Business of Fashion broke the news today that Jenna Lyons is leaving J.Crew after 26 years: “‘Jenna and I got together and we both agreed it was time for a change,’ J.Crew chief executive Millard ‘Mickey’ Drexler told BoF in an exclusive interview. ‘That being said, she’s got plans to do other things. It’s been a great run. There’s a lot of mutual respect between Jenna and me.'” Below, a tribute to the woman who made J.Crew cool.
I legitimately did not know you could wear a ball skirt with a sweater until Jenna Lyons did it at the 2011 Met Ball. It was both revolutionary and obvious, the type of pairing that makes you wonder why you didn’t think of it first. To Jenna, who manipulates clothes like an agile chef crossed with a psychic, it was just another day at the office.
You see a button-down; she sees a wardrobe unfold. Cuff the sleeves, pop the collar, tuck half the hem (the side without buttons) into your pants and suddenly you’re not just the opposite of topless, you are dressed.
You see a cargo jacket; she sees a juxtaposition — a khaki-colored savior of an otherwise too-prim pattern.
You see sequins. So many sequins. A sea of sparkle you’re pretty sure has no life outside of New Year’s Eve and eighth-grade eyelids. Jenna sees a neutral that can be paired with anything.
You say “black tie” and Jenna responds, “denim.”
You panic about a bad hair day. Jenna introduces you to the low bun.
You see ballet flats and almost fall asleep. Jenna pairs ballet flats with gigantic pants and suddenly, they’re new again.
You see a sweatshirt; Jenna sees a multitude of layers: What can this go over, under or tie across?
You ask Jenna that question in italics and she answers, “All of the above.”
You see a shirt that would look better without a bra; you see Jenna in the same shirt and realize she’s not wearing one.
You see a pair of eyeglasses. Jenna sees a cherry-top accessory.
You see cigarette trousers and Jenna sees a uniform, a timeless silhouette, a savior of un-dress-able days.
You see a men’s blazer and Jenna tells you it’s meant for anyone.
What happens after enough rounds of this game is that you start to find your style through Jenna — a business-savvy role model who brought individuality to the mass retailer as a proponent of self-truth and self-expression. You start to realize that not everything has to be as it seems, as it’s shown on model, as it’s shown on a mannequin or online or in the past or “historically.” You start to see turtlenecks and cable knits as solutions.
Suddenly blazers are fair game for all. Cigarette trousers solve problems. Eyeglasses are as fluid as earrings. Bras are optional, layering is mandatory. Shoe height is not dependent on your height, but on refreshing proportions. Dirty hair can no longer dictate whether or not you’re polished. The stress of black tie diminishes, sequins stop being scary, cargo jackets save outfits and a button-down shirt becomes a shape-shifting, game-changing styling opportunity.
The student has become the master…but that doesn’t mean you’ll miss the teacher any less.
Remember that time Leandra and Amelia tried the J.Crew Model Diet?