Portland’s Hidden Opulence’s Drea Johnson wants to help save your clothes

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DRea Johnson’s passion for upcycling was stitched together from moments in her life. From saving money with her father at a young age to working in retail to interning with a top fashion designer in Los Angeles, each piece forms the fabric she wears today as a maven of the style and business owner. She’s the force behind Hidden Opulence, a design studio she started in 2017 that offers all kinds of services centered around the sustainability of clothing, including alterations, cutting, pattern work and refurbishing. clothes. Few can tell, but 2020 has been the studio’s best year yet. Now, having expanded his space on SE Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard (under the Hawthorne Bridge ramp), Johnson is focused on growing his business by bringing back something many of us have lost in the pandemic: the human contact. As said to Dalila Brent


My dad grew up in Cincinnati. He was always trying to think about how to improve. One of his first jobs was as a bag boy, and he would save all his money to buy nice clothes so he could go to school and look good. People don’t know everything that’s going on with you. Sometimes that first impression can change your life. When I was a kid, I watched my mom pick out outfits and jewelry, taking an entire hour to get ready and transform into someone else. It was a moment. Seeing them taking care of their appearance and their clothes influenced me.

I knew I had somehow missed the boat to study abroad [when I was in school]. I also knew that I was not going to be able to find the money [to travel], and I knew it was supposed to be an exploratory period. A friend of mine in college said, “I’m sick of SoCal; I’m going to Portland. It was like something she would proclaim at every party. She said, “Who’s coming with me? And I say to myself: “I’m going”.

I’m honestly inspired by everything. Maybe it’s an experiment or a game I played. If I spent a lot of time outdoors, maybe the next day I’ll wear earth tones. I just drink in the world around me, and what comes out of it is a reflection of what I saw or something I talked about. There isn’t a single place that I feel inspired by.

When the war with Ukraine and Russia started, I noticed that my customers had supply problems. Some of the best flax comes from flax grown in Ukraine. I lost a few accounts. It was interesting, just seeing how supply chain and sourcing affected my clientele, whether it’s small batches – which are more of a B2B setup with designers – or people bringing in items to make changes. I have to plan ahead and buy more than one thing because the next person might need it.

I will not tell I’ve never done fast fashion, it’s everywhere. My socks are probably fast fashion. Resentment may be a strong word, but maybe it is appropriate. I resent the way it changed the public perception of the work I do. [Fast fashion] devalues ​​this set of skills. We design things, and people wonder why it can’t cost less. But there’s a whole trickle-down effect with where these things are produced and who gets paid for what.

I feel a disconnect [since the pandemic] because I didn’t see the people. Down there’s a service window and people will fall [their clothes] stopped. It’s a very brief interaction. Before, someone had an appointment, we had a consultation on his clothes, and I would show him things while talking to him. I hope to start having open sewing hours and bring back that element of education. I believe that with more education you can make better choices for yourself.

Have that bigger space, hopefully we can start organizing workshops. I want people to know what’s going on here. I want people to try working on their own clothes and mending their own stuff and learning a bit about the little pieces they can do themselves. If I can have any impact on the next person about their use of the clothes, or how they get them or even beyond that, from a sustainability standpoint, I’m fine with that.

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