Deciding that you’re going to live a creative and inspired life takes a lot of courage, determination and trust. And deciding that you’re going to open yourself up to creating something with another person requires a big leap of faith. But those early decisions we make when we have to choose between two possible life paths can ultimately lead to a greater adventure than anything we could have ever imagined – as was the case with me.
This is my story. I was a Southern California girl leading a juxtaposed life. My interests were ballet and softball. I preferred a good book, film or creative project over the vibrant club scene or parties. I was also fascinated with healthcare and the human body so I began studying Kinesiology in college - and paid for it with a safe, yet unfulfilling, corporate real estate job. The only constant in my life at the time was this desire to create, and I knew I had to find a way to make creativity my life’s work. And then I went on a blind date that changed everything. The timing of my first date with Johnny was a curious perfection. I suddenly had a boyfriend, and was drawn into this creative world centered around skateboarding, art and culture. So I left the corporate world behind to focus on things that I loved. That’s how I began a creative journey of my own.
Johnny and I went to skateboarding events and trades shows for his skate brand, Element. We hung out at skate spots with his friends. I went from reading books to pouring over the pages of Slap, Thrasher and Transworld. I was enthralled by the skateboarding industry and he was intrigued by my unorthodox creations. Inspired by everything from clothing to furniture to botanical skin care products, I cultivated a makeshift design space out of my modest one-bedroom apartment in Santa Monica.
Then Element decided to take a chance on sponsoring their first female skateboarder Vanessa Torres, at a time when the sport was dominated by men. Since our relationship was growing, I asked Johnny why Element didn’t design women’s clothes. His reply was to inform me that girl skaters wear a men’s small tee shirt. I saw a disconnect, a void in the marketplace and an opportunity. I explained that what was missing was a female focused line that blended fashion and function. I envisioned creating something that celebrated the girls I’d met in skate culture: their open-minded all-inclusiveness. I wanted to build from the ideals that Element stood for and design something that gave girls strong affirmation, recognition, and representation.
Johnny absorbed my vision, then said “I’m to busy. You do it.” He challenged me to create the brand I described and with his support I was officially tasked with my greatest creative journey. I began sketching, designing, and picking fabrics, trims and materials. Keeping with Element’s classic art, I borrowed iconic graphics from the men’s line. The most challenging aspect was creating relationships with Element’s vendors, who only knew men’s product. Thus, in 1999 we boldly launched the skate industry’s first girls clothing collection.
When Johnny moved to Los Angeles seeking new creative inspiration, our relationship grew. Element and Eden grew. And our connection to our dreams and each other deepened. In 2002, we eloped to Big Sur, California and officially became partners both personally and professionally. And as our own unique life experiences blended together, we built a community of likeminded advocates that would complete the Element Tribe. Together, we have always constantly sought out new adventures through skateboarding, the arts and nature. We continue to travel the world together, always with one thing in mind: cultivating skate communities. As we explore our individual creativity, we always discover more about each other too. It’s always Johnny with a sketchbook in hand and skateboard under his feet, and me learning and taking note of everything around us.
Kori Schillereff, Founder - Element Eden