The Top 10 Things Ever Uttered by Jenna Lyons


“As far as I’m concerned, leopard is a neutral.”

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Of the work world, Jenna Lyons is our spirit animal. She’s made her way through the ranks at J. Crew, going from “assistant to an assistant to someone else’s assistant” in 1990 as a recent fashion school graduate to the fashion retailer’s president and executive creative director. During that time, the now 48-year-old not only proved how versatile a good oversized sweater can be (teamed with a ball gown skirt at the Met Gala in 2011? We see you!), she was also instrumental to the complete creative overhaul of the brand that brought the once-preppy retailer out of the dark ages.

After an impressive 26 years at the company, though, it was announced today that she’s decided to move onto greener pastures. In honour of her transformative time at J. Crew, we’ve gathered our favourite quotable quotes by this smart, savvy and always-stylish go-getter:

“There’s this idea that everybody has to have everything right away… I wasn’t the superstar. I had to work for it. Really long hours.”

“If you don’t trust yourself, no-one else is going to either.”

“I started out as an assistant in men’s knits. I never thought about the end goal when I started, I always just wanted to enjoy what I was doing.”

“Respect honesty and transparency. There is no room for people who can’t give a clear and honest opinion.”

“My biggest motivation? Just to keep challenging myself. I see life like one long university education I never had – every day, I’m learning something new.”

“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 ageing with ice-cream and a martini.”

“The person who makes herself indispensable, that’s the person you want to promote. But when someone comes in and starts asking, it’s such a disease. Demanding, ‘I’ve done all this and I want X,’ doesn’t work for me so much. [Instead], ask questions: ‘I’m ready to take it to the next step. What is it that I can do better?’”

“You learn to be a good boss by being a subordinate…. You realise, ‘Wow, it feels really good when somebody compliments me.’ Or when someone takes out their frustration on you, it’s like, ‘OK, I’m not going to do that.’”

“If you look at business… the mistakes often end up being the best things that could have happened. The only sad part about down business is if you don’t learn from it, you know? Get in there and be humble.”

“You’re not going to get there just because you think you’re ready or because someone else got promoted. We don’t sit here and create a scale where we carefully ratchet everyone up evenly. Because if that were the case, we’d all be drones. No-one is a drone…. You are you.”

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Bridget de Maine

Staff Writer Collective Hub



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