Jenna Lyons is best known for having served as J. Crew's creative director and president before stepping down in 2017, after 26 years with the company. Since then, she's mostly maintained a low profile publicly — but actually, she's been hard at work dreaming up a new company.
For her next venture, Lyons is venturing outside of fashion and into beauty via Loveseen, a line of luxury lashes she partnered with makeup artist Troi Ollivierre to create. It has been a deeply personal pursuit for Lyons, who is described in the press materials for the brand as a "creative director with seven eyelashes (born that way)." A genetic disorder left Lyons without eye-framing fringe of her own, which in turn gave her a deep appreciation for the visual impact lashes can have. With Loveseen, which launches on Tuesday, she's created an extensive lash wardrobe of 10 styles for a variety of eye shapes, from the subtle and natural-looking to the full and exaggerated (though there's a clear emphasis on the former).
And while Lyons may not have experience in the beauty industry, she certainly knows how to build a brand and find resonance with consumers. That's clear not just in the beautifully photographed lookbook for Loveseen, but also in the mindfully designed products and even the packaging, which was created with sustainability as a priority: It's 98% plastic-free, made from post-consumer recycled cardboard and uncoated paper, with soy-based ink and a biodegradable tray. (The brand also promises it's working on getting to a 100% plastic-free version soon.)
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Loveseen lashes are available for $20 to $22 each at Loveseen.com. Ahead of the brand's official launch, Lyons took a few minutes to chat with Fashionista about making the jump to beauty, the challenges of launching a brand during a pandemic and why it's crucial to her that Loveseen be a gender-inclusive brand. Read on for the highlights of our conversation.
How would you describe Loveseen as a brand? What is the philosophy or mission behind it?
Our goal is to have people feel like themselves when they wear our product. We are invested in sharing a world of beauty for those who want to play and are looking for something more natural. Ultimately, our approach to beauty is more pared back than you might typically associate with fake lashes.
How did you decide to get into the beauty space, and why were lashes something that felt like the right fit for you?
Due to a genetic disorder that I was born with, I don't have any lashes of my own, which makes me hyper focused on what makes them beautiful and how transformative they can be. What I was continuously looking for wasn't available, so I ultimately decided to fill a gap in the market.
What kind of gap in the market did you see? What were you, as a consumer, having trouble finding?
Lash extensions burst onto the scene and have since stuck around. While amazing, they are also expensive, time consuming and not accessible to everyone. The strip lash landscape has evolved, and while there is so much out there, the offerings are predominantly quite dramatic and really require a full beat of makeup. More natural options don't really exist.
Tell me about your partnership with Troi — how did you decide to collaborate on this project?
When I started thinking about doing it myself, I knew Troi would be the person I wanted to collaborate with. We felt that we had something different to say and knew it was something that consumers in this space would connect to.
How have your background and your career trajectory so far prepared you for this moment to launch a beauty brand?
What I've learned very clearly and know intrinsically is that customers are smart. They want transparency and honesty and to know who is talking to them. They want to believe in something. There needs to be a real connection behind the product that is being served up and the people who are providing it. There is no substitute for real process.
What was the product development process like?
We started the process by creating the lashes on 21 different women and men, aged 18 to 70. Different ethnicities, eye shapes and desired looks. It was a collaboration between us and the individuals we worked with. We wanted to understand how they saw themselves, but also how they wanted to be seen.
What are some misconceptions you think people might have about wearing lashes?
The industry is currently focused on big glam and 12 steps to putting on your makeup, whereas the concept of a single coat of mascara can be achieved with a really good lash. They aren't just for events, parties or bat mitzvahs — they really can be for any day. A Tuesday.
What conversation are you hoping to start or perspective are you hoping to change with the launch of LoveSeen?
There's all kinds of ways to be beautiful; there is no one answer, no one definition, no one visual. Everyone can play.
It's clear that you are trying to position Loveseen as a genderless and inclusive brand. How important was that to you and Troi, and why?
There is nothing more exciting to me than to see the YouTube awards highlight that out of the top five beauty nominees, three of them were boys. When I was growing up, this never would have been possible, and I'm sure that when I was growing up, there were lots of young boys that would have loved being able to play [with makeup more openly]. The ability to create this conversation is rewarding to me, having been someone who felt a little left out.
Will the brand remain direct-to-consumer or do you have plans for retail expansion in the future?
The future of retail is a little unclear — right now our main focus is just getting the product right and getting the brand out into the world. Check back in six months.
Anything else to add about the future of the company? Will there be product expansion or expansion into other categories?
God willing. Now, our main focus is getting this part right. What's on my mind is doing what we're doing to the best of our abilities.
What was it like launching a brand during the pandemic? What challenges have you encountered and how did you cope?
Probably the hardest or most challenging experience was having felt the deep disconnect of a real-time, in-person collaboration. My main coping mechanism has been patience and letting go, and learning how to find the camera on my Zoom.
This interview has been edited for clarity.