Jenna Lyons Is Back, & She’s Out to Fix Your Lashes
The industry icon has partnered with makeup artist Troi Ollivierre to launch a new beauty brand, LOVESEEN.
There are many words you might expect to hear about Jenna Lyons when discussing her career—iconic, trendsetting, boundary-pushing perhaps—but squishy definitely isn’t one of them. Yet that’s exactly what the longtime arbiter of cool had to say of her recent work life when we sat down with her and her new business partner (and longtime friend and makeup artist), Troi Ollivierre, via a socially responsible, if no less enjoyable, Zoom call.
“It was totally not strategic,” she reiterated, her trademark dark glasses slipping ever so slightly down her face. She’s speaking, of course, to her post-J.Crew career pivot from the relentless fashion grind to the beauty world—a revelation that’s since made beauty editors everywhere squeal with glee. Together with Ollivierre—an industry heavyweight in his own right—Lyons is returning to the creative fray with the launch of LOVESEEN, a 15-piece collection of fake eyelashes. Yes, we were surprised too, but rest assured these aren’t your traditional falsies. Would you expect anything less from the woman who re-established the half-tuck as part of the sartorial canon?
“I like things that feel like they’re of service and have some connection to my own experience,” says Lyons, who was born with very few eyelashes and no eyebrows (she’s since had them microbladed in), which helped guide her decision to step into this admittedly underserved makeup category. Ollivierre, who worked alongside Lyons at J.Crew, felt that their new venture was the answer to a problem he’d encountered in the beauty space throughout his career. “I realized that there wasn’t anything out there that’s in between the eyelash extension and the lash that looks super ‘done.’ It was a good challenge for us.” The result is their elevated approach to lashes, which are designed for a subtler and more customized fit for a variety of eye shapes, tastes, and styles.
More on the process of developing LOVESEEN, Lyons’ decision to leave the fashion industry behind (at least for the time being), and how the pair managed to reimagine the humble falsie, ahead.
What were both of your relationships to beauty growing up? When did you first become interested in it?
Troi Ollivierre: “I would say around 12 I started to play with hair. I had a little niece, and I would braid her hair and blow-dry it and do different things. Eventually, I started to do the makeup to finish the look. And then I just started from there with my sisters, [since] I’m the youngest of seven. And, of course, my mother was a beauty junkie. Then I did friends’ hair and makeup, and people started to recognize that and would ask me to do it. All the girls loved me. They were always like, ‘Braid my hair, braid my hair, braid my hair.’ So I started doing it and I never stopped.”
Jenna Lyons: “I had a mom who didn’t wear makeup at all, [so] I didn’t really have any access to it. I also went to a school where you weren’t allowed to wear any. But I was in a play called Anything Goes when I was 13, and I remember there was one of the older girls in the play who wore this really black eyeliner. But I didn’t really have any eyelashes, and I really don’t have any eyebrows, so I didn’t realize how much my eyes disappeared until I put on eyeliner, and I was like, ‘Woah, this is cool.’ I ended up looking slightly like that girl in The Breakfast Club who wore the kohl eyeliner because I didn’t know how to put it on. There were no videos.”
Tell me about how you both met and started working together:
JL: “Well, I worked at J.Crew for 27 years, and you worked at J.Crew for 20?”
TO: “More like 25.”
JL: “We’ve been working together for years, and I think Troi is responsible for the look and feel of the beauty at J.Crew. He made that sort of cleaner, bright, fresh look. That’s [what] fueled the approach that we have taken to our project and is what I think Troi is so good at. I really love makeup, and I can watch makeup videos all day long. And I love all the contouring and seven shades of lipsticks and eyeshadows—I love it all. But I can’t wear any of that—it’s not my thing. But Troi is so good at amplifying your beauty. I think that’s such a skill because, while I love all the contouring and craziness, [at J.Crew] he started making girls look like brighter versions of themselves. He would just amplify what’s already there, but not change and cover that beauty up.”
Jenna, this is your first really public venture after J.Crew, and people might be a little surprised that you’re not going the fashion route. How did you land on beauty, and this being your first major project back?
JL: “I wish I could say that it was purposeful, but it just kind of happened. I really thought that I would land a job at some fashion company, but I can tell you right now that nobody called. The industry is changing, and the job that I had wasn’t replaced—that kind of job doesn’t really exist, where I was doing a lot of different things [across] J.Crew Group. I loved that. But there was nothing coming up that felt right.
“So I just sat on my couch and started thinking about what didn’t work for me about fashion, what was not making me happy in the end. And I realized that a lot of what’s really hard with fashion is that it has an expiration date. Everything is cyclical. You’re constantly making new products; there’s this push to constantly be driving towards the next thing, which I love, but it can be really exhausting. That’s the thing that’s nice about lashes. December 26th is not a day they have to go on sale—you can still wear them January, February, March, and so on. They’re not expensive to ship; they’re not perishable. All the things about clothes that are really hard don’t exist in this product. It’s actually kind of amazing.”
When I first got the email saying that Troi and Jenna are working on a beauty project, I thought it was going to be something in the lip category because, Troi, you have a beautiful line of lip products, and Jenna, I feel like I always see you with some pop of color. Did that cross your mind, or was it focusing on lashes from the beginning?
JL: “I was thinking about doing another project, and as I was starting to do the research, I realized that I hadn’t really focused on lashes much because I don’t have any. I would notice them on other people. I started to realize that there wasn’t as much out there that I could wear. Troi and I have used them before, and he’s tried to put them on me, and we’re always cutting them up or pulling pieces apart. I was like, I wonder if there’s not something for other people. And when I started to really look, I realized, like, hey, there’s a gap here. And maybe we could do something.”
TO: “Because you don’t have lashes, and when we did put a lash [on], like you said, we’d pull them apart and we did all of these things. We realized that a lot of people don’t love to wear lashes. You say to someone, ‘Oh, let me put a lash on you,’ and they get a little bit nervous that they’re going to look like they’re going to a wedding, or super done. That was our challenge to create the lash. We use the strand-by-strand method, and that makes it look real. You don’t have to put the really thick line, and you don’t have to look like you’re really done up. You can wear it to the gym, the grocery store, and you feel like you have a little extra oomph.
“I see people on the street, and I love to go and stand on their side so I can see how far [their lashes] come out. Because I’m like, ‘Wow, and you put that on and you really look amazing.’ I’m just mesmerized when they’re like an inch off of your eye.”
JL: “A lot of them hit glasses. I’d be like, ‘What is that feeling?’ And it’s like, oh, it’s my lashes.”
TO: “We’ve put lashes on friends and they’re like, ‘It’s giving me something, but it’s not super theatrical.’ And they feel comfortable wearing them.”
Tell me a little bit about the development process. How long did it take you to land on the final product?
JL: “Just based on my experience and background, I only know how to do things if I go through a fitting. [So] we brought in 21 different women [with an] age range of 18 to 70, and we basically built them on them. We tried to figure out what looks good on somebody if you have a more hooded lid or really dark skin. Our factory sent us a bunch of samples of just tons of ideas, and we cut them up and played with them—then we sent back all of those cut-up, glued-together pieces.
“Then we went to Jakarta and took a five-hour train ride into the middle of nowhere, and we sat there with them and made corrections and changes and got to understand the process. There’s no substitute for actually understanding and sitting, especially because we’re not trying to make them even and perfect. If you look at a lot of other lashes, they repeat, and you see them on someone and you can tell [that they’re fake]. Now some of them do repeat—it’s not that they’re invisible, you do want them to show up—but we tried really hard to make them feel a little less perfect. By the time we get to the finish line, it’ll be 18 months? Twenty months? A long time [laughs].”
You describe the application process as easy-ish. Can you elaborate on that?
JL: “The reason we say that is that it depends on who you are. We’ve sent lashes to a bunch of different people to do how-to videos partially because we want to make everyone understand that it’s only easy if you’re familiar with it. And part of being familiar with it is just trying it. So we have a 15-year-old boy who puts it on, and he’s like a fucking pro. And then we have another girl putting it on and one of them falls off. It’s easy-ish in the sense that it is not that hard, but it’s one of those things that’s intimidating. We’re trying to acknowledge that. We’re developing a tool that allows you to hold the lash, like a tweezer, but come in from the front and go directly towards your eye as opposed to having to twist around depending on if you’re right- or left-handed. That will aid in the easy-ish part.”
Troi, do you have any other tips for lash novices to get these on as easily and quickly as possible?
TO: “I always think if you curl [your lashes] a little bit, that helps because you have something that they can sit on—something that keeps them closer to the root of your lashes. And then you can tuck it in. Also, you want the glue to dry for a few seconds. The more tacky the glue is, the better off you are to get it [to adhere]. You might not get it the first time, but in the end it’s worth it. Once you get it on, you’re going to love them, just like anything. Even putting on lipstick is not easy for someone who has never put on lipstick [to get the line right]. Putting on mascara is not always easy. I think over time, you’ll get it.”
Do you guys prefer to wear them just by themselves, or do you like adding a touch of mascara? What’s your preferred method?
JL: “I do think that they look better without mascara. You absolutely can wear it, but some of the lashes have a crisscross effect, so when you put mascara on, it connects some of the lashes together and you lose the effect of how feathery and pretty the lashes are. But if you go with the Cate [style], that one is pretty straight and works a bit better [with mascara]. Again, you can do it on any of them, but I personally feel like it’s a little bit more élégante without it.”
So is this the beginning of a larger beauty partnership between you? Are there plans to expand beyond lashes to a more comprehensive beauty line?
JL: “One of my other experiences is, do something really well. Don’t get ahead of your speed. Complexity is like...a death. I think right now we want to try to do this really well. I wouldn’t say that we won’t do anything in the future, but I don’t think either one of us knows what that looks like. It’s one of those things where I don’t even want to talk about it because I’m like ‘God, what if this thing doesn’t work?’ It might not work—who the hell knows. But it might be great.”
LOVESEEN launches today on loveseen.com and will retail for $22 per lash set. The new tool will launch in October 2020.
Top photo: Mei Tao
Want more stories like this?