A few weeks back, I sat down with Laura Housgard, owner and founder of JOHAN and we talked about good shopping experiences fashion retail connection between  Portland and NYC. Her shop inspiration comes part from her scandinavian heritage as well from her love for minimalistic design and the approach to create a new  shopping experience. An experience where the customer has an exclusive personal shopping experience with one of a kind pieces, influencers for this approach are the Apartment Line and Bless Home. A new way of shopping with a warm, welcoming feeling.

What role does technology and social media play owning a small business?

Technology touches all parts of small business, from inventory, buying, and ringing up sales to blogging and social media. I spend a huge chunk of my time each day on my laptop or phone! Social media, specifically, has been a powerful tool in growing the business. I've been able to reach new customers and connect in a meaningful way with people all over the world.

What are two style elements that connect the Fashion/Style Scene of Brooklyn/NYC and Portland?

Great question! Both cities have a pioneering spirit, drawing individuals from all over that want to create something that's never been created before. That drive results in a need for people to dress in a way that highlights their personal aesthetic, versus wearing what everyone else is wearing. Vintage is big in both cities because it's the easiest way to create a unique look. I also think that because both cities tend to draw makers, you get a lot of people wearing local designers - it's like a big circle of making and supporting. I doubt that cycle is as omnipresent anywhere else.

What defines a good shopping experience for you?

There are a million factors that go into a good shopping experience, from the lighting and music, to the curation of brands and visual presentation. None of that matters if the sales associates aren't serious magicians. It's a real skill to make someone feel all the things they should feel in a retail setting. If I leave a shop feeling like I want to tell all my friends about it, then I'd consider that to be a good shopping experience.

Who are your style muses and influences?

I tend to crush on people with timeless looks, like Phoebe Philo and Margaret Howell.

What role do you think is Johan playing in PDX's Fashion/Style Scene where would like to see it in a few years?

Since I opened Johan, I've wanted it to be a destination that elevates Portland's retail scene. Through a tight selection of high-end brands, Johan is becoming known as a place where you can find the best of many things. In a market that is over-saturated with shops that are themselves over-saturated, Johan is a breath of fresh air. In a few years I'd love to have a bigger space to create a truly luxurious experience for my clients. Approachable luxury is what I'm after.

Could you describe for us a typical business day and picture one of the most rewarding moments in your business life so far?

On a typical shop day, I'll wake up, shower, and make myself a smoothie or breakfast sandwich. I usually glance at emails and mentally prepare a social media post. I'm often running to the post office or fitting in errands and meetings before the shop opens at noon. Once the shop is open, I clean, re-merchandise if things feel stale, and then start attacking emails. Afternoons get busier, so I usually chat with clients and friends for the rest of the day. After I close the shop, there's a 50% chance I have a meeting or drinks scheduled with someone. If it's a free night, then I head straight home, dive into my sweatpants, make a huge bowl of popcorn, and find something to watch on Netflix with my boyfriend.

It's hugely rewarding whenever someone comes into Johan and says that their friend or co-worker told them to check out the shop. It means that word of mouth is REAL and I'm doing something right!

What are two topics, that you wish people would be more interested in when interviewing you?

This is such an interesting question. I've been asked this before, and honestly, I'm still in shock that people want to interview me! It's not even crossing my mind that I'm sick of answering a certain question or I wish someone would ask about something else. Maybe one day I'll get there, but for now, it's incredibly flattering to be asked any questions at all.

Could you name us your three fave style accessories this spring?

I just got ivory leather zip pouches in from Comme des Garcons that I am dying over! Perfect paired with cutoff jeans and a white t-shirt to run out and meet your friend for a quick beer in the sun. Also really into Sunbuddies sunglasses and Nina Z clog sandals that should be arriving any day!



   JOHAN #plainsite

 Broadway and Burnside, Portland, OR 97205