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Continuing the Millinery Legacy in Dallas

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Story By Michelle London Bell and Photos by Grant Meeks

Dalph Johnson is not your typical milliner – he is so much more: an entrepreneur, philanthropist and mentor.  His passion for fashion has become a trade, part of a dying art on the Dallas fashion scene. But he takes pride in his contribution towards keeping the legacy alive.

Born on the outskirts of Dallas, Johnson started in fashion by fulfilling a need.  “My daughter was very young at the time, and I was a struggling artist – so I was not able to afford Victor Costa dresses at Neiman Marcus, so I designed my own,” Johnson said.

This inclination to make custom garb came naturally to Johnson, who parlayed his vision into a hat business after learning early on how to embellish his mother’s hats.  While working for a Medical Company for twelve years designing technologically advanced medical scrubs – his creative desires still burned deep within.

After two years of research, he birthed his hat creation business .  “My first molds were actually over a skillet and a wooden salad bowl,” he said,  “I could not even afford the supplies at the time, but I dove right in!”

Then one day, a client requested an order for a custom couture hat and the rest was history. “She was the owner of Marie Antoinette’s in DeSoto, and she actually left a package for me containing all the appropriate materials (3 blocks – crown, brim, etc.) necessary to not only create the hat for her, but start my business,” beams Johnson.

He then opened his own store in 2002 on Ledbetter in South Oak Cliff, and joined the Dallas Fashion Incubators Program in the heart of downtown Dallas.  “I learned so much during this time because the program afforded designers an opportunity to have an actual address to showcase their lines to buyers, meet with other vendors and suppliers, and foster collaboration with designers,” Johnson said.   The program has changed and evolved over time, and is now called Texas Next Top Designer and moved from Main Street to Southside on Lamar.

Today, Dalph operates a thriving custom couture hat business from his Southern Dallas studio, and has expanded to the wholesale side of the business with inventory in boutiques across the South – Texas, Louisiana, Arkansas and Alabama.  Dalph spends the remainder of his time giving back by teaching the art of millinery at DCCCD’s El Centro campus – where students have flourished and even pursued starting their own lines as well.

“I just want to continue the plight set before me and make sure the art of millinery stays around,” Johnson said.  “Dallas is lacking a great atmosphere fashion as it had during the 1980s and I would like to bring that back.”  He further demonstrates his desire to empower the next generation of fashion designers by mentoring students in a studio in the Fashion Quarter at Southside on Lamar. “Someone gave me a hand, so why wouldn’t I want to do the same?” says Dalph.

Visit Dalph’s Panache Hats studio on Sabine Street in Dallas or online.

Categories: Fashion, Featured, Michelle London Bell
  • Betty Culbreath

    Wonderful story.

  • Yvette Lax

    Wonderful story, and I thought I need it all about you!

    Thanks for sharing, I hope you will concern entering in the “Texas
    Top Designer”, plus “Project Runway” on Lifetime.

    Thanks again!

  • Theo Stephens

    Dalph has always had a “can do attitude.” Once he sets his mind to do something it’s usually accomplished. His love for hats and the world of design is phenominal and his craft will take him places. SO good luck to you Dalph and P.U.S.H.
    Love you, Your Sister Theo

  • http://dalphofdallas teresa troupe-lewis

    i’ve had the privilege of owning one of Dalph’s hats!!! When I wear it ,I’m always complimented on how beautiful the hat is ,and how well it compliments me!!!! MIND !! the hat is several years old ! Wearing the hat gives me great pleasure!!!

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