When Bella Hadid wears your hand-painted pants, expect to garner some attention. Juliet Johnstone never intended to work in fashion, but shortly after the Los Angeles–based artist began experimenting with clothing, Hadid wore one of her pieces—and it ignited an instant craze for her work. “People went crazy—within five minutes, I had hundreds of messages,” Johnstone says. Before, Johnstone had been posting one pair of old Dickies or Carhartt pants decorated with hand-painted affirmations to Instagram. They’re free-spirited in feel and often say the words love or peace. In other words, the kind of pants that make you stop while scrolling. “It’s wearable art,” Johnstone says, adding that she has been creating these pieces while sheltering in place at her parents’ house in the Malibu area. “I moved my studio into their garage,” she says.
Johnstone originally studied to be a classic painter: She graduated from Parsons in 2017 with a fine-arts degree but found herself lacking inspiration and direction for her work. “I was working for a bunch of artists and doing the studio-assisting lifestyle, and I just felt really stuck,” she says. “I felt like this huge responsibility to be making hyper-conceptualized work.” Last year, around October, she began experimenting with painting onto trousers instead. “One day, I painted on my own painter’s pants because I ran out of canvas that day,” she says. “I wore them out, and people were asking me where I got them.