Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Fashionista's "Life With Jenna Lyons" {Part 2}

A big "thanks!" to Emily again who shared with us the second part of the {insightful} article about Jenna Lyons, over at Fashionista (click here to read the article in its entirety). (Refer to this post, to read the first part.)

Life With Jenna Lyons! Part II
By Britt Aboutaleb

May 11, 2009

Before and after I quizzed Jenna on her life, trying to grasp just how she does so much in so few hours, we wandered through J.Crew's massive offices.

Between men's, women's, kids, Madewell, the catalog, the website and CEO Mickey Drexler's daily bike ride through the office - there's a lot going on.

The design studio has its own separate floor on which there's a color library and separate sections for every team which means the walls are filled with inspiration in the form of editorials, fabric swatches, vintage clothes and jewels, favorite models, favorite seasons, pictures of kids, of parties, of houses.

Her office, a brightly lit corner full of magazines - including some Vogues from the 70s that I'm pretty sure I saw in the Met earlier in the week - samples, suitcases and furry pillows, is the center of the design action with people coming and going to discuss all things J.Crew.

You really have a hand in every single thing.
Definitely between the actual design of the stores - picking paint colors, rugs for the East Hampton store. It's amazing to be able to touch this much stuff.

You must never get bored.

No totally it's so funny, people always comment like, "Oh you've worked for the same company for so long," but I don't feel like it's the same company and I don't feel like I'm doing the same thing.

How long has it been?

Nineteen years.

Wow. Yeah it is so different. I mean I loved J.Crew in middle school and I love it now but I dress so differently.
It is changing a lot. We're making it more modern and Mickey's been great in opening up the doors and letting us try new things.

Do you two work closely together?
Oh yeah totally. I'm surprised he hasn't been on the loud speaker. He's always on that loud speaker. He's amazing . I have to say he's so supportive of design and creativity and so much fun. To him, there are no limits, no boundaries. There's nothing we can't do. He has this thing, where if I ever say anything pragmatic he'll say, "No loser talk!" Like, don't shut it down until you've really tried. And sometimes I'll get practical and he works so hard to keep everyone's mind open. He makes production think outside the box, the merchants think outside the box, me think outside the box. He's just amazing and crazy at the same time. We joke about it all the time because he just gets so excited about things, like a little kid, that he can't keep a secret. I'll have to hide stuff from him because he wants to tell the whole world.

That's awesome. So out of all the different things that you do, do you have a favorite?

I think my favorite thing is, well, it's just amazing to me that I get paid to do this. I mean this is what I would want to do if I didn't have a job so the fact that someone actually pays me is pretty okay. I guess I could do without the budget stuff and the pressure sometimes. ...

What are your thoughts on the article (like or dislike)? Were there any aspects that you found particularly interesting or insightful? :)


  1. I think the last paragraph says it all...she is getting paid to do something she would do regardless. I feel the same way about my job and I think that is so rare in the world!

  2. I appreciate the article. It's always interesting to peek inside; especially when it's your favorite store. :)

  3. Thanks for sharing, love the article. Interesting that she has worked for J.Crew for 19 years.

  4. I loved getting a sneak peek into the world of J. Crew. It was nice to hear Jenna speak of her love for her job.

  5. Interesting to hear about her mixing east coast prep with california cool- spot on J Crew.

  6. Great article Alexis - Thanks for sharing!

  7. Very interesting article; thanks for sharing! Man, I would LOVE to get to spend the day with anyone who works behind the scenes at j.crew!

  8. I liked the articles. I think a lot of us had a different idea of what she/they do. My favorite part was the "no losertalk." Funny. They are real people. Thanks for sharing!

  9. OT:

    Could anyone tell me if the Cate slingback flats show toe cleavage? Thanks!

  10. I would love to find a job that allowed me to grow and stay with them for 20 years. I kinda feel like that is rare nowadays for those of us early in our careers... the idea that younger professionals naturally want to bounce around a lot, coupled with employers who don't always value younger workers/see them as more disposable... it can be challenging. There's just so much competition, even with advanced/multiple degrees it is hard. sigh. But, cheers to Jenna for making it work and being a role model for us!

  11. Most people at the global company where I work have been there for many years, there is very little turnover and it is difficult to get in the door. We treat our New Grads like royalty and have a special program for them to ensure they get their careers off to a good start and that they will hopefully stay with the company long term. Mind you, we only hire a handful each year and the bar is raised pretty high but they are incredibly valued. I think it is more the older employees who are considered disposable, especially if they are not performing up to expectations.

    I hear a lot of my colleagues in other companies complain that the 20-somethings have a sense of entitlement, that every day they just show up at work should be celebrated. Maybe they feel they don't get the appreciation they deserve because they haven't accomplished much yet. The more senior people have expectations and it can take time to meet those and be recognized. Some newsmagazine did an entire show on this topic last year. There are as many ways of looking at it as there are people and organizations. I'm a manager in my early 30's so see it from both sides, literally.

    And personally, the more alphabet soup one has following their name, the less likely I am to consider for an interview, never mind hire. Advanced degree, fine. Multiple degrees, lack of focus.

  12. I would have liked to have learned more about J.Crew's period in the late 1990s and early Aughts when the design and fabrication was so lackluster. Given that Lyons has been with J.Crew for so long, what is her explanation for that "wandering in the forest" period?

    Also, the interviewer sounds like she's about 16-years-old and writing for her high school newspaper.

  13. Great article, Alexis - thanks for sharing it. I think Jenna's enthusiasm for her job and her company really come through in her designs. I actually envey Jenna for being able to do what she loves.

    I also share Tastymoog's POV in that it can be a challenge to find a great career, even with a great education and even if you have made great accomplishments early in your career, but that may be just down to the employer you work for.

    I wish my employer shared the same philosophy as Baybaybay's, or even JCrew's philosophy.

    Maybe it's time for me to move on to a new employer.

  14. baybaybay,
    I guess it just depends on the field, and where you are in your career. Ageism affects those near retirement, too (or who have to come out of retirement to get by). I also think baby boomers have a stranglehold on everything and are the ones demanding to be showered in praise and recognized, but that's just my POV. Generational tensions FTW! ;D


    I agree! Understandably, it was pretty softball, intended as a fun and light interview... but the interviewer could have sounded a little less valley girl (Jenna too? heheh). I haven't read much of fashionista, but maybe that's their general tone?

  15. In case anyone is interested, here is a link to the 60 Minutes piece I mentioned earlier. Interesting, although you can't take everything in the show as gospel, of course.


    I love working for my employer. Plenty of opportunity and extremely demanding if you want to get anywhere. Although I'm on vacation this week I am working on budget prep for 2010 and addressing a few other items. My cell phone is always on, vacation or not.

    One thing I find is that the junior staff often comment on how much work it is for people in management and higher-level positions in the company. I tell them my view is that the people who really love what they do are driven to work more and that is why they rise to higher positions, not that you get to a higher position and suddenly have to work very hard. I imagine it is the same for Jenna Lyons. Her love for the work means more effort and drive and thus, greater success.

  16. I enjoyed this article, thanks Alexis. I like how she mentioned vintage a few times in the combined article. Definitely see retro vibes in a lot of J.Crew.

    Baybaybay, thanks for sharing the 60 mins article and some of your impressions. I found it interesting that the story was originally prepared in 2007 and updated in 2008. 60 mins says there are a shortage of people for jobs so making sure staff won't leave is key. I am thinking that is not *quite* the case today.

  17. totally OT here, but was in the Brinton Lakes PA retail store today and saw some new arrivals...the swirly "clown" tank (as some of you are calling it) also comes in navy in the stores...there are some grey chiffon rose tees left and I saw one white one in an XL...the beaded tees, some new dresses-a camp style one in khaki and navy I think, a tank styled one that's pique on the top and cotton ruffles on the bottom-it's cute but runs HUGE...I am a 12 or 14 on the bottom and sized down to a M, cargo shorts, denim shorts that look like their jeans ( not the chambray shorts-these are really like a pair of jeans but are Bermuda length-very cute!), new cardis with MORE chiffon trim on the placket...and maybe some new jewelry. The store I was in was Brinton lakes, PA...610-358-2001

  18. Thanks everyone for sharing your great comments! :)

    I agree with you all that it is nice to see & read about the "behind the scenes" at J.Crew. It's always interesting to know more about those influencing J.Crew. :)

    If only I liked writing my dissertation as much as Jenna likes working at J.Crew. ;)

  19. I am just soo jealous of her job. xo Cari http://isnotfashion.blogspot.com


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