Johnny Was Blog
Behind the Makers: Get to Know Designer Theresa McAllenOctober 18, 2017
Each month our team of visionaries delivers inspired collections with everything from the perfect skinny jean to our signature embroidered tunics. Here, we sat down with Theresa McAllen, head designer for 3J Workshop and JWLA, to discuss her design style, inspirations and whose closet she'd like to raid.
JW: When did you first realize you wanted to become a fashion designer?
TM: Well, I began sewing at age nine but my first “Theresa” design (without a Vogue pattern) was at age 14—I cut a halter dress out of my white cotton bed sheet, sewed it free-hand, and proceeded for two weeks to hand-embroider the entire piece with landscapes, palm trees, sunrises, bees, flowers and peace signs. When I wore it to high school, all my friends wanted one!
JW: As one of the head designers for Johnny Was, you’re obviously a fan of the boho-chic aesthetic. What do you love most about this style?
TM: Boho for me equals timeless style. I was born and raised in Los Angeles, and I think those of us who grew up in LA are drawn to a laid-back, wanderlust lifestyle— a little hippie, a little adventurer, a little free spirit, a little rebellious.
JW: Tell us about your creative process. What does a typical day look like for you?
TM: We work a little differently than other fashion companies in that art is our main focus so there’s a very talented team of graphic designers working for months at a time on our embroideries—they have a hand stitched look which is always inspired by different cultures and handicrafts. For each new collection, I study our best sellers, and then sit down with my team to brainstorm. I love color and mixing unique combos to create an unexpected outcome.
JW: What’s the main source of your inspiration?
TM: Travel. Without a doubt. Seeing different parts of the world is truly inspiring, and also a common thread throughout all our collections. Some of my recent trips have been to Tulum, Mexico and Begur in Spain. I was recently in New York for the opening of our Johnny Was Columbus Street store. While there, I went to check out Bergdorf Goodman and took a photo of their windows which said, “TRAVEL is our favorite COLOR!” Travel is our favorite color, and what makes our collections, and I believe our pieces so unique.
JW: How would you describe your personal style?
TM: The question I ask myself when getting dressed is, "Is it chic?" I’m drawn to color and craftsmanship, so I would say my style is sophisticated with a twist. I like unexpected combinations, mixing high-end designers with some elevated basics, and of course, I wear Johnny Was, especially our outerwear pieces since I’m a big fan of layering.
Most of us don’t really need much today, we have it all, but we seem to gravitate toward those pieces that speak to our personal style, pieces that bring us joy.
JW: What fashion trends do you hope to see emerge in the coming years?
TM: At Johnny Was we see the future moving into sustainable, eco fashion. It’s a big concern for our customers and the world at large. We recently launched a sustainable, locally sourced collection called “Calme” -- it’s more basics with a twist, and the calm in the midst of our eclectic embroideries and patterns. It launched in fall 2017, and so far, it’s been a huge hit!
JW: If you could swap closets with one person in the world, who would you choose and why?
TM: Victoria Beckham! I’m a petite woman like she is, and I feel she dresses for herself and perfectly epitomizes self-expression teamed with an undeniable chic.
JW: What advice would you offer fashion design hopefuls who wish to follow in your footsteps?
TM: Find your joy and your passion, travel and expand your world, focus on pattern-making and draping to develop your craft, believe in yourself and never, ever, ever give up!