We had the good fortune of connecting with Bee Johnson and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Bee, can you walk us through the thought-process of starting your business?
My thought process behind starting your own business was first my love for artistic expression. When I was a child I started drawing at the age of eight. By sixteen, I was making homemade comic books with my best friends. We were completely into Anime before it became as popular as it is now. Unfortunately, I didn’t feel my comics and pictures were as well received as I wanted them to be and that was discouraging. I decided to stop drawing completely in my twenties but as I got older my passion for drawing and creating never stopped calling me. As I grew older and had kids, I noticed my oldest son had developed an eye for designing and creating digital art also and I wanted to create an outlet for him and I as well.
A few years ago, before the pandemic, collaborations from big name street apparel brands and high end fashion brands became popular. And with the rise of instagram and the way the world is connected via internet, that further made me think “There are so many artists in the world. I know that they have more opportunities to display art, but, why not give up and coming artists of any genre an additional way to not only get their art and message across, but possibly make a little money doing so?”
Eventually, that passion for art and the desire to help the next generation of artists fueled me to start my clothing brand, Purple Ghost Apparel.
Art comes in so many forms and I wanted to bring attention and hopefully, appreciation to all avenues of creating art. That art form could be dance, written art (poems, etc.), music, digital art, painting or drawing. Anything that celebrated artists and their work was my motivation given my background.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
Before starting Purple Ghost Apparel, I have always been involved in art, one way or another. I come from a musical family. My mom sings, two of my uncles formed a band back in their hometown and used to play clubs locally in the Midwest. But, for me, I’ve always been into cartoons. When I was young, I used to love the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Super Mario Bros. & Sonic The Hedgehog. I liked them so much, I wanted to create drawing of them myself. So one day I picked up a pencil and paper and attempted to draw them. It was terrible at first, but I kept at it until I started to like the pictures I made. Eventually, my family started to like the pictures as well.
The summer going into my freshman year in high school, my mother, sister and I moved from Atlanta, GA to South Bend, IN. While she moved, my mom sent me to D.C. with my grandparents. That summer I discovered an anime called The Ronin Warriors. I loved the style of animation and the way the characters looked and I decided to teach myself how to draw anime/manga style that summer. By the end of summer, I got it and I wanted to make my own comic with my own characters.
Moving to South Bend, IN from Atlanta, GA was a huge culture shock for me. The weather was different, the town was so much smaller and everything was so unfamiliar. I was also shy and got intimidated easily. Eventually I met some cool friends that shared my interests. And that’s how I started making comic books in high school.
As I got older and I moved to LA at 19, I didn’t know how to make my art translate into a successful career. My mom suggested I become an architect but, I was bored to death with taking those classes in junior college. My uncle used to work in clubs in the Hollywood area and I started helping him. One day, a random guy came up to me and told me that I should be an actor. I “looked” like an actor haha. The idea stuck in the back of my head until one day, I decided to try a career in acting. It was fun an I was a background actor in a few things but I didn’t enjoy the competitive nature of the business and I knew I didn’t have the passion for it. I did like the field of entertainment and I thought, if I can’t be in front of the camera, why not be behind it? So, eventually, after I graduated from El Camino College in Torrance, CA, I studied TVF at Cal State, LA. That led me to editing. Eventually I became an editor for the TV reality show franchise, The Bachelor.
Despite all of this, I still felt I wasn’t fulfilling my passion. And with my kids growing up, I noticed my oldest son was quite an artist in his own right. So, in 2019, I decided to start a clothing brand. It was scary and I felt it was impossible but I felt if I could do it, I could give not only myself an avenue to create art, but I could have something to pass on to my son that was both a business and had a big creative element to it.
I’d like the world to know that Purple Ghost Apparel wasn’t started from some people looking to make a quick buck or sell apparel with a negative message or no message at all. The intentions for PGA is to promote. talented artists. And to highlight their message of positivity and creativity in the form of apparel.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
I love this little rooftop bar called Offshore 9 in Huntington Beach. Super chill and a great sunset. Great drinks and finger food. Malibu wine tasting. Disneyland, of course. San Diego and the pier tour is fun. I also like Mulholland Drive. So many scenic views there. Dodger Stadium is really fun. Hollywood boulevard and Highland is interesting as well.
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
I want to give a shoutout to my oldest son, Jailen who is a big inspiration for me creating this brand. He has created some of our most popular designs to date. I want to give a huge shoutout to anime and manga! I’m glad the rest of America has caught up to how awesome this art style is. My family (my mom, Toni and my best friend/brother Vinai), for encouraging me to keep drawing and for helping create. My daughter, Tori for being so outgoing and keeping me young. My youngest son, Micah for always giving his honest opinion. I wanna give a huge shoutout to my guy, David for giving me the best marketing opinions and advice. And finally Kari and her brother, Will for motivation to muster up the courage to get out here and make this brand in the first place. I would’ve never been able to do this without their push!
Facebook: Purple Ghost Apparel
Dee Hartford, Jonathan Arreola