Jenna in her office
I have the biggest style crush on Jenna Lyons (thanks to Google I know I am not alone!) So when I was given the opportunity to visit the brand’s headquarters in New York ahead of their Asian launch – it’s now available exclusively at Lane Crawford – I jumped at the chance.
While J.Crew today is the embodiment of all that is hip and cool, with its chic prints, edgy collaborations and neon coloured cashmere and jewels, that wasn’t always the case. In fact it was the dream team of Jenna and CEO Mickey Drexler that took the brand from plain vanilla to a triple decker Sundae (in Jenna’s own words).
As the brand’s bastion of style, Jenna is considered a legend in fashion circles and is frequently compared to doyennes such as Anna Wintour. Her achingly hip personal style – think masculine yet feminine, formal yet informal, high yet low – can be seen on every page of the brand’s catalogue or “style guide.” Such is her allure that even Oprah demanded a personal tour of her closet.
Jenna visiting one of the fabric mills
One of the most refreshing things about Jenna is that she is approachable and relatable. Over the course of two days she revealed herself to be a total girls girl. She loves to chat and scour Youtube for silly videos – at that time it was a spoof of Beyonce’s Countdown video by an Asian boy wearing as snuggie. She is fiercely devoted to her colleagues (and son) and loves to laugh – most of the time at herself.
On the days that we met, she looked fantastic whether she was wearing sequins at 9am or a men’s shirt buttoned down to her navel. Every look was finished with a pair of sky high heels despite the fact that she’s already six foot – “I don’t do flats – or wedges for that matter,” she said.
So to commemorate her visit to Hong Kong this week, I present eight things I never knew about Jenna Lyons.
J.Crew’s recent Spring/Summer 2013 presentation
1. She has been collecting Vogue magazine since she was 14…
“I still have most of them and usually keep them in piles around my office. As a teenager growing up the sleepy town of Palos Verdes [in California] I had no access to fashion so it became my bible – I memorised every price, every makeup and hair stylist, every model. It was my little small world and such positive reinforcement for me.”
2. She’s been at J. Crew for over 20 years but what really inspired her was the arrival of Mickey Drexler…
“It makes you fall in love all over again with the clothes. I have learnt so much from him especially to trust my instincts. He’s not about numbers or charts, he goes on gut, and I have made better decisions when I’ve owned that decision.”
3. She’s not a fan of the word preppy…
“I see J.Crew as inclusionary so I don’t like things that are exclusionary. I think preppy implies that you grew up on the East coast and had a boat and golden retriever. There’s nothing wrong with that but there are a lot of people who didn’t grow up that way. I grew up in California, wasn’t preppy and loved J. Crew. To me what’s more interesting is this idea of the classic imbued with men’s wear. For us, there’s always an element of men’s wear anywhere with women’s wear.”
4. She’s considers herself more of an editor than a designer…
“Because the clothes are simple – a T-shirt and pencil skirt are not necessarily revolutionary- the styling becomes so integral and important. That to me a way to show and continually update and change your vision on everything from a cashmere sweater to skirt. That being said my personal style and J. Crew are not mutually exclusive. I don’t sit down and design the collections any more but at the same time it’s like Calvin Klein. He’s no longer there but even still the product looks like what he would design. There’s an ethos of the brand that has been established.”
The men’s current fall/winter collection
5. If she wasn’t a designer she would be a horse trainer…
“I love horses. I rode when I was young so every time I see horses I get a tingle. My favourite part was braiding their hair.”
6. She has style crushes too…
“Oh my god, there are so many. Solange Knowles is amazing. In the industry I like Caroline Issa and of course Anna dello Russo. I met her at the Greenwich Hotel recently at 9am and there she was in seven inch heels.”
7. She is currently lusting after…
“From J. Crew’s fall collection I am all about the snakeskin skirt with a cashmere sweater. I also want the purse that matches. Other than that, anything from Joseph Altuzarra. I also have my eye on this crazy bag from Proenza Schouler but I may not be able to get it!”
8. She loves J.Crew because it means she gets to design for real people.
“For me it’s about being able to relate to everyone through fashion. Recently we were in Arizona and I walked into a room filled with a sea of people dressed in J.Crew. It felt really good. Everyone was colourful, happy and bright. It felt good to be part of that many people’s lives in a meaningful way.”
The women’s current fall/winter collection