In partnership with Tourism Tasmania
During Tasmania's Off Season you'll find Noah Johnson beginning his day with a soul-warming coffee at Hobart's Little Lotus Cafe. From there the designer and founder of One Of One Archive, a clothing line built around upcycling, will either stop by Despard Gallery or Good Grief Studio for his creative fix, or make his way to Seven Mile Beach. "There’s nothing like a walk in winter on the beach in Tassie," says Johnson.
Born in Hobart, on the land of the palawa in lutruwita (Tasmania), Johnson set out to create One Of One Archive when he was only 16 years old. Utilising sewing skills handed down by his mother, Johnson began to alter his own clothes as a creative outlet. For the designer, recycling and repurposing is a no-brainer. "I was raised to extend the life of items as long as possible and not contribute to the mass production and consumption cycle," he tells RUSSH.
Part of this philosophy stems from his surroundings. Sustainability is built into the very fabric of Tasmania. Johnson notes how his birthplace is "one of the freshest places in the world". The air is clean, the waterways pristine, and you're never too far away from nature and its humbling presence. It's for this reason that Johnson's practice is inextricably tied to his environment.
"I believe our path to sustainability will always stem from the concepts Aboriginal people have had for tens of thousands of years," he explains. "In lutruwita, I’ve always understood sustainability to be a way of life. I believe there is a more regenerative and healing way to create."
It's the unpredictability of upcycling that energises Johnson. The designer garners inspiration from the hodge podge of materials and garments that accumulate in his studio, and for his latest collection, Off Cuts, Johnson joined forces with Tourism Tasmania to reimagine discarded tourist garb into quality pieces that could be worn over the course of a Tasmanian winter. The capsule takes bikinis and transforms them into beanies, turns vintage souvenir tea towels into trousers and morphs tropical shirts into boxy outerwear.
"I am driven to reuse these secondhand materials to create pieces that are even weirder and wackier."
Johnson's favourite garment from Off Cuts is a black, grey and green jacket that would melt perfectly into his own wardrobe, along with a red version that he could imagine keeping as a statement piece. "I’m proud of these pieces as they took a lot of time... from deconstructing the tropical shirts, to cutting them into random shapes, sewing them together and then lining and cutting them into the jacket patterns," he continues. "These jackets truly are a one of a kind item that breathes new life into tired old tropical shirts, deconstructing and subverting summer throwaway culture into the perfect winter staple."
Much like sustainability, winter is sometimes viewed through a lens of restraint and limitation. "This couldn’t be further from the truth in Tasmania", says Johnson. Through Off Cuts, the designer sought to dream up a colourful wardrobe that would complement Tasmania's vibrant arts and culture scene which reaches fever pitch during winter. All the while simultaneously dispelling the myth of the season as "cold, grey or depressing".
"Tassie comes alive in winter," Johnson says. "It's my favourite time of the year. It’s when Tasmania showcases the best of who we are and what we have. It's playful, fun and funny even, and that’s welcoming and cosy. It’s that playfulness that really prompted me to design Off Cuts – I wanted to show that winter doesn’t have to be so serious, it can be colourful, out there, and alive.
There’s poetry in upcycling too. It's an exercise in looking for the potential in pieces that have been cast away and dismissed. Johnson tells me that this outlook bleeds into his everyday life. "For example," he shares, "I love going to the pantry and fridge as random as that sounds and grabbing what I can find to make a meal. You can call it resourceful," he surmises, "using what you already have, but that has also stemmed from my youth and growing up with whatever I had and making use of what’s on offer."
Hailing from what Johnson calls "a quiet state", the artist discloses how he's always "wanted to find a way to leave my mark on where I was born". "I want to show other Tasmanian artists and kids that you can come from our small state and still do big things."
PHOTOGRAPHY Olivia Repaci
PHOTOGRAPHER'S ASSISTANT Anne Thu Pham
FASHION Kirsten Humphreys
HAIR & MAKEUP Gavin Anesbury @Viviens Creative
COLLAGE BACKGROUND Jesse Hunniford for Tourism Tasmania, Studio Grafiika