We had the good fortune of connecting with Angela Johnson and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Angela, how did you come up with the idea for your business?
I had the idea for starting a fashion incubator for Arizona way back in the early 2000’s. I had spent a few years in the Los Angeles fashion industry working as a designer and production manager for brands like X-Large (Co-Founded by Mike D. of the Beastie Boys) and X-Girl (Co-Founded by Kim Gordon of Sonic Youth) and had also created my own brand called Monkeywench with Days Of Our Lives actress Christie Clark. Then I moved back to Arizona for family reasons. As soon as I arrived, I realized I had to shut down my clothing brand due to lack of local manufacturing resources. It wasn’t efficient or affordable to travel to LA every other day to manage my production. So, I closed down Monkeywench and started on a journey to help other apparel entrepreneurs. I knew that the internet was going to change things for the fashion industry and if you could now sell your designs direct-to-consumer on your own website, that there also needed to be a disruption in how clothing was manufactured because the industry was set up for big brands who were manufacturing large quantities overseas. It wasn’t set up for niche brands who wanted to make smaller quantities locally. I wanted to help solve this problem for Arizona designers and began by establishing a free fashion business directory called LabelHorde. This directory enabled Arizona’s fashion brands, models, photographers, hair/makeup artists, boutiques, seamstresses and other fashion businesses to network with each other. Eventually this directory evolved and today it is a fashion incubator called FABRIC. FABRIC is a non-profit fashion incubator, business accelerator, design studio, academy, and manufacturer that is sustainably disrupting, redefining and reshoring the fashion industry for the modern apparel entrepreneur.
Alright, so for those in our community who might not be familiar with your business, can you tell us more?
FABRIC is a non-profit fashion incubator, business accelerator, design studio, academy, and manufacturer that is sustainably disrupting, redefining and reshoring the fashion industry for the modern apparel entrepreneur. Our mission is to provide apparel entrepreneurs with training, guidance, innovative industry resources, and access to no-minimum manufacturing, so they can build sustainable fashion businesses domestically.
To achieve this, we’ve created a digital road map that democratizes the industry. Now you don’t have to have a degree, experience, or expert staff to navigate this complex industry. Our road map virtually guides apparel entrepreneurs through business startup, branding, marketing, design development, and manufacturing. It’s almost like having a Production Manager, Technical Designer, Quality Controller, Branding Expert, and Business Coach on staff. And we provide no-minimum manufacturing inside of our 26,000 square foot space. This building acts as a headquarters for the AZ fashion industry and is helping to establish Arizona as a modern fashion industry capital for the U.S. by creating a tech-based, sustainable, closed loop fashion industry ecosystem that attracts and supports direct-to-consumer apparel brands. We believe the path to this vision is through building community and providing resources. Many of our resources are free because we are a non-profit, which makes the community accessible to everyone and not just those who can afford it.
In the last four years that FABRIC has been open, we’ve helped over 600 apparel entrepreneurs and we’ve give back over $3M in free and discounted programs and services to the community. Our efforts were even recognized by President Biden and Vice President Harris when they visited our building a couple of months ago.
It hasn’t been an easy journey. Just like anyone blazing a new trail, we’ve made mistakes, and learned lessons along the way. We’ve got big hearts and we are very trusting and sometimes people take advantage of that. We’ve picked ourselves up and dusted ourselves off more times than I care to recall. But despite challenges like these, we wouldn’t change a thing. Just to know that we’ve helped people achieve their dreams and create careers and businesses in the industry they love, makes it all worth it.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
Arizona has so many amazing things to offer. This is one of the reasons I couldn’t stay away even after I had moved to LA. Over the past 20 years that I’ve been back, I’ve seen so many changes. Downtown Tempe is now filled with beautiful buildings that reflect over Tempe Town Lake. Downtown Phoenix has been hosting tens of thousands of art lovers every month during First Fridays and the changes that have taken place in that area are unbelievable. I used to put on really gritty fashion shows in dirt lots that are now upscale art galleries and ultra cool restaurants. And then only two hours away is Sedona. One of the most beautiful places on the planet. And its just a quick drive to the forest in Flagstaff where you can snowboard/ski in some awesome powder only a couple of hours from the desert landscape of the valley. Arizona is such a unique place.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
My Co-Founder Sherri Barry is the reason that my vision for a fashion incubator is now a reality. Our partnership is the perfect match. Sherri brought the business savvy to my creative community building. Sherri is incredibly smart, generous, visionary, and a much bigger risk taker than I am. We both approach our vision for FABRIC from a philanthropic passion so we found a very complimentary partnership in each other.
Jenny Kaufman, Shane Baker, Ryan Walsh