DFW Music News

Designer Travis Austin’s Johnny Cash Collection Walks the Line Between Love and Confidence

Michigan-born Travis Austin's designs attract musicians no matter which city he sets up shop in.
Michigan-born Travis Austin's designs attract musicians no matter which city he sets up shop in. Lee Kounas


For Travis Austin, music and clothing have always gone hand in hand. Austin got his start in the fashion industry after he decided to leave the world of modeling to be one of the people he worked for.

"I'll never forget it," he remembers. "It was Black Friday when I bought a $100 camera, a Moleskine notebook, some Crayola color pencils and I taught myself how to draw and started a clothing company called Layers Clothing."

Austin quickly made a name for himself in the nightlife industry of San Diego with his line of streetwear, providing custom designs to area DJs until he had the opportunity to make a jacket for Dutch DJ and record producer Tiësto.

"I got to watch him put on a jacket that I made and designed while he was onstage performing," he says. "It was one of those life moments that slap you upside the head and proves to you that this is where you need to be in your life. That moment, I decided that design and fashion was going to be my world."

Austin made the move to Dallas shortly thereafter, opening a showroom for Travis Austin Customs at the end of 2018 that would serve as a traditional retail space, a private shopping showroom, an art gallery and a music venue. He now counts locals Leon Bridges and Bobby Sessions among his clientele. Singer Keite Young wore a custom leather jacket by Austin for the music video for "The Hate You Give," the Sessions song for the 2018 film of the same name.

"Musicians are kind of the lifeblood and the carriers of fashion trends and confidence, more importantly," he says. "I guess it all boils down to the word 'confidence' for me. I've realized over the past couple of years that fashion is the way to spread confidence to others."

"I have Johnny Cash's signature tattooed on my arm. Me and my wife have Johnny and June tattoos. We walked down the aisle to a Johnny and June song at our wedding." — Travis Austin

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Austin has been inspiring that confidence through his custom designs for years, but his first ready-to-wear collection is available online now just in time for Christmas. The inspiration for his latest collection comes from one of Austin's lifelong heroes, Johnny Cash.

"I was raised with Johnny Cash in the speakers at home from as early as I can remember," he says. "He was everything that I wanted to be when I grew up. I have Johnny Cash's signature tattooed on my arm. Me and my wife have Johnny and June tattoos. We walked down the aisle to a Johnny and June song at our wedding."

Austin's aim in fashion has been about inspiring confidence through bold designs.

"When I was a kid, my mother, instead of telling me and my three siblings bedtime stories or little rhymes or riddles, she would tell us, 'Find somebody who loves you like Johnny loves June,'" he says. "This collection had to encapsulate the confidence and the bravado of who Johnny Cash was by himself, but it also had to encompass the softness of Johnny in his love for June and what that means in my life and you as a father, as a husband and as a designer."

In finding the middle line between softness and bravado, Austin's "Johnny Cash Collection" is as much about love as it is about confidence.

"What is love if it isn't confidence?" he asks. "I've never been more confident in who I was as a man than I have been in the past year since I've been married to my wife and since we've been expecting our first child."

The collection consists of a selection of four different images printed on satin liners sewn into the inside of the jacket, hidden from view until the person wearing the jacket decides to show it off. Austin says that the decision to keep the images on the inside was a deliberate choice for a very specific reason.

"These images aren't necessarily for everybody from the outside in to see," he explains. "These are images and emotions for you to wear on your back and your shoulders and on your sleeves when you put this jacket on. If people happen to see it when you're out, or if you want to take the jacket off and share those stories with the people around you, then that's amazing.

"The reasons why you bought the jacket are personal enough to where, if you don't want to share them, you don't have to, but they're there for you to feel every time."
click to enlarge The infamous Johnny Cash shot in San Quentin prison is now on a leather jacket by Travis Austin. - TRAVIS AUSTIN
The infamous Johnny Cash shot in San Quentin prison is now on a leather jacket by Travis Austin.
Travis Austin
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David Fletcher writes about music, arts and culture for the Dallas Observer. You can usually find him at a show in Deep Ellum whether he's writing about it or not. A punk scholar and local music enthusiast, David focuses his attention on the artists screaming in the margins of Dallas' music scene.
Contact: David Fletcher