Monday, January 22 , 2018, 7:13 am | Fair 43º



BizHawk: Vintage Denim Shop Loveworn Opens in Funk Zone

Entrepreneur Jill Johnson splatters denim shop with art, love

Jill Johnson has opened up Loveworn, an artisan denim shop inside a warehouse building in Santa Barbara’s Funk Zone. Click to view larger
Jill Johnson has opened up Loveworn, an artisan denim shop inside a warehouse building in Santa Barbara’s Funk Zone. (Joshua Molina / Noozhawk photo)

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The Funk Zone already has wine, food and art. Jill Johnson is bringing The Love.

Johnson, a San Marcos High School graduate, has opened Loveworn, an artisan denim shop inside a warehouse building at 11 Anacapa St.

Just about everything inside the store is an original creation of Johnson and her business partner, artist Wallace. She sells vintage denim clothing items that are turned into original creations. She has transformed denim jeans into denim skirts and stitched beads on denim jackets.

She has also created her original brand of Loveworn women’s clothing items, custom shirts and jackets with heat-press phrases such as “I Love Your Smile.” She named the store because all of the clothes she creates she makes with her “love-worn” hands.

Her store is bedazzled with pop art created by Wallace, in the form of original art on the walls and on the clothing. Johnson will also sew, stitch and alter denim on the spot; she has a sewing machine at the back of the store.

The store also has an element of the 1980s underground punk scene. Johnson sells original patches of 1980s heavy metal bands (acquired from a Los Angeles shop that went out of business), that she can place on top of denim jackets. One jacket on display features an “LA GUNS” logo.

Jill Johnson shows off some of the artisan creations she and her business partner, artist Wallace, have for sale at Loveworn. Click to view larger
Jill Johnson shows off some of the artisan creations she and her business partner, artist Wallace, have for sale at Loveworn. (Joshua Molina / Noozhawk photo)

“I want people to come in here and feel good,” Johnson said.

The space is decorated with spectacularly colorful clothing and art, some of it Native American-inspired, created by Wallace. A California flag hangs on a loft overlooking the bottom floor, and art-splattered stands display the clothing.

She and Wallace have even put their personal touch on the roll-up door, where in bright red colors, the words Funk N Love are painted.

In a city where Amazon and the homeless have decimated State Street, and much of what’s left are run-of-the-mill, corporate-owned stores, The Funk Zone is bursting with energy, vitality and people. It’s where tourists and locals come together to drink wine and beer, enjoy a meal and shop for unique arts and crafts.

The Funk Zone was not drawn up and planned by a group of bureaucrats in a back room. Like the Big Bang, entrepreneurial types such as Johnson exploded to create the dynamic area.

“Look at what is happening on State Street,” Johnson said. “Is there anything on State Street that is not a chain store? I felt the timing was totally right for this. I had a vision for this.”

She opened the aluminum roll-up door to the shop on July 1 after moving in and getting the building ready less than two months prior. She’s gotten up no later than 6 a.m. every day to get the business rolling.

This is Johnson’s third business venture. She was born in Illinois, but her parents moved to Santa Barbara after a vacation because they loved it.

After high school, she successfully ran clothing store True Grit on State Street with partners in the 1990s, before she moved to an online clothing store, Coutura Candy. She left those ventures to travel the world and then returned to Santa Barbara with a yearning for another business venture. She invested all of her money into the business, without taking a loan or putting anything on a credit card. Already, Johnson said her  sales have surpassed her July projections by 145 percent.

“This town is very kind to me,” she said.

She believes that her store’s appeal is its originality. People can’t walk into the store, try it on, and then order it on Amazon. Her store (and her Website) is the only place people can find her clothing. In the back of the store she also leases space to a friend for a small motorcycle museum.

Her business partner Wallace said the key to the store’s success so far has been its originality. It features elements of punk rock and pop art, mixed with heavy metal, all in a road-trip, beach, vintage Americana theme.

“People like handmade stuff, especially local,” he said. “We’re not trying to make anything look old,” Wallace said. “They are old.”

The store opens at noon everyday and you’ll find Johnson there. She is the store’s only employee right now.

“I love this place,” she said. “I love the authenticity. It’s exhausting. It’s energizing.”

Noozhawk staff writer Joshua Molina can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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