J’Nae Johnson – I’ve spent my entire life surrounded by stars — but not the stars who immediately come to mind.
The stars in my world won’t be seen at the Oscars or gracing the cover of Vogue. They are everyday women: hair stylists, educators, realtors, doctors, mothers, mentors, and friends. The women we all know.
They seriously amaze me.
That’s exactly why the everyday woman plays the starring role in my designs at Cheriss & Company. She inspires some of the greatest material and I passionately believe this level of attention is long overdue.
So why create a brand? The answer has many layers.
When I first began sketching designs for what is now known as The FroGirl Collection, I was tip-toeing near depression. In my African-American culture, I’ve found that the word “depression” often carries a stigma and almost implies weakness. It’s still something I rarely discuss today.
Outside of my perception of being stigmatized and deemed weak, I personally was not in a happy place. Drawing became my therapy and my mother and girlfriends encouraged me to keep at it.
The more I sketched, the more I felt an unmistakable transformation taking place internally. I believe in divine interventions and am convinced God used art to speak to me, reminding me of my worth and reassuring me of my significance, two things I was very unsure of at that specific point in my life.
As soon as my mind was clear and my confidence was restored, my business brain kicked in and I saw an opportunity.
As a consumer, I had been growing increasingly frustrated with my shopping experience as a young, African-American woman. I would see many of my favorite brands completely missing the mark when it came to creating products that truly reflected my life.
On a rare occasion I would stumble upon an item or two that was spot-on, but the typical message I received from most brands was “this is close enough.” I saw and felt a void and I knew I was not alone.
I began curating my first collection of art prints and stationery, and before officially announcing my plans, I had already began receiving orders. Cheriss & Company was born.
While the women of Cheriss & Company are not living, breathing beings, each design embodies the spirit and style of the individuals who have had a tremendous influence on my life.
As the brand grows, my hope is that the illustrations accomplish at least one thing: speak to the hearts of women and girls around the world who need to be reminded that they have worth far beyond measure and were made to be amazing.
J’Nae Johnson is the passion-obsessed creator behind Cheriss & Company, a brand that produces feel good, fabulous art that inspires smiles and celebrates the classy, everyday woman. J’Nae is a self-taught artist who believes in the power of thoughtful design to transform lives and communities.