Doctor, Lawyer, Editor-in-Chief
Eva Chen has been called the first editor-in-chief of her generation. In 2013, Anna Wintour, Condé Nast's artistic director and the editor-in-chief of Vogue, tapped her to take over as editor-in-chief of Lucky, the publisher's fourteen-year-old shopping magazine. At all of 33-years-old, she was one of the youngest editors ever to take the top spot at a major national magazine. Last August, Eva made news again when she was named chief creative officer of a new Lucky partnership with BeachMint, an e-commerce platform known for its strategic fashion and celebrity partnerships. In her new role at BeachMint’s Lucky Group, Eva will work on developing an e-commerce site channeled through the Lucky brand, in addition to overseeing Lucky’s ten print issues.
Eva attended Grace through seventh grade, then went on to Brearley and Johns Hopkins. She still lives in the neighborhood with her husband, Tom Bannister, and passes by Grace regularly. “It’s amazing to walk by now. The church is a landmark, steeped in tradition. But I also love how modern it is.”
Eva’s rise to the top of the masthead is even more impressive given that she started off on a path to a very different career: medicine. “I didn’t think too much about it. It was just: I’m good at science, I want to help people. I’ll be a doctor.” But by her junior year, she wanted a break and decided to take a summer to try something new. She applied for internships in various media fields in New York: advertising agencies, literary agencies, MTV. She got a few offers, but chose the one that paid—in the beauty and features departments at Harper’s Bazaar. “It was a light-bulb moment for me. I’d always been a big reader, but I thought magazines were created in Narnia—I didn’t realize making them was a real job.” Eva fell in love with the magazine world for its combination of aesthetics, intelligence, and business.
When Eva graduated from college in 2001, “it was a hard moment for magazines. 9/11 had just happened, and it was also the beginning of online journalism—no one knew what was going to happen to print,” she remembers. Eva took a job at a law firm, but soon decided that the work was not for her. To get back into the magazine world, she started reconnecting with the editors she worked with at Bazaar and soon quit the law firm to take a freelance position at a start-up called Lucky. “The job I got was, not, in fact, through someone I worked with directly. That’s why I always tell young people: work hard and keep in touch.” This first stint at Lucky lasted only six weeks; she moved on to the beauty department at Elle, and then to Teen Vogue, where she stayed for seven-and-a-half years. “That’s a lot of time in the magazine world, where people tend to move around a lot. But I loved the subject matter at Teen Vogue. I loved the mix of beauty and features. And I loved that the audience was teenagers—I really enjoyed speaking to people in that age group.”
Eva left Teen Vogue, moved to LA and was doing some consulting for Lucky when Anna Wintour asked her to take over the top editorial position at Lucky. She arrived in time to oversee that year’s September issue, the most important issue of the year for fashion magazines. Eva knew what her challenge was in revamping the publication she had worked to develop in 2001. “The nature of shopping had changed,” she says. “Before the internet, magazines really had to tell you what was out there.” Instead of giving all the options, Eva’s Lucky tries to sift through offerings and present shopping in a fun, manageable and appealing way. “People are overwhelmed with the choices today, so we don’t do pages of handbags anymore. Instead, we try to take the guesswork out of shopping.” She also relies on the real-life habits of herself and people she knows. “Every woman I know shops the same way,” explains Eva. “She might save up for a Marc Jacobs bag she’s had her eye on, but then be happy to buy a top at Zara.”
Eva is also known—and loved—for her social media presence. On her beloved Instagram (“Twitter’s great for live events—red carpets, Game of Thrones, the World Cup—but Instagram is where my heart is right now.”), she champions her favorite products and brands with a natural, human tone that is rare among major influencers. “It’s very fortunate that my personality dovetails perfectly with Lucky’s voice,” she says, while also crediting her New York City upbringing with her easy mastery of the medium. “Whenever I’m stopped on the street to give directions—and I think a lot of New Yorkers are like this—I always add my own picks in. It’s the same way on social media: I love to share, I love to make recommendations. So it’s not like there’s this big plan. What you see is really me.” Though Instagram is her main presence right now (she has over 200,000 followers) she says she always keeps her eyes open for the next big online thing—something that she may have a hand in creating as she and BeachMint give Lucky a new identity in the digital realm.
Despite—or in addition to—her online savvy, Eva is still a proponent of the printed word. “I love books—real books, and I love not reading on a screen,” she says. But how does this social media star and e-journalism pioneer deal with the criticism that print is dead? “No matter what you say you’re going to do, people will say things to dissuade you, she says. “My big advice to anyone looking is to figure out what you love—whatever that is—and figure out a way to do that.”
Eva seems to continue to take her own advice, finding new ways to do what she loves all at once—transforming Lucky once again, tending to her ample flock of online followers, and new this year, starting a family. She and Tom are expecting their first child at the end of 2014.
Fashion Police: Eva’s Take on the GCS Uniform.
“I think there’s something iconic in a uniform. 90% of people I know in fashion develop their own uniforms anyway.”
“If I could make one change to the dress code, it would be on the material for the skirts and jumpers. I remember them being super starchy. I would suggest doing them in a finer-gauge knit.”
“I don’t think orange is the new black. I think navy is the new black.”