Siblings Cara and Jenae — both moms who grew up in the Midwest — decided to create a lifestyle brand that positively represented themselves and others like them in a space where people of color are often overlooked and under-represented. Did they have any experience in fashion or retail when they began? The answer is no, but these women had the courage to shape things up and shakes them up, image-wise.
Cara and Jenae’s EPIC EVERYDAY lifestyle brand that positively represented themselves and others like them in a space where people of color are often overlooked and under-represented.
The historically Black college/university (HBCU) graduates — Cara and Jenae — knew the importance and impact of inclusion and as mothers, they really wanted the next generation to thrive in self-expression and celebrate diversity.
Again — with no experience in the retail space, these two sisters have turned boring, ordinary school and home products into “EPIC” positive self-reflection with fun character designs recognizing all mocha skin shades, hairstyles, and textures.
The 2020 season designs include backpacks, fanny packs, and lunch bags featuring boys or girls representing multi-racial and “mocha-hued” diversity including different hairstyles and textures. The backpacks come in 3 different sizes: Classic, Junior and Mini and feature a padded one-zip compartment design to hold your child’s school electronics: a 9-inch tablet (Mini); 13-inch laptop (Junior); and 15-inch laptop (Classic).
Lunch bags come in two different zipper closure styles, both with inner aluminum coating for thermal insulation to keep lunches cool all day and made with durable waterproof nylon with four bright & bold colors to choose from.
The Happy Hues collection also includes towels, bedding, totes, chest bags, and kids apparel.
Here is what sisters Cara and Jenae, the creators of EPIC EVERYDAY had to share about their school and home essentials designed to empower children and parents of color and their Happy Hues collection of backpacks, fanny packs, and lunch bags featuring mocha-hued boys and girls proudly displaying their skin color, hair, and their own unique, inherent style.
LOS ANGELES SENTINEL: I love the bright colors that are part of your EPIC EVERYDAY line of school and home essentials. The Happy Hues bedsheets made me giggle just like a kid. I mean who doesn’t love color?
CARA JOHNSON-GRAVES & JENAE JOHNSON-CARR: (laughing) We love color. We do!
LAS: Congratulations on being able to work together as siblings, I mean — hello!
CJG & JJC: (laughing) Oh, thank you. I must have siblings, so you know. It’s a challenge, it’s a challenge.
LAS: I can imagine. I love your laugh.
CJG: Thank you.
LAS: How did this all begin? Take me back, sisters who are really — sisters!
CJG: I’m the older sister. We’re no spring chickens.
LAS: No, don’t say that. Wait. Say that, it will inspire people of all ages. Sorry, please continue.
CJG: We [were] both raised in Cincinnati, Ohio. We both went to HBCU colleges and then we parted ways. We both have worked in other fields. Jenae has worked in technology and the engineering field. I worked in the healthcare field. This is totally new for us. Jenae has been living in the U.K. for almost four years. In fact, she just returned to the U.S. last week.
LAS: Wow. That’s what’s up. A sister abroad.
CJG: During her time [there] she had two girls. I have two boys. While still living in Europe, she approached me and said, ‘you know, we really need to think about creating something that will fill the void for underrepresented children.
LAS: I agree and we represent a big part of the population. When you combine Black, Brown, and the other mixed hues.
CJG: Exactly. There is less than 1% of apparel, accessories, and home design that includes those under represented kids. So we wanted to step up and fill that void and not only for our children but what we call — the multi-hued children all over the world. Our tones and textures are all over the world.
LAS: What other factors do you think contributed to Jenae wanting to step into this challenge?
CJG: The fact that she was living in Europe (Scotland) and then traveling the world. Her girls have been everywhere and they wanted to carry something (on their travels). To take all of the worlds with them that shows their pride, to show their positivity no matter where they were in the world.
LAS: What a great origin story. I bet that pop of color caught eyes.
CJG: You were right. They have been stopped all over the world with a lot of people asking where they could buy the items. We do not have background in retail or in art.
LAS: This is the second reason that I love EPIC EVERYDAY and the Happy Hues collection. You didn’t have experience in that area but it did not stop you.
CJG: (laughing) No. I did not. I’m a boy mom and I recognized even more of a lack of merchandise. It’s hard for them to find something that they can relate to. Jenae is there something that you might want to add to that?
JJC: No. You covered it all. It’s important for people to know that we are everywhere (people of color), and we [my family] traveled a lot when we were living in Scotland. I think we went to 14 different countries and everywhere we went — everywhere —we saw multi-hued, multi-colored people. And we would get stopped and asked about our [Epic Everday] bags. One of our first sales came from a trip to Dubai. We were literally stopped as we were exiting our taxi. We were just carrying samples. She was in Kuwait, teaching and she purchased a backpack and a lunch bag for her daughter. That showed us that we were on to something. This is without advertising our publicity.
LAS: I love that story. Word-of-mouth or in this case, it’s the flash of color. I love that you are both women of color. You are not White people coloring us in and making a profit from us — again.
JJC: You will find many industries selling to our market that’s not part of our culture. That was important to us as well. We want the world to know that these are designed by multi-hued parents for multi-hued children
LAS: I love it. I think I am going to cry.
JJC: Everything we choose is for a reason. Even the hairstyles of the little girls. These are hairstyles that we wore when we were little.
LAS: What I appreciate is that neither of you didn’t have any experience in fashion, art, manufacturing or retailing.
JJC: Like none.
CJG: Like, really none.
JJC: We had to find someone to do our illustrations and everyone on our team is people of color.
LAS: What year did you start the business?
JJC: In 2017, we started the process. We did our research. I did the research for two-years. After the beta testing which was less than a year ago, then we felt comfortable to start the line.
LAS: So EVERYDAY EPIC is just a year old. Brilliant.
LAS: I love that you have bedsheets, and the hooded towels, I can tell that someone loves to swim in your family.
CJG: (laughing) Jenae’s girls love the ocean. They have swum in, I don’t know how many oceans. They are swim babies and we had to make sure that we had something for kids of color all over the world.
JJC: We wanted to encourage swimming as well because, in our culture, we aren’t encouraged to swim.
LAS: Ok. Big question. Are you open to working with artists and even artists that come from the street art — graffiti world.
CJG & JJC: Yes because we are very flexible and we try to be open to new ideas. Also, we do want to create a line for older kids in the future.
LAS: Good to know. I will pass that along. Anything that I forget to ask that you both might want to add?
JJC: Well “epic” actually stands for something.
LAS: That’s what’s up. What does epic stand for?
JJC: The E stands for empowered. The P stands for positive. The I stands for innovative and the C, it stands for creative and that’s what we want kids to feel every day and that’s why it’s EPIC EVERYDAY.
LAS: Thank you Cara and Jenae creators of EPIC EVERYDAY and the
Happy Hues collection.
To shop and learn more go to https://shopepiceveryday.com
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.