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When it comes to A-list fashion, designer Ulla Johnson has the magic touch. Offering the perfect balance of effortless style, vintage appeal and global luxury, her bohemian frocks can be seen on just about every celebrity, from Rachel Bilson to Margot Robbie. After 17 years in business, the native New Yorker recently opened her first boutique, and on April 27, Johnson celebrated her Bleecker Street store with her closest friends, collaborators and devoted fans, including Michelle Williams, Sarah Paulson, Greta Gerwig and Irene Neuwirth.
The intimate dinner took place at De Maria, a buzzy new restaurant, which The New York Times dubbed as “A Hip Cafe by Women, for Everybody,” that opened in February from a team including Grace Lee and chef Camille Becerra. Guests were greeted with pink and green cocktails, rosé and place cards set beside mini crystals, which evoked the store’s color palette, and stone interiors designed by Alexis Brown and Elizabeth Robertson, who also attended the dinner.
“De Maria has a female chef, which I care a lot about, and she serves a certain type of food that I think all of us are looking for here in New York,” said Johnson of the synergy between her brand and the restaurant, which also happens to be in her neighborhood. “In L.A., there’s a certain lightness and easiness of the food preparation that we don’t have here.” Dishes included lemon focaccia, sweet potato with beet borani, and grain bowls decked with avocado, chickpeas and poached eggs.
That light and easy quality can be felt in Johnson’s garments. “All I care about is looking like a hippie — but looking like a chic hippie,” said Paulson on why when it comes to anything from a date, to a girls’ night out, to a day meeting, she is constantly reaching for Ulla. “Sometimes you can find these things that look like they’re from a wonderful vintage store, but they don’t have that feeling of elegance because the fabric doesn’t feel good against your skin, or it’s been worn so much that it’s lost its luster. I think Ulla’s fabrics and textures are always so luxe and at the same time very wearable.”
Also on hand were celebrity stylists Cristina Ehrlich and Kate Young, who told The Hollywood Reporter that she calls in Ulla Johnson dresses every season. “I feel really confident sending them for an airport look or in situations where I don’t have a lot of time because I know people feel pretty in them,” said Young. “They’re uncomplicated. You don’t have to get a fitting. You can just send them, and everybody wants to keep them. It’s really hard for me to get the samples back.”
But no matter how many stars are photographed in Johnson’s designs, Paulson and Young agree, there’s something about Ulla that always makes the clothing personal and timeless.
“You still feel cool, but you don’t feel like you’re a fashion victim of some trend,” added Paulson . “You can have a dress that your best friend also has, and you don’t feel weird if you see her out in it. When Ulla designs it, everything looks like it belongs to the person who is wearing it.”
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