Friday, November 2, 2012

Women We Love: Jenna Lyons

Does the "J" in J. Crew stand for "Jenna"?

J. Crew. Who knew? Would you ever imagine this emporium of preppy t-shirts and chinos would go all glam on us? J. Crew was a step above the GAP, style-wise, but just a tiny step. Suddenly (ok the past four or five years) J. Crew has become both a desirable and an aspirational brand. Once popularly-priced, J. Crew now touts Italian cashmere as well as a pair of wool pants priced at $495. Credit goes to Mickey Drexler, of course, who took over the successful but predictable brand in 2005 and to one other person— the mysteriously alluring Jenna Lyons.

Since I am indeed old enough to be Jenna Lyons' mother (she's 43) you might wonder why I've included her in my list of Women We Love (which in subtext is Women of a Certain Age Usually Over 60). Jenna Lyons is a great example of Timeless Style. If you wanted to adopt her look at 20, 30, 40, 50, 60, 70 to infinity and beyond, you could. The principles are easy:

> Add something shiny to casual
> Add something messy to perfect
> Unbutton a few buttons 

A modern muse
Jenna herself is not classically beautiful but definitely striking. The fact that she is six feet tall with a supermodel's frame doesn't hurt. Born in Boston, raised in California, her fashion obsession started early. Her grandmother gifted 12-year-old Jenna with a sewing machine and a subscription to "Vogue". She says it was "Love at first Vogue" and went on to graduate from Parsons (in the same class as Derek Lam). She joined J. Crew in a very minor position at age 21 and has been there since. Her actual title? President and Executive Creative Director.

Unlike fashion that dictates from on high, the popularity of the Jenna Lyons Look just happened. First it's the vintage-y costume jewelry necklace with a t-shirt and tomboy jeans. Then add a blazer (roll up the cuffs). Or pair a chambray shirt with a brocade pencil skirt. Don't forget the horn-rimmed glasses. It's a mix of high and low— J. Crew still has $24 tees alongside the sequins and brocade— and a mix of girly with tomboy. It's the mash-up that makes it modern.

Some of Jenna's put-togethers may make you smile, but I think that's also the point. And I just love the way she poses, so simply and directly:

As befits a modern celebrity, Jenna has weathered a few media dust-ups. There was the photo story showing her five-year-old son sporting pink toenail polish and her comment "Lucky for me I ended up with a boy whose favorite color is pink. Toenail painting is way more fun in neon." Then a year ago Jenna left her husband, supposedly for another woman. Wait a minute— Mary Portas, Jenna Lyons... are we trend spotting?
What's a little dust-up between friends?

It all adds to the Jenna mystique. Just who is this woman with such style, drive, talent and the courage of her convictions?


  1. She really is brilliant, a master of styling. I've been having a "J.Crew moment" for the last several months, and love that mix of preppy/quirky/Fashion they seem to have going. Mickey Drexler is really doing a great job with the stores too, when I visit one of their stores it always feels like going into a candy store. If only they could get their quality more consistent...

  2. I love the way Jenna Lyons mixes things up. She's got great style.