With an Instagram following of over three hundred thousand, Lucky editor-in-chief Eva Chen is a familiar name to anyone keen on keeping up with the New York fashion world via social media. Born and raised in New York City, Chen studied on the pre-medicine track at Johns Hopkins University before switching her major to English and spending her final year abroad at Oxford. Why the sudden change? Through an eye-opening summer internship at Harper’s Bazaar, she realised that her love of clothing and writing could evolve from mere personal interests into a fulfilling, passionate career in fashion editorial. And that it did. Working several different positions at major publications over the years has exposed her to a serviceable aspect of the industry underneath the layers of glitz and glam. OxStu Fashion interviewed this smart (in brains and dress!), social media-savvy New York powerhouse on everything from technology and careers to academics and her Oxford experience.
You were once on the pre-med track, and after graduating, you worked briefly as a paralegal (before working credits at Lucky, holding several positions at ELLE and Teen Vogue, and returning to Lucky, where you now hold the reins as editor-in-chief). What was the most important lesson you learned in your various internship/work experiences, in and out of the fashion industry?
I think the most important lesson I’ve learned in the last fifteen or so years of working is that no experience is wasted. I ended up working in magazines and now in the tech space as an accident, really, but each and every one of my jobs and work experiences to date has helped me in my current role. As a paralegal, I learned rather obsessive organization. When I was in fashion, I learned how to work with outsize personalities. And in beauty, I learned the importance of servicing the reader and helping them—whether by simply making them feel good about themselves or by finding something to fulfill a specific need. Nothing is wasted, even if you don’t end up going the full way in any particular career path. Look for the silver lining,and by that I mean experience and insights about yourself.
Do you think that studying something completely unrelated to fashion as a student has positively impacted your career? What advice do you have for students who want to delve into career fields coming from (what they might perceive as) irrelevant educational backgrounds?
I don’t actually think you need a degree in your prospective career path. My advice to students is to study what you’re curious about and would like to have a deep immersion in for a few years. It might be philosophy, it might be marine biology. And then get work experience in what you think you want your career to be. They don’t always have to overlap.
One danger people face is tunnel vision. They’ll say “I only care about fashion” and study fashion, only read fashion magazines, etc. They don’t read a newspaper. Or pick up a book. It’s important to be well-rounded. I look for people who have interests outside of media, fashion, etc. It makes for a much more interesting perspective on fashion and beauty, ultimately.
Your love of social media is well-known, and you’ve developed quite an audience and fan base by being open and active on your Instagram, Twitter, and Snapchat accounts. Do you ever feel “wired” or overwhelmed by the constant communication and digital technology you’re surrounded by in your job? If so, how do you manage?
It helps that I genuinely enjoy being connected. I’ve made great friends through it and am constantly entertained by it! That said, I do take a day off here and there, to take time to stop and smell the roses (and my baby Ren).
What are the greatest personal rewards of connecting with your audience through social media? Do you think there are drawbacks to the rise of digital media in fashion?
Well, it’s a direct line to Lucky’s readers and customers. It’s been great to have an instant point of view on what people are interested in and what’s trending, quite literally. The drawback, though, is that everyone’s a critic… and if people are not pleased with something in Lucky, I hear about it. And that can be difficult, of course.
As an undergraduate at Johns Hopkins, you came to Oxford your senior year to read English. Did your study abroad experience shape your values or change your perspective on academics and/or careers in any way?
I loved my experience at Oxford. Of course, I went to Catz, perhaps a foreshadowing of my Grumpycat obsession?
Did you have a favourite study space or restaurant in Oxford?
Library: The Bod, of course!
Restaurant: Not sure if it’s still there but there was a little Japanese restaurant called Edamame and I would go there at least three times a week.
What is your favourite memory from your year abroad?
Does meeting my husband count?
Any last words of advice for Oxford students interested in careers in media, publishing, and/or fashion?
Follow your passion, be patient, and do your research. And have fun—remember it’s not all so serious!
Under Chen’s leadership, Lucky has recently launched a new e-commerce venture, Lucky Shops ― an editorial website that integrates commerce and content by featuring products alongside articles on shopping, style, and service. Brands featured range from relatively unheard-of newcomers to established lines, including KENZO and Marc by Marc Jacobs. Dynamic and user-friendly, Lucky Shops is fashion-meets-technology at its best, providing the modern consumer with an immersive and informative online shopping experience.