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Meet Kelsey Johnson of ElseWear Collective in Santa Fe Art District

Today we’d like to introduce you to Kelsey Johnson.

Kelsey, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
Hello! I was born and raised in Colorado and discovered my love for creating things by hand at a young age. I came from a family of architects, designers, and entrepreneurs who inspired and encouraged me to do something I was passionate about. I found that I loved textiles as my favorite medium to create things due to the endless colors, textures, and prints. I began my journey at Colorado State University where I took undergraduate studies in apparel design and was accepted to the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising in San Francisco. Following that, I attended the Academy of the Art University of San Francisco and earned a B.A. in Knitwear Design. In 2015, I moved back to Denver and launched ElseWear Collective; a company focused on being ethically and locally produced, that also values the environment. Four years later, I am still devoted to creating clothing and accessories on a limited and domestic scale, and living my dream!

Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
I think most entrepreneurs and creatives can agree that managing a balance between work and life can always be challenging. For me, being my own boss requires a high (and difficult) level of accountability and making personal sacrifices in order to be able to continue doing what I love.

A prominent hurdle for me is competing against the mass markets and major retailers. Most of the industry is saturated with rapidly produced, poorly made, “fast-fashion” made by low-income workers overseas. This allows the larger companies to make a substantial profit, often at the expense of their workers and the environment. Being a small, one-woman run business, this reality is something that consistently inspires me to remain authentic and stay the course to my company’s foundation of quality over quantity.

Alright – so let’s talk business. Tell us about ElseWear Collective – what should we know?
ElseWear Collective was founded on creating luxury handmade clothing and accessories. I design, knit, and hand finish each piece individually in my Denver studio. Each one-of-a-kind garment is crafted using a hand-powered domestic knitting machine- a very slow and meticulous process! I create all my patterns by hand and do my own calculations on one of my 4 vintage machines. This creates a beautiful fully fashioned product, meaning each piece is knit to the exact shape and size so there is no leftover material and limited waste. Knitwear design is distinct in that I make the fabric at the same time as the garment, so the possibilities are truly endless. I use only natural fibers including merino wool, cashmere, cotton, and Colorado-grown alpaca. It is important to me that the fiber and materials I use are renewable and only come from happy animals!

Is there a characteristic or quality that you feel is essential to success?
My outgoing personality has really helped me engage with my customers when they visit the studio. I talk with them not only about how their sweater was made but also the bigger picture of how the clothes you buy have an impact worldwide. When people see a knitting machine for the first time, it is definitely a conversation starter, so I am thankful that comes naturally for me. I enjoy educating everyone who shows interest in my specialized process, as it is a unique one.

Contact Info:


Image Credit:
Desiree Johnson Photography

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