After graduating Wayne State University with a degree in Fine Arts, Deborah took a position with Contessina Eva Revatti, from the house of Chanel. As her design assistant for the next 10 years, Deborah learned the true art of dressmaking.
Most new clients come in preparation for a special event. They desire a gown or dress that will be like no other. Deborah personally meets, measures and fits every client. After a brief discovery of their needs, the client is shown samples and the process begins. Measurements are taken, fabrics, colors and trimmings are selected and the patterns are made.
Unlike some designers who require five or six fittings, Deborah usually only needs to ask her clients back once before the finished garment is presented.
The Everyday Separates: Deborah Johnson
When Upper East Side doyennes and European royals are looking to build their seasonal wardrobes, they head straight to Johnson’s sun-drenched salon, tucked away above the clubby Italian restaurant Sette Mezzo. The 59-year-old, who perfected her skills working with Contessina Eva Revatti (Chanel’s former head seamstress) for ten years, opened up her own atelier in 1987, where she tailors and crafts bespoke pieces entirely in-house, working with clients to finely tune details from buttons and fabrics to cuffs and the color of stitching thread. She specializes in chic daytime separates, like a cashmere coat (from $6,500) adorned with one-of-a-kind buttons made from vintage rhino horns (designed for a young socialite), and her signature four-ply, silk-crêpe blouses (from $1,500) in seemingly endless hues, which her clients order by the half dozen. There are also blazers (from $4,800), flirty cocktail dresses (from $6,500) and formal eveningwear, like this year’s highlight: a full-length $17,000 gown with a flower-and-vine-beaded pattern that took two months to finish. Allow six to eight weeks; 212-288-1362; deborahjohnsonnyc.com.
In an age in which “bespoke” is a term applied to just about anything, Deborah Johnson Studio is one of the few remaining bastions of truly bespoke clothing in New York City. All of the garments produced at this Upper East Side atelier are made-to-measure and constructed by highly-specialized seamstresses in the best fabrics, particularly double face, cashmere knit and silk chiffon. The emphasis is on formal dresses for special occasions, though they do a decent amount of suits and evening jackets too. Johnson’s style is quintessentially classic, with great lines and clean colors–never a lot of print. Johnson herself, and the mood at the studio, is described as “nothing short of fabulous.”
Johnson has operated her own studio for over 20 years. She employs a staff of approximately 15 seamstresses, finishers, and pressers, but Johnson personally meets with all clients to discuss the garment at hand and performs the initial fitting herself. Clients are given a plethora of customization options, including fabric, color, trimmings–even desired neckline or pocket depth. The pattern is cut to the client’s specifications and a checking fit takes place at the studio a few weeks later, at which time any number of final details are tweaked. Delivery is typically six to eight weeks after the order is placed, though rush is available in certain cases.
With bespoke pieces come bespoke prices: gowns start at $2,800, jackets at $4,000 and suits at $5,000. “Her pieces are indeed expensive,” said one client, “but where else can you get such elegant pieces cut precisely to your size?” And though Johnson typically draws on existing designs in her 200+ collection as a starting point, the high degree of customization options make this studio a go-to when something truly one of a kind is called for.
REPRESENTATIVE CLIENT COMMENTS:
“Deborah is an amazing talent. She has a sixth sense of what you need and what will look amazing.” “Deborah is so accommodating–she’ll make even the smallest of changes.” “When you wear something from Deborah’s studio, you’re wearing something beautiful that you never have to think or worry about.” “She’s good at keeping her appointments spaced so that you don’t feel rushed.” “Deborah made my daughter’s wedding dress, the bridesmaid dresses and my own dress for the occasion–everything was amazingly beautiful and unique.” “I’m recommending her constantly.” “The workmanship of the staff is consistently excellent.”