Westside fashion designer publishes children’s picture book

By Kamala Kirk

“Mabel the Fashion Muse” is a children’s book that will inspire future designers.
Courtesy of Stacy Johnson

Back when Stacy Johnson had her first e-commerce website in 1999, she used a vintage dress form named Mabel, which ended up inspiring a children’s book she wrote 20 years later.

“As in the book, Mabel was found in an East Village apartment with one broken wheel, and that’s exactly how I came to own the used dress form when I was at Parsons School of Design,” Johnson says. “She was the company’s trademark and graced the front of my Brooklyn boutique, on my shopping bags, hangtags and labels, and she was also the virtual shopping assistant on my website. I drew a few cartoon strips of her on various fashion adventures and thought it would be fun to have her be the vehicle to teach kids about fashion in a picture book someday.”

“Mabel the Fashion Muse” offers a fun, behind-the-scenes look into the real world of fashion and what it takes to become a fashion designer. The book highlights the adventures of Mabel, the chatty dress form of a budding fashion designer, and her furry companion, a Yorkie dog named Brooklyn, as they make their way through New York City.

“Most books or story lines about fashion depicted petty social drama or were an unrealistic view on how the fashion industry actually worked,” Johnson explains. “I wanted to create this book to inspire future designers, and give girls the tools and power to be their own fashion entrepreneur someday. I think a whimsical dress form like Mabel is the perfect relatable character to tell my entrepreneurial story.”

The book features colorful watercolor depictions of NYC life including the Brooklyn Manhattan Bridge and Seventh Avenue (also known as Fashion Avenue), along with resources such as a fabric 101 page, silhouette library and an activity to dress Mabel. It is geared towards kids between the ages of four and eight, and is available on Amazon and at Barnes & Noble.

“The book is sort of a love story to NYC and the center of the fashion industry,” Johnson says. “I wanted to give kids tools and resources after reading the book so they could try their own hand at designing. My website also supports the book so kids have a safe place to explore more design activities on their own.”

When creating the book, Johnson scoured through old photos of her shop, atelier and memories of the New York fashion industry to create her illustration plates. Some of the plot lines were inspired by her own fashion experiences working for designers like Calvin Klein and Cynthia Rowley.

Johnson later started her own fashion brand, Stacia, and opened a boutique with an atelier in Brooklyn. In 2004, she and her husband relocated to Santa Monica, where Johnson wholesaled her Stacia knitwear line to other stores, had a design studio and later opened a boutique.

These days, Johnson operates an online store where she carries a more scaled back collection of beach essentials and small batch designs for the quintessential beach lifestyle. She also teaches virtual Mabel the Fashion Muse fashion design classes on Outschool for kids and teens. In the future, Johnson would love to write more books.

“I hope to do a children’s book series with Mabel,” she says. “Either explore other fashion capitals with Mabel to show other fashion careers or designer experiences. I can also see myself doing a fashion activity book around Mabel for older kids, basically a book version of my online fashion portal. My dream would be to license the Mabel the dress form brand and have a line of sewing and design supplies geared towards kids. I would also love to explore the backstory of Brooklyn, the shop dog. I already have the storyline thought out, I just need to start drawing!”

For more information, visit mabelthefashionmuse.com