“Hire me,” said the first woman who raised her hand for the Q&A session following Jenna Lyons’s Hearst Master Class last Thursday. It wasn’t exactly a question, but given the crowd of twentysomething Lyons-ites in attendance, it wasn’t surprising. Lyons laughed off the overture, but when she wasn’t fielding résumés, she spoke with Laura Brown of Harper’s Bazaar about her love of sequins, why she’s unrecognizable without her glasses, and her advice for climbing the corporate ladder (which basically boils down to: Don’t try to climb the corporate ladder).
On the much-lauded outfit she wore to Solange Knowles’s wedding: I was texting with Solange prior to the wedding and she said that people were going all-out. I asked her if I could wear feathers and she said yes, and she wanted us to all wear white. I had worn that skirt to the Met Ball once and had a strange experience where I walked up the stairs — there was a trail behind me of feathers.
The wedding was all secretive, and they had said that it was going to be at 3, and at 1, Courtney [Crangi, Lyons’s girlfriend] and I looked at our phones and they had moved the wedding up an hour. It was crazy. So everyone was texting and the skirt went on, the T-shirt went on, the T-shirt did not work. The T-shirt came off. Another shirt went on that didn’t work, and then the other shirt that went on and the coat went on, and then we went out the door. It was kind of a comedy act. So I’m shocked that that outfit got that much attention, because it did not feel like I pulled it together very well.
On having a signature lewk: I ended up doing a photo shoot with a French magazine and I didn’t want to wear my glasses. They were like, “No, no — we need you to wear your glasses because we want people to know who you are.”
On her pick for “the new black”: Sequins!
On whether J.Crew will ever do athleisure: Everyone’s getting into that game right now. And I’m like, let them have at it. I would much rather do jewelry and sparkly things.
Her advice on getting ahead at the office: All I can say is, don’t think about that stuff. Think about what you want to do and what you love. Because you will never be successful if you spend too much time thinking about how you’re going to get ahead. It doesn’t work that way. The way you get ahead is by doing something that you love and committing to yourself to do that, because then you’ll be happy, and you’ll work hard, and you’ll get noticed for that. If you’re trying to get somewhere because it’s important to you to get somewhere, those are often the people I don’t promote. People who are in my office asking for a raise, asking for a promotion, I’m not going to promote you first. I’m going to promote the person who is still there when I leave at 6:30, and is there when I come in the next morning, and instead of going home says, “Can I do anything else?” is so obsessed with what they’re doing, surprises me, helps other people. And I’m not saying it’s a bad question, just that I think our culture has created this scenario where it’s like “I have to climb,” and I just feel like if you love what you do you’ll get there and it’ll happen.
On dressing for the office: I think it has everything to do with where you work and the industry you work in. I mean I know people who work in the banking industry and if anything, I think that women are more under a microscope [there] in some ways. As women have access to positions that they may not have had before, I think they’re much more analyzed. We saw a lot of that even with the most recent campaign for president last election. Just how women look is so connected to their performance, which I think is completely unfair. I happen to work in an industry where how you look is part of your job; I can’t even imagine working in a place where it wasn’t understood or expected, but I think it must be very hard.
On Hillary Clinton’s scrunchie: [Pauses diplomatically.] I would not wear that scrunchie.
On her perfect day: No Wi-Fi. Ice cream. And Minecraft.