Stephanie Johnson Dishes Travel Addictions, High Heels, And Those Fab R29 Kits

We’ve been googly-eyed for Stephanie Johnson’s cute and colorful travel pouches since even before Penelope Cruz and LiLo started their collection—get it straight, we saw them first! So, you can imagine our excitement when SJ offered to create two exclusive kits just for Refinery29 (yup, they’re completely adorbs, and you can snag ‘em on Reserve now!).
This week, we sat down with the gabby travel-addict to get the dish on everything SJ. What’d we find out? That probably the only thing more fun than Stephanie Johnson travel cases is the designer herself. This savvy world-wanderer loves to dish… and we couldn’t get enough. Read on for the whole convo, and don’t forget to pick up your R29-exclusive travel set on Reserve. Only question is—are you a Color Me Happy adventurer or a Resort Fever sophisticate? Better see what Stephanie thinks in our Q&A below…

What inspired you to design a line of travel accessories? Are you a bit of a wanderer?
"Yes! I had always traveled a lot within the U.S. for work, but interestingly I didn't leave the country until I was 21. When I finally did, I went to Europe and saw eight countries in eight days. That whet my appetite for global travel––I was completely hooked. I really wanted to have travel bags that looked beautiful, not gifts with purchase or Ziploc bags. Why shouldn't your toiletry bags have the same level of style and fashion as the rest of your life?"

What are some destinations that are on the top of your Must-Go list?
"I'm desperate to go to the Amangiri, which is an Aman resort located at the four corners of Utah, Arizona, New Mexico, and Colorado. It is without a doubt one of the most beautiful places... at least as far as I understand. The hotel is actually built right into the land. It's just striking. The whole experience is all about being in the beauty of nature, which really inspires me more than anything. Also, now that I'm in New York, I'm really excited to hop on a plane for a weekend getaway. I think Istanbul will be my next four-day jaunt. I'm really excited to go to the bazaars and see the Hagia Sophia."

Which SJ travel sets do you own? Do you have a lot in rotation?
"I'm a little old school, so I don't usually grab the newest styles because I feel bad taking them for myself––I want the customer to have them! I just kind of pick up pieces from every collection, so I have kind of a mixed bag, but they all work together. But I have to say I am the number one fan of the Jenny Train Case. That one shape fits all of my toiletries, all of my makeup, everything. I actually keep one pre-packed at all times, so if I need to travel at the last-minute, I can just grab it and go."


Do you choose fabrics/colors with destinations/type of trip in mind? Are you inspired by places you’ve traveled to or are you thinking more of the traveler?
"It's definitely a mixture of both. When I'm thinking about a shape, I'm thinking about the traveler—what does she want and need in a travel case? It's all about function. As far as patterns and fabric, I'm definitely inspired by destinations. Sometimes I imagine a destination I've never been to and base my design purely on fantasy. Other times, I draw more tangible inspiration from somewhere I've visited and the memories or and experiences it evokes."

What do you think of your celebrity following? Is it strange to see your bags on some of Tinsletown’s mega-stars?
"Are you kidding me? I got a Christmas card from the White House! Coincidentally, Michelle Obama and Laura Bush are both fans. I love that so many celebs like to give my bags as gifts––Bridget Moynahan, Teri Hatcher, and Emily Procter all like to spread the love. But, you know what? Celebrities are people too! In a way, it's a confirmation that I'm doing something that people like, but more than anything, I just think it's kind of fun."

Say you had to choose, which would it be: style or function?
"Function! I'm sorry ladies, that's just me. I'm a practical girl at heart. This New Year's Eve, I was the girl wearing a fabulous sequined jumpsuit with the most bad-ass YSL heels. But after dancing in those suckers and nearly killing myself on a pothole in the dance floor, I whipped out my Puma ballerina slippers for six more hours of dancing. Don't get me wrong, I love fashion and making an entrance, but at the end of the day, you'll find me in my Pumas."

Why did you choose these two designs for R29? What kind of girl do you think would be attracted to each style?
"I really wanted to mix and match different sets because I think the SJ collections are more fun that way. I purposefully design them so that everything harkens back to something else and works together. As for the different bundles, I see the Color Me Happy set as being for the adventurer, the girl who's up for anything. That Jenny Train Case is going to take you anywhere in the world for any period of time. And then you've got the Mini and Medium pouches which can hold not just your makeup but also power cords or different currencies. Resort Fever is geared more toward the sophisticate or the city girl. She probably has her mirror with her at all times and likes to keep her makeup super-organized in the mac daddy ML traveler."

So, what kind of traveler are you? Score your R29-exclusive Stephanie Johnson kit now––only on Reserve!