Behind the Seams: Chad Johnson
MensFashionMiami. Some of you may know the Instagram handle. If you follow ProTrending, you’ve absolutely seen it tagged with some of the biggest names in the sports world. If you’re in Miami, you might call him Ocho Blanco. But what Chad Johnson, the tailor and designer will be remembered for, is his custom creation company, Duane and Johnson. I met up with Chad while he was on a recent business trip in LA. He was shopping for fabrics and when I inquired if he’d still be there for a bit and we could chat, he responded with “I can be here all day”. He wasn’t kidding. Walking through the textured columns, lined with cuts of possibility, it’s as if you can see Chad’s mind constructing. While he doesn’t live full-time in LA, he knows every inch of this store, guiding me to specific fabrics with passionate enthusiasm of which client he’ll use it for.
As we stroll, Chad details how he came to fully discover and embark on what he calls his “purpose” as a master tailor and designer. A keen eye for the precise needlework that his grandmother stitched in her quilts, ignited a fire, which quickly translated into a love for menswear. But what truly put a needle in his hand, was of course, a Miami night for the Miami raised man. A James Bond themed party to be exact, and Chad’s inquisitive desire to meet the person who handmade an epic suit at that party. That guy, was Tim Brown, who would eventually, after much pleading from Chad, become his mentor. “I sent him an e-mail every 3 to 4 days for four months straight, until he truly took my desire to learn the craft seriously.” Upon their first lesson, Tim, who is also self-taught, preached how these skills would separate him from the game. “I give all my credit to Tim when it comes to my sewing skills,” Johnson states, who’s adamant on continuing to complete all his own sewing.
From learning alterations, to pattern making, to a full blown suit, Chad Johnson, the tailor was being formed. Chad tells me a proper, hand constructed suit takes a minimum of 60 hours to complete. The first professional athlete Chad tested his skills on was Lamar Miller. Football teammates in high school, their friendship laid a new pattern to providing custom fits to athletes. “That’s my guy! I owe a lot of things to him and Jarvis (Landry), they opened doors for me”.
What’s the first piece he made for Lamar? Chad emphasizes every syllable as he states, “A. Three. Piece. Suit. I remember, it was a two button, three button suit.” The final fitting for that suit, was what truly hooked Johnson. “45 minutes later, he’s still smiling, and I’ll never forget it. That’s the moment I knew, this was exactly what I want to do for the rest of my life. You could see his posture change, you can literally see a gain of confidence immediately. To know I had a piece of that, to me, that’s something I can’t ever replace”. That’s his why.
As Chad pulls a silky reel of fabric from amongst the chaos of colors, I glance down and notice six bold letters tatted to the right of his thumb. My curiosity gets the best of me and I can’t not ask the meaning, to which he responds, “I’m so glad you asked”! It’s his daily affirmation, a constant reminder and recognition every time he shakes someones hand: “IMDFG aka I Am Destined For Greatness”. “When I shake somebody’s hand, and they ask about it, that’s me continuously speaking it into existence”. Positive affirmations and a daily grind is what Chad hopes the foundation of his company, Duane and Johnson will be. The name, a salut to his father.
Tireless in his work ethic, Chad’s father was absent often for his job, something a young Johnson resented. As a grown man, Johnson realized the true sacrifice, Steven Duane Johnson made for his family, and Chad wants his company to honor that hustle. He’s his biggest inspiration. A symbol of attention to detail and precision that mirrors his work.
“My father’s a pretty secretive guy, he doesn’t really talk too much, but the first time I told him the name, I could tell that shit meant something and my father means everything to me”
Chad’s personality is fiery for sure, but one I’d describe as a kindled blaze. An acknowledgment that his work as an artist, is one to support his canvas. “The work will speak for itself. As an artist, as a tailor, at the end of the day, the person who’s wearing it feels good and most importantly appreciates what was made for them, I don’t mind being behind the scenes”.
MensFashionMiami, of course is going to honor his roots with his collection, with inspiration from 1950’s Miami. Grab a martini. Channel Frank Sinatra. Feel a hiss of warm ocean breeze brush over you, as vibrant silks effortlessly cascade. Add a few modern edges with timeless tailoring, and honored tradition; that’s Duane and Johnson.