Women of Substance

Woman of Substance: Deb Waterman Johns of Scout Bags.

By: Jen Shoop

A couple of weeks ago, I had the opportunity to attend a lovely lunch celebrating the launch of Scout’s spring bag collection, and I was completely awestruck by the founder, Deb Waterman Johns, when she stood to address the room of well-heeled ladies eating avocado toast.  She struck me as dynamic, confident, smart, and stylish, speaking eloquently and unrehearsedly about her line of eye-catching bags, which are designed to balance function with fashion above all else.  Deb conceived of her line when she spotted a plaid tote at the Helmut Lang boutique in Milan and remembered selling a similarly-styled — though far less expensive — carryall during a recent run of her pop-up shop, Fifi.  Deb saw an opportunity to create high function bags in high fashion prints for the woman on the go–and off she went, building the business that would become Scout.

Deb is a veteran in the fashion industry, having started her career as an assistant fabric editor with Vogue; worked as an expert color and trend forecaster in the fascinatingly arcane “color prediction consulting” space for notable fashion designers; and launched three different fashion-related businesses.  She also has four children (!) and three dogs (!) — so, as you can see, she’s an under-achiever.  (Ha.)

During the luncheon, though, I was particularly taken by her obvious comfort in her own skin — her ease in speaking extemporaneously, compellingly about her own line; her self-possession in her distinctive all-black outfit, including, if memory serves, a black belt bag and a padded headband (which I’m sure she’s worn for years with great panache, but which is currently enjoying a fashion moment, hennyyyy).  I love a woman walking confidently in her own lane, and Deb is one of those.  I was — and still am — wonderstruck by her achievements, her poise, her drive.

The Fashion Magpie Scout Bags Deb Waterman Johns 5

I’m also a huge fan of their practical, eye-catching bags — I now never travel without one of these; use this or this for mini’s on-the-go lunches; and this for touch-up makeup when I leave the house for the day.  Meanwhile, this cleverly-titled “Four Boys” tote is the perfect road trip/family excursion bag (shhh, I’m planning to buy it for my sister, who is mother to TWO boys), and I heard another new mom mentioning that she likes their insulated bags for storing breastmilk, pumping gear, etc while traveling!

The Fashion Magpie Scout Bags Deb Waterman Johns 4

The Fashion Magpie Scout Bags Deb Waterman Johns 6

The Fashion Magpie Scout Bags Deb Waterman Johns 7

Get to know Deb better by following her or Scout on Instagram, or check out her responses to my Proust Questionnaire below!

Q+A with Deb.

Your favorite qualities in a woman.

I like women who are authentic, “team players,” philanthropic, original, spirited, strong, punctual, quick witted, and empathetic. To borrow a phrase: “be yourself; everyone else is taken.”

Your favorite heroine.

Scout in To Kill a Mockingbird.  As a child, she possessed unadulterated, heartfelt judgment and emotion. She was unfiltered and the essence of a true person who wants to help another person.  She didn’t see color, differences, or any reason why someone might not help someone else.  She was also the most amazing tomboy on the planet; she embodies “tomboy” for me.  She had style at the age of 10!

Your main fault.

Lacking patience. I have patience for people who shouldn’t know. I have less patience for people who should.  Then again, I have two speeds — fast and off — so I do not have a capacity for slow-moving patience.

Your greatest strength.

Authenticity. I don’t have the energy or the interest to pretend to be anyone else. I have never worried what anyone else thinks; I’ve always had a sense of how and what I want to be.

Your idea of happiness.

Time spent with family and friends.  Also — any sort of creative stimulus or creative outlet.  I don’t think there is any value too great to put on what family and good friends mean in your life. That being said, dogs are humans, and are definitely included in the mix. On the other side, I know that unless I can be around a creative stimulus and put out work that embodies creativity, then I suffer–then I’m not my real self.

Your idea of misery.

Too much free time or sitting in the front row.  Too much free time: I’m not a zen-yogi-quiet-time-meditation-candle-light-dark-room kind of person.  I’m a bright-lights-lots-of-noise-visual-assault type of person. Also, I would be miserable in the front row — I slept through all my college classes (but managed to keep my scholarship and work my way through school!), so the front row was never a place I wanted to be.

Currently at the top of your shopping lust list.

The perfect season-less black jacket. You can’t put a price on what a well-cut, multi-season black jacket can do for a wardrobe. In today’s more casual world, putting on a black jacket that fits well and feels right– it’s potent. It simplifies the equation.  Jackets continue to be important in a wardrobe: they mean “finished,” “complete,” “pulled-together.”  And it would have to be black, of course (!), because it goes with anything.

Your desert island beauty product.

I don’t own or wear any makeup, so for me, it would be Sun Bum sunscreen.  Sun Bum is the perfect thing to wear in the sun because it offers great protection and a great smell.

The last thing you bought.

Black ankle-length legging jeans from AG Jeans.  Like the black jacket, the black color dresses up a basic jean so that it can move from day into evening. The skinnier leg works well with a less fitted top, and I love to layer on top!

I feel most empowered wearing…

Black. Back in my Vogue days, I watched the editors walk the halls looking very streamlined and pulled together in black.  It’s also a casual-to-dressed-up look; it’s ageless; and it honestly says that you have a point of view–not to mention that it’s slimming.

Your favorite Magpie Post.

Can I Pull Off a Backpack, and Other Mom Musings.  Babies and backpacks — I get that.  I had four kids in six years and I can relate to these moments of “is my baby my friend?”  Lol.  Just remember, lower your expectations; if you get them fed and cleaned, you’ve had a great day.  If you can’t get the Instagram moment, it’s okay.  The backpack thing takes a minute to get used to because it goes outside the parameters of what most women have carried over time. The backpack redefines how women of all ages can carry things handsfree with confidence. And honestly, traveling with it is amazing. The bag does things that more traditional bags simply don’t do.  I’ve been carrying a Prada backpack for 25 years – and now I carry a SCOUT backpack.  It’s a high level of efficiency, and frankly — these days it’s pretty cute.

Channel Deb.

Below, a couple of Deb-inspired picks.  Hint: all black errythang.  Click on images to be taken directly to details!

P.S.  More women of substance.

P.P.S.  In case you  missed out during the Shopbop sale, this well-priced midi dress sold out VERY QUICKLY in all colorways, but I found it restocked here, and in select colors here!

P.P.P.S.  The most popular article of baby’s clothing I’ve posted in the last month (truly timeless — both Mr. Magpie and I had pairs of these as babies!), and the most popular article of magpie clothing I’ve posted in the last month.

Leave A Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *.

18 thoughts on “Woman of Substance: Deb Waterman Johns of Scout Bags.

  1. Wow — Deb has a great sense of self and sense of style. I want ALL of those items above, especially that Maison Labiche tee … snapping it UP!

  2. Scout bags have been my hero! From the boat, traveling, teaching to daily errands. Stylish and simple. Got hooked almost 8 years ago

  3. I love Deb and SCOUT! This was so fun to read…her background is so fascinating. They put on great events here in DC, too…I went to one on Monday with a panel of women from local businesses and it was truly the best start to the week.

  4. Ok these series are nice and all, but— we need access to the ultimate WOS… your mama!!!! I would love to know how she: 1) raised 5 children, 2) kept an undoubtedly stunning home, 3) also has a second house at a great distance! No pressure you know…

    1. Oh my gosh, she’s going to love this request. Going to forward it to her right now! She is a miracle, though — one of a kind. I will definitely feature her in the future. Or maybe have her write a whole post…

  5. I really loved this interview and post, I have been a Scout fan for quite some time, and the functionality of the bags still amazes me. My personal favorite is the Plus One, which I use as a beach bag and is SO easy to clean and transport. There is something so wonderful about going to the beach, and then stopping for a drink (or 2) on the way home, and being able to snap off the pouch for my essentials and use it as a chic summery clutch. I adore these bags and loved learning more about the woman who started it all. Thanks for sharing!

    1. Good to know — I think I need a Plus One, too, now! So glad you’re liking this series 🙂

  6. I really loved this interview and post, I have been a Scout fan for quite some time, and the functionality of the bags still amazes me. My personal favorite is the Packin’ Heat for my makeup when traveling, and the Plus One, which I use as a beach bag and is SO easy to clean and transport. I adore these bags and loved learning more about the woman who started it all. Thanks for sharing!

  7. Flashback to the cerulean scene in Devil Wears Prada! Great interview—love how frank and firm she seems. Hadn’t heard of Scout but I’m about to go ham on those bins. Also yes to the black jacket! I bought a slouchy rag and bone wool blazer four years ago and it still smartens up everything.

    1. Yes — she definitely has, in her own words, a point of view, and I so respect that. Wonderful R&B investment!!! I’m jealous. xo

  8. Great interview! I wonder how many of her dogs are doxies…I’ve always loved the Scout logo as a doxie lover/owner myself 🙂

    1. I do know that the company was named after her doxie, Scout! I know she’s had multiple 🙂

  9. I love this series! And I love Scout, especially their amazing storage boxes. They’re far nicer than the ugly plastic bins from Target and IKEA! xx

    1. Thanks — it’s one of my favorite parts of writing this blog 🙂 Glad you like Scout as much as I do. I’m a convert 🙂

Previous Article

Next Article