GQ

The Rise of Artwear

On a sunny winter day in downtown Los Angeles, the painter Juliet Johnstone leads me up an industrial stairwell and into her new studio: a vast, light-flooded warehouse space, where dirty paintbrushes are soaking in the sink and Seba’s Cabinet of Natural Curiosities lays open beside an easel with detailed sketches of butterflies and flowers. Johnstone spends up to 12 hours a day here, painting not only in her “work uniform” of carpenter pants, but also on them.

Johnstone always had ambitions to paint professionally, but was working mostly as a model prior to February of 2020. That started to change after Johnstone hit the streets of West Hollywood wearing a pair of pants that she customized with hand-painted 60s graphics and gothic letting. Her only intention in painting the original pair was to make something for personal wear, but after being stopped by countless enthusiastic strangers wanting to know who made the pants and how they could get some of their own, it was clear that others wanted to wear them too. Using the same aesthetic theme (of hippie meets classic tattoo imagery) but different imagery, Johnstone created a new pair of pants and shared them on her Instagram. They sold within minutes. The third, fourth, and fifth pairs she painted, each unique from the last, were also purchased almost immediately after she posted them online. Realizing this could be a viable business, Johnstone started making and selling pants full time.

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