By Stephanie Rhodes
Local designer Johanna Hannaford’s inclusive clothing creations are smashing fashion stereotypes and helping women celebrate who they are, just the way they are.
Johanna began her fashion journey in 2014 after the birth of her second set of twins and recently opened her storefront P31 Clothing in Cronquist business district. The busy mom somehow found time to create around parenting seven children – including two sets of twins and two foster children under five.
“I really only started being interested in fashion after all my kids were born and my body changed significantly. It became more a journey out of necessity. I have young girls looking up to me and it’s really important to me to teach them what healthy self-esteem looks like.”
Enlisting a friend with a fashion degree for help, she apprenticed under her for nine months, sewing for her and honing her skills. She learned through the process that fashion had little to do with obtaining a view of others, but is a way to show others who you are and how you feel about yourself.
In 2014 she launched JH Gowns, a beautiful dress rental business, where she got to use her amazing draping skills to create stunning ethereal and ornate gowns for maternity, fashion and elopement photos. Her love for couture fashions and influence from Paris ateliers like Dior, Chanel and Elie Saab is highlighted in these unique, one of a kind gowns.
“I started JH Gowns because I enjoyed making the dresses and it was very therapeutic while I was still figuring out how to balance being a mom and a human at the same time. The more my skill level grew, the more of my own clothing I started creating. I grew a passion for making clothing that fit me and made me look the way I already felt about myself.”
The first collection of her latest brand, the more accessible and equally beautiful P31 clothing line, officially launched in January 2019, but it’s been in her heart for some time before that. Opening her first brick and mortar location, she has since produced a new collection every spring and anticipates a fall collection for 2021. Their last spring fashion show EVENTU, had just over 6,000 attendees online last year and she’s hoping the fall event will bring in more than 10,000 viewers. This year they are also running a fundraiser aiming to gift $40,000 to $60,000 to a local female owned business.
P31 Clothing, located in the Cronquist business district of Red Deer, focuses on acceptance and beauty in all shapes and sizes without ever compromising aesthetic. Overcoming and challenging stereotypes of beauty and fashion is a core principle of the brand and Johanna’s focus. She can customize most of her designs in store for the perfect length and fit for every body type.
“I eat, sleep, work and spend 100 per cent of my time investing into other women and trying to figure out the best way to build community into everything we do here. We talk every week at our staff meeting about what we’re doing well, what we can do better, and how we can love others better. We train our staff to help women learn to dress their shape, how to mix and match as well as education on textiles, manufacturing and how everything works together”
Based on years of experience, Johanna strongly encourages designers with a similar entrepreneurial spirit to go after their dreams full steam ahead. Find someone who has accomplished things that you want and do anything you can to earn time with them and learn. Always be ready to learn and actively seek out any opportunities to advance your skills.
You can view all of Johanna’s creations at jhgowns.com or visit her storefront location to see all of her clothing and gowns in real time. Custom work is available.
This article was published in Summer 2021 Prairie Living.