Fashion, Race and Inspiration with Joslyn Johnson, Founder of Elizabeth Street Shop

It’s New York Fashion Week and with it comes the latest fall trends and the crisp winds of change. But, before Mother Nature reminds us of the bitter bite of winter, let’s escape to the sunny, sexy, and colorful city of Miami. I sat down with Joslyn Johnson, the founder of Elizabeth Street Shop, an online thrift store based in the Magic City. We spoke about fashion, race, and inspiration. 

What inspired you to name your store Elizabeth Street?

Naming my shop after the street I grew up on as a kid, was a no brainer. The innocent years of having my very first best friend, building relationships, elements that have cultivated me into this creative person, started there. Elizabeth street played a big role in who I am today.

What’s your fondest memory growing up on Elizabeth Street?

My fondest memory growing up on Elizabeth street would have to be my dad blasting the boom box during the weekends, listening to old school music during the day, and slow jazz at night. He was a lover of the arts, a free thinker, and an active listener with sound advice to match. I’d like to think all of his great qualities rubbed off on me. Rest his soul.

How does Elizabeth Street Shop stand out?

Elizabeth Street Shop stands out because not only is it a thrift shop online, but a thrift shop online with a “mainstream” swag to match. “There is no way you got that thrifting”, “this item looks like something that would be in an editorial” comments like these fortifies the message behind my brand. It’s been great to see what it has propelled into since my initial idea back in 2013 of having just a jewelry shop online. I have made it into something that I can say I am truly proud of, and that makes me a happy girl.

How do you define your style? What’s your fashion signature?

My style is unconventional. One day I could fall under the category of mod, the next boho chic. I’ve had tons of people tell me that I have an androgynous look going on. So I can’t fully define my style, I know it’s tailored just for me. My fashion signature is definitely head wraps. My head wraps initially were used to cover my bad hair days. I’ve received so many compliments now I rock them even on my good hair days!

Being stylish can be pretty expensive, how do you shop on a dime?

I think it’s a common misconception to automatically assume if you see someone who has a nicely composed outfit on, they spent a fortune on it. Honestly, being stylish for me was never really expensive. I gravitated to thrifting because it allowed me to find unique stylish pieces that cost me little to nothing. That’s the beauty in thrifting.

What’s your greatest thrift store find?

My greatest thrift store find was a full emerald green sequin dress, hands down. It will be a part of the holiday collection coming really soon!

Any tips for those of us trying to find our own distinct look?

It takes time. My suggestion would be to start small. Are you a minimalistic person? Do you like intricate detailing? What colors do you favor the most? These are some questions you can ask yourself to get started. Another great tip is to find inspiration. Choose a fashion icon whose style you like. Put a twist on it, and make it into your own! I wouldn’t get too wrapped up in the “fashion do’s and don’ts”, it’s okay to use as a reference but if you follow them too the T ,it can be pretty limiting. Remember you don’t have to have a degree in fashion to be stylish, you just have to have a whole lot of courage! If you find yourself confused and it seems like you are all over the place, it’s cool! Being diverse and exploring different styles is a part of the journey!

What’s up with all this cultural appropriation at fashion shows? Whats your take on it?

There seems to be a very thin line between inspired influences and cultural appropriation. In no way shape or form is it wrong to be inspired by other cultural influences besides your own, however we have to also keep in mind that  everything must be done in a tasteful light. It’s common to see offensive innuendos captured in today’s society but I’m against cultural appropriation being used for the sake of “fashion”.

Designer Kerbey Jean-Raymond used his fashion show to address police racism and brutality. Do you use fashion to challenge ideas or make a statement?

I guess you can say my fashion ideas come from a free spirited mindset and this frame of thinking, coming from a woman, was not favored back in the day when women’s rights were nonexistent. I like to be able to be in the position to say that I own my own business, I’ll dress like a man if I feel like it, or completely forget to wear a bra for the day and be okay with it. So yes, I make statements and challenge ideas even if I have no idea that I am.

Mainstream media deems slender white women as the beauty norm. Do you have advice for women of color who are currently struggling with insecurities created by mainstream culture?
Mainstream media needs to catch up to the 21st century because beauty is everywhere! Do not compare yourself to anyone else that would be my initial piece of advice I would give to women of color. I have noticed through observation how we can compare ourselves to each other and not think twice about it. This need to be ” better” or “as good as” has been force fed since a young age causing insecurities that weren’t there to begin with. It’s all about being conscious of your worth, which is my next key advice. To know your worth is to have power over yourself and your way of thinking. Completely transform what you used to think and begin the journey of knowing yourself more. There is only one you, how cool is that!
Elizabeth Street Shop
Photo by Joslyn Johnson for Elizabeth Street Shop
Jewelry from Elizabeth Street Shop
Jewelry from Elizabeth Street Shop
Photo by Wilna M for Elizabeth Street Shop
Photo by Wilna M for Elizabeth Street Shop

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