Few designers have become as synonymous with a brand they didn’t create as Jenna Lyons did with J.Crew.
Lyons spent 27 years at J.Crew, working her way up from assistant designer to president and creative director. In that time, she—along with CEO Mickey Drexler—transformed the brand, landing it a spot on the New York Fashion Week calendar and on the inaugural podium in 2008, where Michelle Obama wore a pair of J.Crew gloves.
Throughout her time with the company, but particularly in the last decade, Lyons herself became J.Crew’s public face and most prolific brand ambassador. Her own style became synonymous with the J.Crew look of the era: mixed patterns, bright colors and bold details like sequins.
But in 2017, Lyons said she was leaving J.Crew after nearly three decades. Since then, she’s been charting her next steps, and this year, she’s putting her next chapter in the public eye—quite literally—with the debut of Stylish with Jenna Lyons, a reality show on HBO Max, as well as the launch of LoveSeen, a line of faux eyelashes.
After 27 years at the same company, entrepreneur and reality star were not the titles Lyons foresaw for her next step. But when a gig similar to the one she held at J.Crew failed to materialize, it was an option she began to consider.
“It was coming on almost nine months of me not working,” she told Adweek. “I realized that I hadn’t really gotten any phone calls, people weren’t saying, ‘Hey, I want you to do this job.’ I had to start thinking about what I was going to do.”
The process of figuring out what she’s doing next is in large part what’s chronicled in Stylish, which premiered on HBO Max earlier this month. The show sees Lyons, as she put it, “pursue a bunch of different things and see what happened with them.” She does so with the help of her chief of staff Kyle DeFord and stylist Sarah Clary, tackling projects that included hosting a photo booth at the SAG Awards and styling the interiors of a Brooklyn townhouse. Along the way, aspiring associates audition for the chance to work with Lyons.
Lyons admits that figuring out what came after J.Crew took some trial and error, and more of an entrepreneurial sense than she’s likely had to use in the past.
“It’s hard to start over; it’s humbling and scary,” she said. “It is hard to be coming from a place where I not only was the boss, but I knew how to get my job done. I knew who to call, how to work the system. I understood how things got done. All of sudden, I was completely new at everything, and I struggled. It was actually really a good thing to start over and to remember what it feels like to not know.”
In this new era, Lyons is entering a new space: beauty. She partnered with Magnet, a private equity-backed holding company, to bring her LoveSeen brand to life.
The project is a personal one for Lyons, as she suffers from a condition that affects lash growth called incontinentia pigmenti. Beyond that, she noticed a hole in the market during her time at J.Crew, for women who embraced a “pretty, very quiet approach to beauty, with little to no makeup,” but still loved the look of false lashes—as did women who wore more dramatic makeup looks, she found. Lashes were the common denominator.