In the past few months, Jenna Lyons has turned Kate Middleton into a fawning fangirl, managed to be the best-dressed guest at Solange’s wedding, appeared as Lena Dunham’s boss on Girls, and kitted out her models in her own signature glasses. According to a “Page Six” report (that, for what it’s worth, was answered by a stern denial from J.Crew), the company has told her to tone down these kinds of activities, which its source described as “being out on the circuit and not paying attention to business.”
It’s true that the company has experienced a $607.8 million loss over the past year, attributed by some analysts to its embrace of more “fashion girl,” less basic styles. But as J.Crew has moved in a more directional path, Lyons has been the de facto poster girl for those more challenging looks. Anyone who’s attempted her daring marabou look, aped her denim-on-taffeta evening ensemble — or realized, thanks to her, that chartreuse sequins are something they must have now — can attest to Lyons being the proving ground for so much of the collection’s more outré merch. And much of her inspiration isn’t sartorial: Ask anyone who’s studied her trajectory for tips on being a boss or simply been cheered by her low-key approach to office attire. Not to mention that, as one of the First Lady’s favorites, she was one of the few representatives of a mass-market brand to attend the White House’s big fashion event earlier this year — a big vote of confidence for J.Crew. (And, okay, we may be biased, but how many designers would respond personally to a query about a swimsuit?)
When your job is, ultimately, to sell clothes, self-promotion is part of the deal. Tom Ford self-promotes. Jeremy Scott self-promotes. To make the understatement of the century, Karl Lagerfeld self-promotes. And no one really questions them. Whether or not you think she’s being self-promotional, Lyons is ultimately drawing attention to J.Crew, which is, after all, her job. As the brand’s style ambassador to the world at large, she’s arguably the most important asset in its quiver.