Morning Jogger. Bike Commuter. Architect-turned-designer. Wake up to the aroma of coffee on an early fall morning with Jeff Johnson, co-founder of The Arrivals.
“We just want to make really special products.”
“From January to April, I always want to move,” jokes Jeff Johnson. The architect-turned-design director is originally from Southern California and, as he explains it, doesn’t exactly take well to the icy climes of the East Coast. “So I said to myself, ‘How can I change my winter habits? Maybe I’ll start a jacket company.’”
As co-founder of The Arrivals, a Union Square-based-startup, Johnson has done exactly that – made jackets. And lots of them. He is responsible for The Arrivals’ full collection of men’s and women’s outerwear and accessories – from leather motorcycle jackets to parkas to trenches to scarves. For the design, Johnson leans on his architectural background and a modular philosophy he applies to constructing garments. As far as the fashion is concerned? “We’re kind of industry outsiders,” he says. “And that’s the exciting part. We don’t have these preconceived notions about what we should be doing. We just want to make really special products.”
Johnson attended nearby Pratt Institute, so the Fort Greene neighborhood he now calls home is familiar. After school, Jeff – who looks a shade Scandinavian with his tall, lanky frame and blue eyes – lived for three years in Amsterdam, where he worked at a Dutch studio and met his girlfriend, Lotte. The couple moved back to New York in 2013 and Johnson spent a few months crashing on friend’s couches while teaching at his alma mater and planning his next move. The Arrivals – many of Jeff’s ideas came from the minimalist design he’d soaked up overseas – came to be when he met tech investor, Kal Vepuri.
Jeff wakes up to coffee. “It’s the first thing, before anything else,” he says. “I think I like the smell even more than the taste.” Then it’s out the door for a jog through Fort Greene Park. He sports bedhead and a bright red sweatshirt with a yin-yang logo that reads: Vibes. After the run, he showers and brushes his teeth with Parodontax herbal toothpaste (“Lotte loves this stuff, the American toothpaste is so sweet”). Then he gets dressed and makes breakfast – granola and yogurt – and kicks back on the couch to eat. “I love this time of year,” he says. “The windows are open, you’re not sweating your balls off… you’re not freezing your balls off. The balls are good.”
After breakfast, Jeff hops on his commuter bike and rides west towards downtown New York. “I used to race bikes in my early twenties,” he says. “So even a ride to work is an opportunity to get in a little competition – if you see some weirdo trying to race people on the Manhattan Bridge in the morning, that’s probably me.”
“It’s high energy and lower stress these days.”
And because it’s an exciting time for the Arrivals, Jeff is feeling a certain creative competitiveness once he gets to the office, too. “It’s high energy and lower stress these days,” he says. “We’re selling through styles now, things are moving. But we’re all young and ambitious… We really want to put our heads down and go.” Then he peddles off down the street.