Create & Cultivate: When did you realize that you wanted to pursue a career in design?
Erika Johnson: I am that person that just always knew what I wanted to do. I learned to sew as a kid, and from there I use to draw my fashion magazines. In high school, I was known as the “crafty girl who always had cool necklaces.” I looked forward to my third-period fashion classes and found myself sketching through chemistry. In college, my passion truly soared. I got to spend my days sewing, drawing and designing. A total dream!
Annelise Ingram: When I designed a pair of pajamas and named the colorway “Fruit Punch” instead of taking science notes in 5th grade.
How did you land in the world of phone accessories?
EJ: Fate, I suppose. Fresh out of college, I had just moved back from an internship in NYC. Jobless and living in my childhood room at my parents, I applied for an internship at a company I had walked by the doors of many of times in college. Walking into the design department at Otter Products felt like home. While I wasn’t surrounded by dress forms and sewing machines, the creative energy was the same.
AI: Divine providence. I applied to somewhere around 100 fashion internships. After interviewing at Otter Products, I felt like I’d found a supportive and inspiring culture in which to grow professionally.
Who is your favorite Disney princess? Why?
EJ: Belle, mostly because I watched the movie so much I wore out my VHS as a kid. She is my favorite because she always stays true to herself. She is stubborn and a little nerdy, pretty much how my friends describe me.
AI: Mulan. For all the reasons. She’s a little awkward, has a great sense of humor, oh, and she’s totally courageous and stands up for what she believes in. Also, Mushu is her best friend. #goals
This collection paints the princesses as influential figures rather than damsels in distress. Why do you think this message is important for girls?
EJ: Playing the damsel in distress in life is easy, being strong and influential takes courage. OtterBox is known for being strong and influential in the world of phone cases, so this mentality is embraced here. We have pretty phone cases, but we are more than just a glittery case. Behind the case is a community that builds each other up in good times and bad. We never lose sight of what really matters, which is why our mission is to Grow to Give.
AI: To be honest, I think the beauty of their stories lies in distress, and how they deal with it. We can’t always control our circumstances, but we can control how we react and become proactive in the future. That’s also why I think the Create & Cultivate conferences and summits are such great events. We all have things weighing us down or seemingly working against us in life. We need to hear the message that, like these princesses, we can create our own adventures and cultivate attitudes that help us reach our goals-- and help others to do the same.