Editors Note: This is the second in a three-part series profiling designers participating in this year’s Austin Fashion Week, which began Saturday and runs through Aug. 21.
It would be a big mistake to write 20 year-old Sabra Johnson off as a fashion designer and model who looks like a sweet and innocent Taylor Swift or Blake Lively. Her designs are a mash-up of flowing, free-spirited gowns and darker elements straight out of a Marilyn Manson concert. While the two don’t seem related, for Johnson it’s about playing with creativity in multiple forms.
Growing up in Huntsville, Texas, Johnson got into beauty pageants ten years ago and was quickly picked up by Disney Channel and MTV, then moved to print modeling and is now designing her own clothes. Johnson will showcase her line of gowns on Friday night at Aces Lounge.
Daily Texan: Have you had any training?
Sabra Johnson: My mom and my grandmother both did gowns. My main focus is gowns but I have picked up jewelry work. My style is more hippie-vintage, so I’ve been making metal headdresses or little “head thongs” as I like to call them. I also imported some blue and pink fox fur for hats that will be worn with my gowns on Friday.
DT: How did you get to being on television?
SJ: I started doing child beauty pageants when I was 10. One day we went to this rinky-dink mall and there was a pageant going on. I guess it was the thing to do there, and I really fell in love with it. So then I did Oprah, Dr. Phil and “Good Morning America,” because I did a lot of child beauty pageants. Then A&E did a biography on my life. Disney signed me after that, then I switched to MTV when I was 16. But after that, MTV was following me to my high school and classes and I thought it was too much. I was getting to the point where I was about to start college. So I decided to do something less stressful and went into print. After that I modeled for the fashion industry and then decided to design for the fashion industry two years ago.
DT: When did you first start designing?
SJ: Last year I played with it but this year I really want to put myself out there. Last year I threw a fashion show for my birthday with mohawks and sequined bras and thongs. It was very scandalous, but I loved it.
DT: Who are your influences?
SJ: The darker side definitely appeals to me. I’m a total metalhead. I listen to Necrophages, Dying Fetus, Cannibal Corpse, you name it; it doesn’t even look like me, but I love it all. When people see my collection it’s kind of like I just threw up everything on the collection. It’s a mix of all these gorgeous hippie gowns while the girls walk to these Marilyn Manson songs. Then I told my make-up artist I wanted them to look like they were heroine-chic, like they’re coming off of doing heroine for four days straight and they’re starting to sweat.
DT:How do you see all these disparate things connected?
SJ: My head is a jumbled mess of everything. So when I put things together, it fits for me. I’m the kind of person who will wear anything out in public. If it’s wild and out there then I love it. That’s why my collections are wild with the giant hats and gowns.
DT: What’s next for you?
SJ: I have a collection all planned out in my head that’s just black. It’s definitely not the softer side of me. This is still my learning year, but next year I plan on come out with balls blaring. I still don’t know everything, and I’m kind of still finding my freak factor.
WHAT: Sabra Johnson
WHERE: Aces Lounge
WHEN: Friday at 9 p.m.
WHO: 18 & up
HOW MUCH: $10