Over Jenna Lyons’ wide-ranging career in fashion—former J.Crew executive creative director, current false lash entrepreneur, forever style authority—a few of the industry’s favorite words have started to lose their meaning. Power, authenticity, inclusivity: These are words Lyons tells me “get tossed around in an embarrassing way” in fashion.
Not that fashion brands shouldn’t try to reflect the women who shop with them. They just need to do it in a real way. “Representation and people seeing themselves, that shit is meaningful and makes a huge difference,” Lyons says.
In Lyons’ view, jewelry label Mejuri is as close as fashion gets to meaning what it says. It’s in part because of Mejuri’s casting for its International Women’s Day campaign: Lyons, who also designed a capsule for the brand, appears alongside actress Tommy Dorfman, Olympian Allyson Felix, and journalist Noor Tagouri.
The identities and experiences in this group proved Mejuri’s sincerity to Lyons: “I’m not a spring chicken… and I think that says a lot in terms of the way that they’re showing up,” she tells BAZAAR.com.
Before the Mejuri capsule collection and campaign launched online, Lyons discussed her lifelong relationship with jewelry, the shifts in fashion she thinks are here to stay, and the biggest career lessons she’s learned lately with BAZAAR.com. And yes, she seemed authentic—in the real way.
Of all the projects you could take on next, what made you interested in a jewelry capsule—and with Mejuri, specifically?
I remember when I first heard the name of the brand. I have two goddaughters who are in their early 20s and they were going on about the fact that a Mejuri store had opened up around the corner from us. I was like, alright, let’s go. And there was a line! I thought it was really interesting. It was the first time I’d really seen a brand focus on fine jewelry in this way where it was very thoughtful and very systematic. They were thinking about, how can I merchandise and speak to the customer in a way that’s explaining to them very clearly what the offering is and why it’s the price that it is? It felt different to me than what I’d seen prior. At J.Crew we did a little fine jewelry, but we didn’t have the breadth of offering.
So I paid attention to the brand and what they were doing. I started seeing it everywhere or it came up when I asked people what they were wearing.
Then, ironically, they reached out to me. And I was like, of course. I would do anything. I’m a fan of the brand, but to be my age and being active as a model, I was like, great! The whole team was really, very clear about what they wanted to accomplish. They were intentional about supporting all women, and it felt like a breath of fresh air.
Two out of three pieces you designed are signet rings. What drew you to that specific type of jewelry?
A couple things. My father is British and everyone in my family on his side of the family has always had signet rings. And I realized it was very rare that women had them. It was always the men.
If you go back in time, they were used often as a signature by the clergy and people of faith. The most powerful people in the community were often the clergymen and they used signets as a seal on their letters. They’ve got this rich and dramatic and pompous history, but at the same time can be worn in a totally different way.
I stack them, because I like that idea that you can collect them. I also wear other peoples’ or give them to other people.
Some women I’ve interviewed love to stack on dozens of pieces, others like to keep their jewelry simple. How do you typically style your jewelry?
It’s an interesting question because I realized at some point in my trajectory, I started to get photographed more frequently. I had grown up with this idea of constantly changing and wearing costume jewelry for the look. Not that I don’t still do that. But because I was photographed more frequently, I found that I was feeling more confident when I anchored myself in something. So that became my glasses, I always wore the same pair of glasses all the time. I started to wear my hair back all the time. I wore these things that became consistent and it made me more comfortable.
I found that that also happened in my jewelry. I used to wear a ton of jewelry and I also dated someone in the jewelry industry so I was constantly being gifted tons of jewelry. Now, I’ve really gotten down to a few key pieces. I wear a watch that never tells the time but I love the history of the watch. I wear a signet ring that I had made for me, and I’ve been wearing it for years. But I never wear it on the same finger.
How has your relationship to getting dressed changed over the last two years?
The first thing that’s changed is that it starts from the waist up. But there’s been a lot of things. I found that in the beginning of the pandemic I was like, oh cool, sweatpants, no makeup, super casual, maybe the camera is on, maybe the camera is off. But as it’s gone on, I’ve found that investing in getting dressed and putting on makeup and putting on a nice something and other, it feels better for myself and more respectful to the person I’m meeting. I’ve been on some calls where people are like, “I dressed up for you!” And that’s so nice.
I do think there’s something generous about that. There’s so little ceremony left, you know? We don’t have any of that. So that’s been a shift in my thinking from two years ago to now.
I’m a shopping editor, so I have to ask: What’s the last thing you bought?
It’s so funny, I don’t shop that much anymore. I’m really into Negative Underwear. The quality of the materials are great. It’s one of those things that I feel is not as obvious of a purchase but it’s important. I’m finding that balance between functional, but also still sexy, but not like I’m like waiting for someone in bed.
So much has changed when it comes to shopping for jewelry recently, including the shift to DTC that includes Mejuri. What are your predictions for the future of the category?
The whole industry, whether it’s jewelry and/or fashion, the relationship to the consumer and the desire for information and transparency on all fronts is a deep shift. I can’t imagine it ever going back.
I have a fifteen-year-old son and it’s really interesting to see and hear how he shops. He will not shop without reading a review, without comparing. He wants to trust the product and know the people behind it.
Very similarly, it’s an incredible shift in the dialogue. I do think we have a lot to make up for, and I’m guilty as charged. I worked at a lot of companies and made a lot of new clothes. And obviously we were working to make the best product at the best price, but how much we’re putting out there, what we’re putting out there…I think every brand has to think about it.
If you had asked me two years ago what is going to happen…I was having a conversation with someone who had a very well-known beauty brand, and we were talking about marketing. Then we sat down a year later, and everything we thought was important had completely changed.
Your career has taken a lot of twists and turns. What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned for finding or trying a new career path?
One of the best lessons I’ve learned is people are often just scared of change. And for whatever reason I was always really excited about change and ready to try something new. Sometimes I’m scared, or I try things and it doesn’t really work out so well, but having that experience of trying a lot of different things and having the world not fall apart has allowed me the confidence and openness to try other things and not have expectations going in.
I’m also realizing that the core tenets of doing something well are the same across the board. It’s like: trying to listen, do the best job you possibly can, do your research, really try to show up.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
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