Jenna Lyons is going Hollywood.
The designer who transformed J. Crew from a preppy catalog business to a go-to for stylish women including former first lady Michelle Obama and HBO Films’ Sheila Nevins has a new gig.
Lyons has signed a deal with the Turner entertainment company to launch an unscripted TV series that will be the anchor for a new lifestyle platform.
A native of Palos Verdes, California, Lyons left J. Crew in April 2017 after 26 years at the brand. At its height in 2011, under the helm of Lyons and CEO Millard Drexler, the company’s sales were just short of $2 billion. In her role, she created an aspirational yet attainable, dressed up-dressed down aesthetic for the brand and became a fashion icon in her own right, known for her tomboy style, thick-framed glasses and watermelon red lipstick, filming guest appearances on television shows Project Runway and Girls.
“I’m excited to be doing something totally different,” Lyons said Tuesday. “I couldn’t think of a better partner for this next-generation fusion of media, lifestyle and commerce,” added Kevin Reilly, president of TBS and TNT and chief creative officer of Turner Entertainment, in a statement.
In an interview with THR, Lyons held forth on her vision for the new lifestyle project, which she was loath to compare to either HSN or Goop. Instead, she said the show and website will have a curatorial eye, with practical advice on how to solve aesthetic challenges (and indulge aesthetic whims) in an inclusive way.
“What I’m hoping to create is a world that is currently not available. If you think about Consumer Reports, which is not a sexy thing, the guy tells you all the reasons why something is good, but there is not a lot of curation involved. At the same time, in the world of editorializing things, I want to do it in a broader way, in a way that you don’t need to have a home that looks like Martha Stewart’s or Gwyneth Paltrow’s or mine.”
In the reality show format, she plans to share different parts of her life (she will continue to be based in New York), including what it’s like to set up a creative business. She will also be looking for opportunities to engage viewers, singling out Oprah’s ability to communicate with her audience as an inspiration. “I’ve been talking to my friends about what they would watch, what they are missing, and I think we will have an opportunity to let it evolve into different formats.”
Lyons plans to have editorial content on the online channel, and doesn’t rule out launching her own product line. “I want to find a language and voice that feels honest, approachable and human to share things that I love,” she said. “The market is full. There is not someone helping to distill that down. And one of the natural effects of social media is that people are in a niche place. To me, inspiration and aspiration are both important in how we curate everything from furniture to beauty to clothing. I’m looking to find the space in between niche and Amazon, which is what I did at J. Crew to a certain extent, with a wide range of price points and aesthetics.”
The weekly television series will be produced by Our House Media with Matt Hanna, Simon Lloyd and Hillary Olsen executive producing. “Our House Media is super excited about working with Jenna and Turner to create something that’s never been done,” said Hanna, president of Our House Media USA. “The timing seems just right to finally crack the content-commerce puzzle. And connecting a personality like Jenna with the vision of Turner presents us with an incredible creative opportunity.”
Asked if she’s nervous about appearing on TV weekly, Lyons joked, “I’m breeding clones as we speak,” before reflecting on the greater cultural moment of reinvention, particularly in the fashion industry. “I’ve realized it’s ok to be a little scared to pivot,” she said. “Particularly in this day and age where everyone is trying to picture everything so perfect, I have found a great level of comfort in being honest with the fear.”