Music and fashion are undoubtedly inextricably linked, particularly so in this day and age where musicians are endorsing fashion houses and in return those fashion houses find their muses among musicians. So I wasn’t too surprised to hear that a musician was the tenuous inspiration behind the name of this Australian made fashion brand. Mum of four, Sally Johnston and creator of distressed denim label Roar Denim admits that Katy Perry’s ‘Roar’ anthem was something of a hit with her kids oft-played on the 45 minute stretch of road between visiting grandparents and home, “so basically that is where it came from.”
From one generation to the one that came before, the entirely self-taught designer cites much of her style kudos to her own mother, “I remember always rummaging through her closet to find something to wear and still do it now,” she says. Somewhere between her mother’s style sense and her children’s poptastic music tastes, Sally created her business, the results of which are unique, custom-made pieces that reveal the possibilities that become reality when denim meets dreams. From frayed shorts in a variety of lengths to custom-designed waistcoats and shorties bleached shades of pink, purple and green, the Roar Denim aesthetic can best be described as grunge with a feminine twist, “this is very evident in my work with the distressed denim and coloured dyes I use,” she says.
“I am loving putting more of a feminine spin on to the plain blue denim,” says Sally as she explains her process for design from start to finish. Sourcing the highest quality denim for her preloved range from op-shops, Sally explains that the magic takes place in her Byron Shire home office. The process begins with the distressing followed by bleaching, washing and drying and then the addition of colour or not depending on a customer’s preferences. Working on 4 to 6 items at once to keep up with demand, Sally’s designs are highly coveted across the globe. “This year has started off so amazingly with me posting parcels off around the world,” says Sally, “ideally I would love to just continue that on a larger scale.”
In this modern age where technology reigns, the designer asserts that spreading the word about her brand and establishing the Roar Denim name both in Australia and internationally has largely been thanks to the power of social media. “The first thing I did was start an Instagram account,” she says. However, learning to take the good with the bad in utilising platforms such as Instagram, Sally admits she has seen the cut throat side to it but recognises that in order to make her business successful, the dark side of social media is just one thing she and her fellow makers must accept as being par for the course “I’ve definitely learnt not to sweat the small stuff,” she says.
The designer’s fearless and feisty attitude feeds into her work ethic in more ways than one and this she credits both to the men in her life and her own creative drive, “I have always been a hands-on girl,” she says. “I grew up always helping my dad with his projects and that has fed through to working alongside my husband and now onto this business on my own.” That juxtaposition of family and business is something which has existed throughout Sally’s life and now career and with her two eldest boys in school, one pre-schooler and her baby girl at home with her, you would think she’d be pulling back from projects but to the contrary, in addition to growing her thriving business and helping her husband run the books for his, Sally reveals she has something else up her sleeve. “If that isn’t enough, I’m currently working on a very exciting project with a girlfriend too, which will be revealed in the coming weeks.”
Road testing new designs on, as she refers to them, “my little guinea pigs”, the Roar Denim creator’s ideal product testers are the offspring of a rather well-known designer and her footballer beau. “I would love to deck out the Beckham kids in my denim because let’s face it they would have to be one of the coolest families,” says Sally, who confesses that when it comes to celebrity names in the fashion world Victoria Beckham is at the top of her list for sartorial inspiration alongside stylist to the stars Rachel Zoe and reality star turned designer Whitney Port. This is not to discount the local home-grown talents who have inspired Sally, she says, “living in the Byron Shire there are so many local businesses that have inspired me such as Spell Designs, Arnhem and Children of the Tribe.”
Staying ahead of the style trends and keeping up with the likes of the Beckhams, Sally lets me in on her predictions for what will be big in denim in the coming months and specifically for Roar Denim. “This winter will definitely see the return of the heavily distressed skinny jeans,” she says, leaving me hanging with a tantalising promise “but you will just have to wait and see what I have coming.”
Dressing my daughter in the fabulousness that is Roar Denim, both in Sally’s pre-loved range and her exquisite custom-made designs, I for one am hugely excited to see what this immensely talented lady has in store for 2016.