Ulla Johnson Spring 2021 Ready-to-Wear Collection – Vogue.com

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Ulla Johnson went to the great length of staging an audience-less fashion show at Roosevelt Island’s Four Freedoms Park for spring 2021. The pictures, with models foregrounded against a wall of trees and Manhattan’s skyscrapers providing a familiar backdrop, are a bittersweet reminder of what we’ve lost in this COVID year.

“Why do less when we can do more?” Johnson joked on a Zoom call today before turning serious: “We’ve all been doing a lot of deep soul searching about the relevancy of what we do—the runway being one component, but also just clothing in general. For us we’re committed more than ever to creating this transportive beauty and continuing our commitment to craft.” Consider the collection’s look one and two, which were entirely hand-crafted outside the US, in countries heavily impacted by the pandemic and done so safely over a five-month period.

Johnson hasn’t been tempted to scale back on the level of detail or workmanship involved in her designs. Even at the height of the quarantine, she says, her e-commerce shoppers were buying runway looks. If she’s made any adjustments, they’re small ones: The palette for spring is slightly softer than last season’s, with more solid neutrals than usual, and there’s a larger emphasis on utility, as seen in the acid wash denim pieces and the ribbed t-shirts and tanks that appear here and there. But otherwise this was signature Ulla: awash with ruffles and cheering prints.

Further proof that her formula is working very well: She used the runway as a launchpad for a new handbag collection that’s been one-and-a-half years in the making. Until now, Johnson’s made bags only for her boutiques; these will be wholesaled. Made in Italy, the bags incorporate many of the hand-made details found in her ready-to-wear including macramé leather straps and hand-hammered brass details from Kenya. All this is made more impressive by the fact that many of New York’s biggest designer names are sitting out this week. Is it any surprise to learn that this is a woman who didn’t wear a pair of sweatpants once during the lockdown?

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