Last week, Lucky welcomed a new editor-in-chief, Eva Chen, into the fold. Growing up in New York City, Eva never imagined she’d forge a career in fashion—but after scoring an unforgettable summer internship at a magazine during college, she quit her pre-med track at Johns Hopkins, shifted her entire professional path and hasn’t looked back since.
I sat down with our new EIC to discuss her intern beginnings, her first magazine job (at Lucky!), how social media has changed the fashion world and how she plans to take Lucky to the next level. Read on for our chat—plus 10 quirky tidbits you probably didn’t know about Eva, even if you’re already one of her many Twitter followers.
"I grew up in New York City, in Greenwich Village, in the ’80s. It was a troubling time for fashion—acid-washed jeans, big permed hair, off-the-shoulder sweatshirts. I think my first designer purchase—and it was a big deal back in the day—was a pair of Guess jeans with the zippers at the ankles. And really, I think those could make a comeback right now!
I’ve always loved fashion and shopping and clothes, but when I was younger, I never really realized it could be a career. I thought it was something on the periphery, this shimmering world that was as far away as Disney World. I went to school on the Upper East Side, an all-girls school where I had to wear a uniform for about a decade. And when I went to college, I very much thought I was going to be a doctor. So I went to Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore. There are definitely not many people in the magazine industry who went there—I think there are about five total! But I had a great experience there, even if it was totally a different track than I wound up on. I think women in their 20s should really explore every path, leave no stone unturned.
I was pre-med for the first three years of college. I’ve always loved the sciences—and now, from a distance, I see that it was more of an interest in nutrition and wellness, and the concept of being able to help people and make a difference—which sounds very Pollyanna and goody-two-shoes, but it’s true. By the end of my junior year, I was a little burnt out, since pre-med at Hopkins is pretty intense, so I decided to take the summer off and do something just for fun. So I applied to about 10 internships, cold-emailing HR places and companies. I applied to advertising agencies, publishing houses, even MTV! I also applied to Harper’s Bazaar through HR, and it turned out that that particular internship was paid—it was a few hundred dollars a week, but to me that seemed like an enormous sum. For my first day, I had no idea what to wear—so I went to Barneys for the first time and bought a pair of pointy-toed Miu Miu kitten heels, which I wore with a little pleated skirt and a white shirt. I probably looked like a waitress, but I was just so excited! It was as if someone had peeled back a layer of the industry, and I was finally getting to see behind the curtain.
At Harper’s Bazaar, I was split between the beauty and features departments. On my first day, they were cleaning out the beauty closet and told me everything in there needed to go—that they were going to throw it all out to make room for new products. They told me I could take whatever I wanted, and that day I went home with four bags full of products. I couldn’t believe it! It was such a revelation to me, that something I had such a passion for could be a full-time job. And the summer I worked there, the assistant beauty editor quit—meaning that while I was still an intern, I got to be the de facto assistant, which was the best experience I could have asked for.
I graduated during the first dot-com boom, and it wasn’t a great time for magazines, so there weren’t many jobs available. I took a job at a law firm—I feel like law is sort of the default profession for everyone. Interestingly enough, while I was there, I worked on the acquisition of Clairol by Proctor & Gamble; it really seemed like all signs were pointing me back to the industry. It’s funny—in the eight months I worked there, I met all these marketing executives from Clairol, and two years later I was meeting them all over again as a beauty editor!
On day two at the firm, I realized it wasn’t the right fit for me. But—and this is something I always stress to people in their teens, 20s and 30s—making a mistake is not a bad thing. It’s more instructive to learn what you don’t like than just to like everything. So I sent emails out to everyone I’d met during my summer interning, and Joane Amay invited me to come work with her at ‘a new startup magazine about shopping.’ I quit the law firm immediately and came to Lucky to work on credits with her. I learned every single brand, every designer—and back then, everything was done by fax. So the job was very paperwork-heavy, but it was such a great experience.
After that, I was hired at ELLE as the assistant beauty editor, which was a great opportunity because I’d always wanted to write about beauty and health. Before long, I was doing both beauty and fashion, and I got to help style too, assisting Carlyne Cerf [de Dudzeele]. She styled the Vogue cover where the model, Michaela [Bercu], was in a Chanel jacket with jeans. It was Anna [Wintour]‘s first cover, too, and it’s really iconic. To be able to work with a legend like Carlyne, who really heralded the high-low movement, was incredible. She has a system for everything, and knows exactly how things should be done—she’s so on top of her game.
Despite my love of clothing and shopping, I knew that what I really wanted to do was write. I got an offer to come work at Teen Vogue—and ended up staying there for seven years, starting as the beauty director and later covering features, special projects and digital development. I was at Teen Vogue when social media really became a thing, and when I learned that connecting with an audience on a micro level is very important. I never had the opportunity to follow an editor throughout her day when I was growing up—and maybe if I had been able to, I’d have known I wanted to work in magazines earlier.
I have a serious love of social media, and love sharing my extreme enthusiasm for fashion and shopping on many different platforms. I think it’s a way to reach a whole new audience. Lucky readers—any readers—are constantly on their smartphones, and we’re staying in touch in very different ways than we were five years ago. I think you can tell such a rich story through Instagram and through Twitter, and one that’s a great accompaniment to a magazine. Thanks to the street style movement, we’re in a moment where people are obsessed with editors, with stylists. People want to see what’s going on behind the scenes—not just what’s in a magazine’s pages, but how people are wearing it in real life. Everyone here at Lucky has such great style, everyone has such a great eye—and we can show our readers a different aspect of the fashion industry, a behind-the-scenes aspect complete with all the little moments that might not make it into a shoot but that are still powerful nonetheless. It’ll add a layer to every story that we’re telling. Maybe we won’t write about the nail polish a cover subject turned up at her shoot wearing, for instance—but that’s a great moment for Instagram.
What I loved about Lucky when it began is that from the start, you always felt like you knew the people who worked at the magazine. I remember the first time I was in the Conde Nast elevator and saw a few of the Lucky editors—they were like movie stars to me. I can honestly say I was more excited to see the editors of Lucky than I was to see Brad Pitt! That’s something Lucky‘s always done exceptionally well—bringing editors to life. Lucky was the first magazine to put editors on the page, to show what they’re wearing and what they’re buying; that’s something that’s very much a part of Lucky‘s DNA, and something that will continue. Lucky also heralded street style—it was the first national women’s magazine where I saw street style photos in the actual pages, which was so mind-blowing at the time.
Today, there are more options than ever before when it comes to shopping. You can shop in a store; you can shop online; you can shop on a blog; you can shop on your phone. Lucky is more relevant than ever because of that. We’ll definitely continue to feature a mix of high and low—that’s how I dress! That’s how real people—and all the editors at Lucky—dress. I love shopping at Topshop, at ASOS. My husband always jokes that I could go into a gas station and find something to buy!
I also want Lucky to continue being a great source of inspiration. You might see on the runway that color-blocking navy and dark green is cool, say, but maybe you can’t afford an $1,800 bag. Well, at L.L. Bean, you can customize a boat tote in those exact colors! Lucky‘s always been a repository for little tips and surprises like that, and I want that to continue.
The ideal Lucky girl, to me, should have that mix of personality and personal style. That’s why I love girls like Diane Kruger, Rachel Bilson, Kate Bosworth, Alexa Chung, Cara Delevingne, Emma Stone. There are bloggers who fall into that category, too—Nicole Warren of Gary Pepper Vintage, Leandra, Peony Lim. To me, it’s personal style above all."
- as told to Lucky