Planet

How This TikTok-Famous Designer Is Challenging Sustainable Fashion

By Jessica Best
28th May 2021

a collage of tiktok influencer noah johnson

It’s hard to imagine a time where fashion brands weren’t fervently stamped with eco-conscious collections and ‘green’ capsules. The badge of ‘sustainability’ gets worn on every brand’s figurative sleeve these days, and it can be hard to read which brands practice this cause through and through and which leave much to be desired.

For 20-year-old Noah Johnson, consuming less and only buying things as he needs is a habit that’s already well ingrained into his psyche. The Hobart local has been thrifting and making clothes out of pre-loved fabrics from his family and close friends since his mid-teens. Now, this ‘leave-nothing-to-waste’ mentality is something that has overflowed into the genetic make-up of his one-man run label known as One Of One Archive.

Based out of a small studio in Hobart’s historic Salamanca, Johnson crafts exclusive pieces made using 100 per cent upcycled, deadstock and secondhand fabrics which partly look like puffer jackets made from the guts of a mattress—and they’re absolutely stunning. They’re also created on a made-to-order basis to eliminate unnecessary production.

One Of One Archive’s pieces look like sweatpants in multiple colourways, shirts made out of flour bags and cargo pants patched up from various fabrics and it’s been this very creativity which has garnered him a cult-following on TikTok, all of whom are obsessed with watching him create some pretty magic garments out of a “pile of of stuff”—to quote Miranda Priestly.

We decided to take a minute with the fashion designer to find out how One Of One Archive actually started, why Johnson is so set on flying solo and how brands can really make the ethos of sustainability be the bread and butter of their business models.

So Tell Us, how did One Of One Archive start out?

I was 16 or 17, it kind of started off with me getting a sewing machine and just experimenting on it. I was thrifting at the time and if I bought a pair of pants that were too big, I would just tailor them. I was just having fun with it, I never really planned to be a pattern maker, a clothing designer or anything like that.

Why was it important to have sustainability at the helm of everything you do?

I think it’s a point of reusing what’s already here. It makes me more creative, I guess. You have to work with a pair of jeans, cut them up and think, okay how can I work with this one leg of jeans rather than a big swatch of fabric.

jea

You’ve spoken about why ‘sustainability’ isn’t a buzzword for One Of One Archive, what do you mean by that?

I find it an oxymoron type situation because fashion is so unsustainable but the question is how do you make it more sustainable? I like to say I strive to be more sustainable and do better. I think you always want to try and have fun and still do your hobbies and practices but how can you make that more sustainable?

So what does upcycling mean for One of One Archive?

Upcycling is a big process of deconstructing a garment. 99 percent of the time it’s me looking at a pair of jeans, undoing all the seams and looking at all the swatches, whether I have patterns to cut out...it kind of pushes my creativity. I use the majority of the jeans— I really don't throw anything out, I save most of it because I'm like hey, I could use that sometime in the future.

man posing with phone near mannequin

How do you actually use upcycled materials? We saw one jacket you’ve created was made from the ‘guts’ of a mattress.

So it used to be my old mattress! My mum took it apart because she wanted to use the springs for an outdoor bed. I was left with the exterior of the mattress and I saw the inside which I found out is actually made from upcycled rags and old fabric and bound together. So, I sort of had the bits and pieces of this mattress and I thought why dont I make a jacket out of it?

It’s really me just using what I have ultimately and I ask friends and family, ‘hey do you have any old clothes?’ Nine times out of 10 people have bits and pieces lying around that they don't necessarily want. I think that that’s just the fun in it really.

And how long does each piece take to make?

It’s so different for different pieces, pants and jackets—they can take anywhere from five hours, which I think is relatively short but you know some jackets have taken me 30 hours. 

It’s pretty long in terms of sourcing fabrics, sketching up ideas, compiling fabrics together and then actually sewing that together, it’s a long process but it’s something I enjoy.

groovy pants on person kicking leg up

What does a day in the studio look like for you?

Usually, I get up around 7:30 in the morning and bus into my studio, get a pot of coffee or tea. I chill for a bit, I might take my sketchbook out, put some music on, burn some incense.

Then I get into a sewing project, usually, I have one from the previous day, like an ongoing project, most of the time it’s a jacket because jackets take the longest time. And then I'm there from 9am or 10am until, sometimes 6p?m or 7pm at night.

What’s one thing you wish the fashion industry would do more of? And one thing it would do less of?

The power really is in the big corporations' hands because they have the most impact, so I think they need to be producing less and more quality things—there needs to be longevity in the clothes we wear.

monster print on puffer jacket an dman posing with phone

What are your favourite trends right now?

I like corsets—I like a lot of womenswear and kind of all the trends around womenswear, I find it really interesting. There’s an interesting balance between what’s trendy and longevity, and wearing pieces and having them in your wardrobe for a long period of time.

I do try not to look at trends too much though because you can get a bit boggled—there's so much, especially with TikTok now and instagram, you’re seeing so much.

What about in the realm of sustainable fashion, where do you see the future of it going?

I think packaging, it’s the really small things and spending that extra. For example when I'm posting stuff, instead of getting poly mailers which are really bad plastics, I spend that extra 25 cents for compostable bags.

It’s easy for me as a small brand to say produce less as well because I'm only one person—I'm a one-man team. I also want to keep it that way because I never want to have a production line where it’s too out of my hands because I wouldn't want to be producing too much.

You’ve really garnered a big following on tiktok, why do you think that is?

I think a big part of it was showing the process behind the brand. I only started on TikTok in December last year and there are so many different niches and creative fields on there.

I’d never really recorded my process but I propped my phone up and pressed record while doing what I usually do, and posted for a couple of weeks and a couple of months—it's sort of slowly but steadily grown. 

Now, do you have any favourite cafes you go to in Hobart?

When it comes to cafes, there’s a little one called Little Lotus and it has a lot of vegan food but it’s great for coffee too. It’s really chill. There’s a vegan banh mi—I get that most of the time.

There’s also a place called Park Lane, that’s down near my studio, they make really good coffee and good chai too, and hot chocolates—I mean I kind of get everything.

Any second hand/op shops you love visiting?

There’s ADRA—it’s cool, it’s very small—in the men’s section they probably only have five pairs of pants.

It’s not a brand, but there’s a store called The Finders, they basically curate just a bunch of vintage stuff. They try to find vintage Australian garments and they have a variety of clothes but they’ve got things from the 70s, 80s up to recent stuff—really cool men’s shirts with overexaggerated collars. 

Now check these other epic sustainable fashion labels.

Design credit: Kate Mason

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