'There's sexiness in not trying to be sexy. Sexy for J. Crew is something more natural, not when everything is firing on all cylinders. There has to be something that’s a bit undone. You can’t have perfect hair, and clothes, and makeup—you need an element of imperfection to make you feel like there’s a person behind it all.
I was talking to Anna Wintour about this when we were discussing the red carpets last year, both of us wanted to go and just mess people up a bit. Everyone was so perfect! Everyone’s tan and primped and coifed and there’s no ease. I can’t imagine how hard it must be to be in that level of spotlight and to be photographed from every single angle while you’re talking and laughing and all these things. You’re so vulnerable! So I get it, but I still just want to go in and mess up people’s hair. Lena Dunham was the one person who didn’t feel overly coiffed. I think she’s one of the most courageous women in television today, partially because of that—and she takes a lot of hits for it, too. She looks beautiful, but you can see her skin and you can see that she’s human. That humanness is something that we’re always striving for with J. Crew. Even if the hair is pulled up perfectly, there has to be that one little piece that comes off.
I’m very loyal to beauty products. I’m fortunate because I get to work with a lot of makeup artists and I come across some amazing discoveries along the way. These Estée Lauder Stress Relief Eye Masks are magic. Someone used them on me when I had gotten off a plane in London and had to go straight to work. I was like, ‘Oh yeah, those things don’t work,’ and then she took them off and I was like, ‘OK, they work.’ I just looked better. These are for all of us old people.
I also use the Shu Uemura Intense Vitalizing Concentrate. I don’t know why it happens, but I have this problem where makeup doesn’t stay on my eyes. I put it on and then look at it a few hours later and I’m like, ‘Well, I had makeup on, but I don’t anymore.’ This stuff makes me feel a little younger, it hides the lines, and it makes my makeup stay on. I just dab it on the lid and underneath my eyes and it totally stops under-eye makeup from looking cake-y. It’s magic. Plus it comes in an eyedropper—I think that anything that comes in an eyedropper has to be good.
I go to Aida Bicaj for facials. I’m obsessed with her; she’s how I found the Biologique Recherche Lotion P50, which I’m also obsessed with. I have the other creams and stuff, but this is the one that I always use; if I travel I don’t leave without it. Sometimes you wash your face after having makeup on and it doesn’t feel totally clean, and this is the only thing that does that for me. It’s a little like an adult-level Stridex pad, except it doesn’t strip all the grease off your face—I want to preserve the grease. I need the grease; I just want to get the clean.
I want my face to look shiny, young, and dewy. It doesn’t do any of those things, but I do the best I can. I remember when I went to my son’s birthday party—it was early in the morning and I had been out kind of late the night before because we had an event, so I woke up feeling not so great—and I used the Arcona Brightening Gommage before my face cream and one of the moms said, ‘You look great! What did you do to your skin?’ and I was like, '...Arcona Brightening Gommage’, and she was like, ‘What?!’ and I was like, ‘ I know.’ I think it expires though, which just means it’s got good stuff in it...I just made that up... Also this Dr. Jart Firming Sleep Mask is an awesome moisturizer. I put it on at night, but I use it in the morning, too, because half of the time I forget to do it at night. [Laughs]
The most important beauty product of all is my Blistex Medicated Lip Balm. It’s the only lip balm that doesn't burn my lips—I know I’m not the only one with that problem.
Our makeup artist brings this amazing stuff, Canmake Cream Cheek, back for me from Japan. It’s a treasure. I like it because it doesn’t make me look powdery like regular blush, but it’s also good for lips when you want to take your red lipstick off but it just won’t come off all the way. If you put it on after you remove all the lipstick that you can, it gives this really nice stained berry look.
I don’t have one general makeup look, but it’s always either a red lip or a dark eye. Those are my only two choices, and I do them pretty regularly. I don’t have a lot of eyelashes, but the Chantecaille Longest Lash mascara is the only one that doesn’t get gloopy, and I use this Tom Ford Eye Defining Pen in Black. It’s got two sides—one’s very skinny and one’s a little thicker, and the genius thing is that when you put the cap on it pumps the liquid into the tip so it’s fresh for the next time you use it. Also, Nars just made the caps for their lipsticks magnetized, which I have to say is the best thing. That was my one beef with them—that the caps fell off. And then they totally rectified it! I usually wear Heatwave. My son, Beckett likes my Bite Matte Crème Lip Crayon in Clementine, and he’ll notice the difference; if I change it up he’s always like, ‘Mommy, what’s that?’ Also I use this MAC Prowear Lip Pencil that’s kind of a perfect no-color color called Staunchly Stylish.
I feel like looking powdery or matte looks old. There's no reflection on your skin; you just look super made-up. I don’t love it. I use the Laura Mercier Tinted Moisturizer, which I feel like slides around too much, but I like the consistency of it and I like that it has sunscreen. I also like the Shu Uemura Sweet Beige Brown Palette if I'm not doing a dark eye, which I get online. In fact, I order everything online.
I use this Sachajuan Intensive Hair Oil after showering. I have super frizzy hair and I’ve tried everything—this is the only thing that will allow me to let my hair dry naturally. We carry them at J. Crew. I also use the Sachajuan Ocean Mist in my son’s hair. He hates when I do it, but it looks so cute. It totally works! I’m not lying. If I haven’t used something or I don’t like it I won’t talk about it—and we only sell beauty stuff at J. Crew that we’ve tried and really like. I truly think their products great. Also the packaging is nice and simple.
When we first really got started with the fragrances people were like, ‘Oh, you can call it Jenna and use your face in the ads’ and I was like, ‘Uh, no we can’t.’ It didn’t seem like us. And can you imagine if I put my face on it? It wouldn't sell. [Laughs] So we started thinking that we should do it with someone whose whole existence revolves around perfume and is really steeped in that industry. We’ve been approached to do a fragrance so many times, but what became clear to us after doing so many other J. Crew collaborations is that the people you are working with have an expertise and a sensibility, and often a collaboration yields a much better result than if we were going to go out and do our own sneaker or whatnot. Which is why we don’t make sneakers—they’re an entirely different animal from, say, a deck shoe. The experts we collaborate with are people who spend their whole lives perfecting this one thing, people who understand that specific creative process.
So we approached this perfumer, Carlos Huber, to finally do it with us. I’d been keeping him in the back of my mind since we shot him a while ago for the catalog—I just remember thinking he was so handsome, I had fallen in love. He referenced Peggy Guggenheim for inspiration, who years ago had done a women’s art opening on 57th Street. She had her own gallery made completely out of wood, which was unusual because now if you think about a gallery you think about a white box. Instead, it was this warm, womb-like structure—absolutely stunning. So the fragrances' inspiration focused on that night at the gallery opening. That’s where the numbers for the fragrances come from—it was 31 artists on 57th Street.
The wood and the oak notes stem from the fact that Peggy didn’t serve wine and spritzers, she served whiskey and vermouth. He pulled from some of the iconic perfumes like Schiaparelli, which was a very popular perfume at the time. Also Frida Kahlo was one of the artists at the opening, so he thought about something that she would’ve worn at the time, and used those scents as the under-notes.
It’s funny, I love the smell of 57 quite a bit and I've been trying to wear it, but my son is completely not tolerant because I’ve been wearing the same perfume since he was born. He’s like, ‘You don’t smell like my mom! Where’s your perfume?’ But I still get to smell the new fragrances in the office, of course. I'll pass by and think, 'Mmm, that smells nice! It's ours? OK, cool, I still like it.' Everyone’s wearing them—they work for both men and women. Everything we do roots back to menswear in the end, so the idea that our perfume or a cologne might be suitable for one or the other makes complete sense. I mean, I wear men’s clothes half the time anyways. I get them from everywhere, but J. Crew’s easiest because I can get everything tailored—I know some people. [Laughs]
I was reading something today that said that if you’re too skinny people think you don’t eat, and if you’re too fat you’re a slob. But it wasn’t a magazine...Oh, it was on Naomi Campbell’s Instagram. [Laughs] Society is so tough and expectations are so unrealistic. Could I take better care of myself? Absolutely. I joke all the time that I’m old and I’m getting older and I feel it, so I guess I would rather talk about it with a smile and say, ‘Oh God, I’m old!’ than spend all my time at the dermatologist. I approach aging with ice cream and a martini.”
—as told to ITG
Jenna Lyons photographed by Emily Weiss in New York on August 7, 2014.