We’re excited to introduce you to the always interesting and insightful Angela Johnson. We hope you’ll enjoy our conversation with Angela below.
Hi Angela, thanks for joining us today. Can you tell us a bit about who your hero is and the influence they’ve had on you?
My hero is my FABRIC business partner, Sherri Barry.
Sherri is a fashion design entrepreneur. She started her career at Brown Shoe Company, where she quickly moved up the ranks to become Vice President of Operations, opening over 300 retail locations across the country. Sherri left the corporate world in pursuit of becoming an entrepreneur. She then earned a Master of Business Administration from the W.P. Carey School of Business at Arizona State University. Shortly after getting her Masters Degree, Sherri started an apparel company. The struggles of manufacturing ignited her passion for creating a reliable local resource for emerging designers. This is how we met.
Our paths had crossed when she was working on her apparel company and then we reconnected in 2016 when I was seeking a partner for the fashion incubator concept. I quickly realized Sherri was the perfect partner because she had so many of the business and analytical skills that I was lacking and she also really wanted to help apparel entrepreneurs avoid the common pitfalls found in manufacturing, just like I did. While I was the creative, community-builder-type with apparel manufacturing experience, I knew that I needed to join forces with someone who had complimentary skills and resources to mine. Sheri was the perfect partner.
From the beginning, I knew I had made the best decision. Sherri is intelligent, business savvy, brave, honest, tenacious, empathetic, strategic, skilled, and has so much integrity. I couldn’t have found a better person to open a non-profit fashion incubator with. She is truly the rock of our incubator and is so generous with her time and willing to share her skills to help other entrepreneurs succeed. As the years have passed, I have learned so much from her. She often freely shares her strategic knowledge in finance/accounting, legal compliance, HR, and other business expertise with me and with the Apparel Entrepreneurs that FABRIC supports.
I have learned much more than business related skills from Sherri, however. FABRIC’s public-social-cooperative-enterprise business model is unique to the country. Together we have helped over 800 Apparel Entrepreneurs bring their dreams to life and provided over $6.8M in free and discounted programs and services to the community in the process. As rewarding as all of that is, the five years since we opened FABRIC have also been some of the most stressful, exhausting, challenging, and emotionally draining years of my life. There have been many times that I probably would have given up if it weren’t for Sherri. She has talked me off the emotional cliff several times. No matter how difficult the obstacle, Sherri seems to always have the strategy and the tenacity to overcome it. Challenges that would have toppled the most callused and seasoned entrepreneur have been a speed bump in Sherri’s rear view mirror. Not only does Sherri do so much to help FABRIC grow Arizona’s fashion industry and beyond, but she also owns an apparel manufacturing facility called The Fashioneer (formerly AZ Fashion Source) and a clothing brand called Adea.
The strategic business skills Sherri has taught me have been extremely valuable. However, the character skills I’ve learned simply by witnessing Sherri’s example have actually been priceless.
Awesome – so before we get into the rest of our questions, can you briefly introduce yourself to our readers.
Angela is an award-winning, fashion designer, industry innovator, disruptor, humanitarian, and consultant to hundreds of emerging fashion brands. She is best known as the Co-Founder of AZ’s fashion incubator FABRIC and for creating upcycled ball gowns from “thrifted” T-shirts under her eponymous fashion brand Angela Johnson Design.
Angela’s 25 years of industry and entrepreneurial experiences from LA to AZ have fueled her mission to mentor the next generation of apparel entrepreneurs as well as her vision to champion a new, innovative, tech-based, responsible, and sustainable U.S. fashion industry for the 21st Century in the state of Arizona.
Can you tell us about a time you’ve had to pivot?
I am the Co-Founder of a fashion incubator called FABRIC. We help apparel entrepreneurs by providing them with guidance and resources to start their brands and manufacture their designs. Our incubator is a 26K sq ft space in downtown Tempe that has manufacturing, a design center, a sourcing library, offices, photography studios, hair salon, makeup salon, classes, and a big event space. During the COVID-19 pandemic, we turned our event space into a PPE factory. We pivoted from helping hundreds of start up brands manufacture their unique products to sewing over 700K reusable medical gowns for healthcare facilities nationwide to help solve the nation’s PPE shortage. We even got a visit from President Biden and Vice President Harris to recognize our efforts. It was a huge pivot that was a lot of work, but it allowed us to keep our doors open during the pandemic, provide 100 jobs, and contribute to protecting our nation’s healthcare workers.
Can you talk to us about manufacturing? How’d you figure it all out? We’d love to hear the story.
Our fashion incubator offers no-minimum manufacturing to emerging fashion designers/brands so they can don’t have to meet minimums at large factories when they are just starting. This helps them save thousands of dollars starting a brand and they don’t have to invest in a large order of garments that they haven’t sold yet. The no-minimum manufacturing service we provide is unique. Most factories don’t offer this because it isn’t profitable to make small quantities. But we offer it because it is one of the most important things that a new brand needs. We offset the loss of this small batch manufacturing by renting out our event space. The event space is our income generator. Additionally, we teach brands how to manage their production so they can make small quantities anywhere. By teaching them production management, this enables them to contract out each step in the manufacturing process at separate places which would make it possible to manufacture small quantities anywhere. They are taught how to hire a pattern maker, source their own materials/trims, hire a pattern grader to size their patterns, hire a marking company to make the template for cutting, hire a cutting service to cut their production cuts, and hire a sewing contractor that may be willing to sew small quantities between larger orders. This hands-on method enables the brand owner to take on the responsibilities of a Production Manager and QC Manager themselves which save them from having to hire these people on staff ultimately saving them thousands of dollars and giving them the industry knowledge they need to be successful.
I created this model after I learned all about manufacturing when I was a designer and production manager in Los Angeles in the 1990’s working for brands and starting my own business.
- Website: www.fabricincubator.com
- Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/fabrictempe/
- Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/FABRICTempe
- Linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/in/angelajohnsondesign/
Jenny Kaufman Shane Baker Ryan Walsh