When a lot of people think about the trademark pixie/elf style at Shambhala Music Festival, a lot of people think about The Fairies Pyjamas. They are pretty much synonymous with each other. Michelle Lynne Johnson has been bringing her whimsical clothing to the festival for over a decade, and making room for everyone inside her storefronts and stalls. Her clothing is made using fair trade facilities in Nepal, and more recently it is all produced using organic or recycled fabrics. Her brand has always had a lot of integrity and a very strong presence in the scene, but it’s also known for being one of the most accessible and affordable.
Michelle was in Nepal when I arranged the interview so we had a international Skype date!
I asked her about her choice to use certified fair trade facilities to make her clothing, what drew her to Nepal, and if she had thought about getting her clothing made in other countries…
Michelle- I have thought about it, but I have a long term relationship here with the fair trade facility, so at this point I feel like I would be betraying my fair trade partner. The only time I think I would look for another source is if they decided to close, and that’s part of the fair trade initiative. Because we’re working together we are almost like a team, where sure, I’m creating the concept and the vision, but they are producing the clothing. The better we do together the better we can do!
I’m totally cool in Nepal. I’ve got my source on organic fabrics. I’ve got a really good working relationship with the fair trade facility. I can trust them. They understand what I’m talking about (haha)! I feel really positive about the effect that I’m having on the people of Nepal. Nepal needs jobs! It’s a really, really poor country here. The people are so nice, and as a female, I feel so comfortable here.
Kaiser– So for a lot of people, when they think of organic, fair trade and sustainable clothing, it usually means really expensive clothing, but you’re able to keep your price points really reasonable and affordable for people. What goes into that?
M– I think part of that high and low thing, is the product concept of trying to simplify ideas… and I make so many spreadsheets, oh my god! So how much does it cost to make, how much am I gonna estimate it will cost to ship…and how much would somebody actually pay for this? That’s part of the way I’ve developed trying to keep the prices as reasonable as possible, is trying to make it a sure bet!
The fabrics that we’re getting, the organic certified ones from India, and the twill, and now the organic hemp sweatshirt, and also, the fourth fabric that we’re using, is recycled fleece! It’s made from recycled plastic bottles. And then once it’s lived it’s life it will end up going back to this facility to be remade into fleece again. So I’m really excited about that because fleece is not very expensive, and I like the idea of reusing something like plastic bottles!
We’re having our fabrics coming from these organic mills and they are putting the colour into them from the beginning of the process, so its not as though the fabrics are being dyed after the fact, that is the colour of the fabric, so the longevity of my colours now…they are lasting so much longer, because those fabrics are being made from an organic mill!
K– Because you’re doing the dyeing, and you get to really pick your colours from the get go, how are you picking your colours for each season, what inspires you for that?
M– Ok, so people all the time ask me, the’yre like “So! What are the new fairy colours?!” and I’m like “New fairy colours???” Well, I like black, I like dark purple, I like dark olive because we do lots of leaves, and we’ve been doing this grey blue. I am creating a brand, and a vision, and the great thing about the vision is that even if the designs change by year, they all match previous items too! I’m trying to create timeless designs that will always be part of your festival wardrobe. So when people ask me about the new tones for this season, I simply look at them and say, those are the fairy colours, and we will stay by them, like we’re waving our proud fairy flag (haha)!
K-How has Shambhala affected your life, and what keeps you coming back? What makes it different from other festivals?
M– It’s literally my new years, my whole year is centred around Shambhala, and I’ve been able to do this cycle from Shambhala to Shambhala, because its my most successful festival, and I am honoured to be a part of the community there. I try to create the most welcoming experience for all festival goers, whether its their tenth festival or their first festival. Last year there were lots of people from the states attending, and they were freezing cold! And I was trying to do my best to keep them as warm as possible, for as affordable as possible! We sold so many sweaters, it was insane! Shambhala literally is the whole reason why I went to Nelson. It’s part of my life. I’m so proud to be Canadian and to have that festival in our backyard! I literally would not be here today if it wasn’t for that festival.
We have so much to look forward to as the scene expands and it fills me with such a good feeling to be a part of it and to be able to share the magic with other people who haven’t got to experience it. You know? That is the way we can grow this scene, is by being inclusive, not exclusive.
”Instead of just shouting out, hey that’s bad, or hey that’s negative, we literally just need to live life in the way that we want to see life, you know? And that be our protest, and that be our standing up against the man. It’s creating these projects, and doing it with the words that we believe in “
K– Now that electronic music, and electronic music culture is getting a lot bigger and a little bit more mainstream, do you feel any pressure to change your designs and make them a bit more consumable for people, or are you kind of like, holding true to your fairy brand?
M– I think its a little bit of both! Part of my philosophy is to be open to different demographics wanting to own my clothing, and also different body types too! I definitely think that mainstream electronic music is actually adopting more of that underground electronic music style… they’re wearing the fluffies, they’ve got the booty shorts on, and those candy bras or whatever (haha). You know?! The booty shorts and the fluffies are definitely something that I’ll always be making.
This was such a great conversation, and I got to know and love Michelle’s philosophy in life and in her business. Such a unique brand with a conscience that anyone can feel great about purchasing and owning. The Fairies Pyjamas will continue to be a positive influence in Nepal, especially as it recovers from the earthquakes this year.