A Stephanie Johnson cosmetic case is much more than a makeup bag. Designed with the modern traveler in mind, many of Johnson’s inspired little pouches are meant to double as handbags — so you’re actually getting two bags in one! To whet your appetite for upcoming sale, we spoke to the designer to find out all about her life and work. Read on for packing tips and inspiring words,and then shop Stephanie Johnson Cosmetic Cases on April 3 at noon ET, on Gilt.com.
Q: On your site you refer to yourself as a traveling anthropologist. What does that mean?
Well…. I guess you could say I study myself as a human being — how I travel, how I pack — and I travel the world and experience different cultures and different people. I’ve sort of made a career out of figuring out who the different types of women are out there. How do they like to travel? What do they like to have with them? I’m sort of a student of women travelers, if that makes sense.
Q: What looks are you loving right now?
I moved to New York recently, and having had a gray and black wardrobe for the past couple of months, it’s really nice to have a playful pop of color in your handbag like the Malibu pink. The patent leather has such a great feel too; it’s unbelievable on the hand. I’m also slightly obsessed with the raffia stripe. It’s very subtle and has a sophistication to it. And I love the Palm Springs Cassandra. It’s very movie star. It makes me want to go check into the Parker.
Q: Have you always had a passion for bags?
When I started the company, I had worked for 15 years as an executive in a telephone company and it wasn’t exactly my lifelong dream to wear pantyhose every day! I knew that I really wanted do something for myself, but I wasn’t sure what that was until I started traveling. I went to Vietnam and Thailand and Cambodia, and while I was in Thailand I saw these amazing little bags, and I thought Oh, I’ll import those! But they had no interest in exporting whatsoever, so I decided to create my own thing. My local dry cleaner made our first sample — I still have it! It’s pretty horrific. So I started sharing that with friends, who got what I was doing and told me to go for it. I did pretty well at my first trade show, and then I just jumped! I never did a business plan, which is completely wacky. I did it all from my gut.
Q: What would you say is the biggest takeaway for other women who want to make the switch?
You can’t have any fear. We only go around once, or not — I believe in reincarnation! But you know what I mean. Life’s an adventure, so why wouldn’t you just put it all on the line for something bigger? Usually the things that you’re most afraid of are the things that are going to have the biggest payback for you. My motto has always been, Jump and the net will appear.
I know you consider yourself an expert packer these days. Any tips you could share?
Let’s say you have a duffel bag. Your goal is to pack it to the top, but most people don’t pay attention to the width of the bag. They just start throwing stuff in. I do very neat orderly stacks and inevitably someone will come in and say Oh let’s throw some shoes on the side of the stack — which would therefore fatten your bag. You don’t want to do that. You want to pack straight up, and then once you’ve gotten to the top you want to keep packing straight up until you can barely tuck those items in on either side. Then, and only then, do you start putting stuff in on the sides. There’s also putting the heavy stuff on the bottom, packing all of your must-haves first… I could go on and on. That’s the kind of order-obsessed maniac I am.