have welcomed her with open arms. “Everyone’s kind of just a dork obsessed with clothes,” she gushed. 

What’s next for Johnstone? She has a couple projects coming up — her most recent is a butterfly long sleeve that sinches in the middle, which launched Nov. 2. One can only imagine the elbow grease required to be the CEO, artist and creative director of a company. “I’m definitely a little burnt out,” she said. “With people, especially on Instagram, there’s this girlboss culture … If I don’t get some rest, then I’m not a good leader.”

Out of all the products on her website, the classic carpenter pant that started it all remains her favorite. “(I thought,) ‘Maybe I could quit my day job if they sold,’ ” Johnstone said, reminiscing on when her brand first took off. “The first pair sold out in a couple minutes.”

Contact Kaitlin Clapinski at 


NOVEMBER 02, 2022