As Earleatha “Cookie” Johnson prepared to return to her hometown to promote her newly launched CJ by Cookie Johnson jean line at Nordstrom in the Somerset Collection, she had two reasons to celebrate.
As a Michigan State grad and the wife of NBA star and former Spartan standout Earvin “Magic” Johnson, she planned to be cheering “go green” with her husband at the NCAA Final Four action at Ford Field. While in town, she also planned to be putting her MSU retailing and textile degree to good use.
CJ by Cookie Johnson launched in February. How long had the idea been in the works?
I had been toying with the idea for over 10 years. I was just really frustrated because I couldn’t find a jean that fit me. Jeans now are more of a lifestyle; you can even wear them to work. As they became more important, it became more frustrating to me to not be able to find one that fit. That’s when I finally had enough and decided I was going to do it. I had the first meeting in late October and the jeans launched in February.
How did the collaboration with Michael Glaser begin?
I had a friend who was in the business and knew [Michael Glaser, mastermind behind Seven for All Mankind, Citizens of Humanity, and current owner of the Rich & Skinny line]. Everything kind of snowballed really fast. Michael got it. He wanted to get on board.
How many cuts, styles, and colors do you have?
We currently have four styles and we’re adding colors as we go along. We started off with a few washes in each style and now, because of spring, we’ve added some whites and blacks and are going into fall with some more colors. The four styles we have are a bootcut, straight leg, high waist, and the boyfriend jean. [Retail starts at $141 to $196.]
Do you plan to branch out into accessories or maybe a line for men?
Right now, we’re going to concentrate on the jeans and see what the demand is out there. Already there are so many women [asking if I’m going to do casual pants and sweat suits] because we have the same problem. This jean is giving women a new confidence. I had a woman crying in the dressing room because she has never had a jean that fit her like that.
Are your jeans exclusive to Nordstrom?
Right now, but by the late fall they should be at other stores. [The jeans are currently sold in 59 Nordstrom stores.]
Have you got a celebrity following?
Gayle King (Oprah’s friend), Angela Basset, Natalie Cole, Rachael Ray, and Tyra Banks.
With jeans becoming so socially acceptable at restaurants, the office, and special events, what would you suggest to wear to dress up a pair of your jeans?
I would put on a smart little blazer or a tunic.
Is there a certain shoe you would suggest?
It depends. The boyfriend is really casual and funky; you can dress it up with a heel or roll it up to your calf. I love the platform. I tend to wear them with most of my jeans.