Jenna Lyons talks personal taste: Part Two

J Crew’s creative director concludes her compendium of desires with Charlotte Rampling, Cy Twombly and the best shopping in SoHo

Jenna Lyons at her home in New York
Jenna Lyons at her home in New York | Image: Weston Wells

My style icons are Charlotte Rampling and Iris Apfel. Charlotte Rampling has elegance. It can be hard to find women who are still beautiful and who haven’t had work done. She is still sexy and that’s inspiring; she owns her sexuality. She’s also refreshingly unapologetic, straightforward and not political. Apfel, another woman who doesn’t conform and who speaks openly about her disdain for plastic surgery, is the most unbelievably funny, smart, real person I have met. She finds beauty in little things and not the sparkly things you might expect. She’s not traditionally beautiful but she’s certainly iconic.

Iris Apfel at New York Fashion Week in September 2015
Iris Apfel at New York Fashion Week in September 2015 | Image: Vivien Killilea/Getty Images for NYFW: The Shows

An unforgettable place I’ve travelled to in the past year is Lake Powell, a reservoir on the Colorado River where we stayed on a houseboat. To me, it’s that real American landscape and one of the most exquisite places you will ever see. The water is very pure and clean and the sunsets are insane – purple one night, pink and orange the next, misty lavender the night after that; it’s spectacular.


And the best souvenir I’ve brought home is a picture of my son Beckett [9], jumping from a rock during that trip. I did the jump myself first, then we went down with goggles to look underneath the water and even got some guys with a powerboat to check how deep it was with their sensors. It was terrifying but it was one of those moments when Beckett really wanted to do it for himself, and it was poignant.

Lake Powell on the Colorado River at sunrise
Lake Powell on the Colorado River at sunrise | Image: Pete McBride/Getty Images

If I had to limit my shopping to one neighbourhood in one city, I’d chooseSoHo in New York. Matter carries interesting new furniture designs – almost everything I own is old as I find it hard to purchase new pieces, but it does an incredible job of curating really great contemporary designers. Westerlind is a new store, really small, selling clothes with an outdoorsy feel, some new and some vintage. I also love Marni and Kiki de Montparnasse. And at Despaña you can get incredible tapas and cured meats; they do everything themselves. Despaña, 408 Broome Street (+1212-219 5050; Kiki de Montparnasse, 79 Greene Street (+1212-965 8150; Marni, 161 Mercer Street (+1212-343 3912; Matter, 405 Broome Street (+1212-343 2600; Westerlind, 31 Spring Street (+1212-226 6916;

The Westerlind store in SoHo, New York
The Westerlind store in SoHo, New York | Image: Kenneth Edwards

The best gift I’ve given recently was a Cuisinart soft-serve ice cream machine, which I bought for Beckett. He specifically asked for it. $99.95;

Lyons’s son’s Cuisinart ice cream maker, $99.95
Lyons’s son’s Cuisinart ice cream maker, $99.95 | Image: Weston Wells

The books on my bedside table are a collection of EE Cummings’ poetry and Hunger Makes Me A Modern Girl by Carrie Brownstein. She formed a successful and groundbreaking punk-indie band called Sleater-Kinney, and since then has written and starred in an Emmy-winning satirical TV series called Portlandia and is currently in a new show called Transparent. Her memoir is remarkable, the way she writes about growing up and the complications of it. The language is beautiful, lyrical and really inspiring – she is able to talk so eloquently about things that happened when she was young; similar things happened to me but I have zero ability to write about them in such a profound and clear way.

Hunger Makes Me A Modern Girl by Carrie Brownstein
Hunger Makes Me A Modern Girl by Carrie Brownstein

The last meal that truly impressed me was beer-can chicken made by a friend. It was mildly pornographic watching it being put together. You take a beer can, open it and put it upright inside the chicken so that the bird is roasted standing up. I had never had it – it is insanely moist yet the skin gets really crispy; it’s phenomenal.


The people I rely on for personal wellbeing include Amanda Lapointe, who I train with at ModelFIT. She is awesome, although I feel bad mentioning her as I am not in good shape – I need to work out more. And I have a masseuse called Alexson who comes to the house. I have a bad back so I should probably have an osteopath too but Alexson really makes me feel better.  

The one artist whose work I would collect if I could is Cy Twombly. I haven’t found another artist whose art I like as cohesively as his. I am mildly obsessed. There was a triptych at the Gagosian that I could never have afforded but I went and looked at it anyway. There’s not a lot of his work for sale these days, but I was super-fortunate to meet Yvon Lambert in Paris when he was closing his gallery and I managed to get one piece.

If I didn’t live in New York, I can’t imagine where I would live. I grew up in California and there are bits I love, but when I visit I can’t wait to come home. I don’t have anywhere I yearn to live other than New York.

In my fridge you’ll always find beef jerky, truffle and cheese dip, avocados and cold-pressed juice. And we always have ice cream in the freezer: espresso, mint choc chip, chocolate salted caramel and a homemade flavour of Beckett’s choice.

If I weren’t doing what I do, I would be a tattoo artist. I’ve done some stick and poke tattoos – not very well I might add – to the pleasure and dismay of my friends. It’s a lot harder than I thought it would be, but I think they’re cool and I love to draw.

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