Ones to Watch – Tess Johnson

November 5, 2014


The Nolcha Fashion Week: New York team had the chance to catch up with independent fashion designer Tess Johnson to find out more about what 2015 holds for her brand.

Tess graduated from Parsons in 2011 with a BFA in Women’s Wear Fashion. While at Parson’s Paris in 2010 she was introduced to couture techniques and draping which have become trademarks of her designs. After graduating, Tess was invited to participate in Lifetime Network’s 24 Hour Catwalk. Her challenge to create a “Glamorous Camping” runway show was chosen the winner by fashion icons James Laforce, Derek Blasberg, Cynthia Rowley, and Alexa Chung.

Shortly after, Tess successfully debuted her first collection at Miami Fashion Week in June, 2012. Since, she has shown at Ottawa Fashion Week, Nolcha Shopping Event in London, and New York Fashion Week. Tess resides in New York City as she continues to create fresh, new and inspired designs.

Why did you decide to become a fashion designer? When I was younger, I used to be a figure skater. I realized that I enjoyed designing my costumes more than actually skating!

What’s it like being in the fashion industry? It exhilarating. Fashion and trends are always changing and there is always something new to chase. I love being a part of such a fast paced, always evolving, beautiful world. I love the challenge of always figuring out how to be ahead of the trends while figuring out how to create things that are going to be a staple of people wardrobes.

How would you describe your brand? Tess Johnson is a brand that highlights couture techniques honed in Paris, with the classic, American designer aesthetic from being a New York City brand.

What has been the biggest highlight of your career so far? Since Tess Johnson is still a young brand, every step along the way is better than the next. I think right now my favorite highlight would be the launch of my Kickstarter and overwhelmingly positive response it has been receiving from people around the world.

What is the inspiration behind the NOMAD backpack? This backpack was born from necessity. I love creating couture pieces, but this time, I wanted to make something that would be accessible to everyone. I created the NOMAD with all the functionality that people really needed – not just what looked cool. I incorporated all the pockets, zippers and pouches that were necessary to make a functional and organized bag. I then made sure it was stylish, cool, and chic because that is the most important part!

Describe your ideal consumer. Everyone! The NOMAD is designed for the girl or guy who needs a backpack. It is made for the traveller, the student, the professional, the city kid, the camper, anyone!

What is your favourite piece and why? My favorite is the all black NOMAD. It is still lined with the custom print, but the all black color way is super chic and perfect for running around to meetings then out to dinner that night.

If you could have any celebrity spokesmodel, who would it be and why? My dream spokesmodel for the NOMAD would be Evan Spiegel (one of the Snapchat founders) or Suki Waterhouse.

What store would you love to have your clothes in? I would love for my clothes and for the NOMAD to be stores like Urban, Jeffrey’s, Saks 5th Ave, and all the amazing one of a kind boutiques I have encountered all over the country.

What does 2015 hold for the brand? For Tess Johnson, 2015 will be about growth. We will be expanding the NOMAD collection, creating more and more garments for retail, accessories for everyone, and as always, LOTS more prints!

‘ You’re never fully dressed without your NOMAD ;)’

The Nolcha Fashion Week Ones to Watch feature is a weekly interview highlighting an independent fashion designer that is making moves in the fashion industry. Whether from a runway show in New York City or discovered by our globetrotting team we are proud to be a platform of discovery supporting innovative independent fashion.

If you are an independent fashion designer interested to be featured in the Ones to Watch interview series please email with more information about your brand.

Nolcha Fashion Week: New York, founded by Kerry Bannigan and Arthur Mandel, is a leading award winning event held during New York Fashion Week hosting independent fashion designer runway shows.