Insta Icon Eva Chen Dishes on Her Career, Fashion, and Her Latest Dream Collabs
Instagram icon Eva Chen has been serving fashion realness since 2002, when she started as a beauty writer and contributing fashion stylist at Elle magazine. The former Lucky editor-in-chief is currently the director of fashion partnerships at Instagram (and one of the most magical mommy-and-me duos), and with the debut of Juno Valentine and the Magical Shoes ($19), she’s added children’s book author to her resume. And in case that wasn’t enough, Chen took inspiration from her stylish kids, Tao and Ren, to create a Juno Valentine-themed children’s collection in collaboration with Janie and Jack. Here, the fashionista shares how she’s made a career out of her passions, how she landed a children’s book deal, and the origins of her now-famous #evachenpose hashtag.
Brit + Co: Your children’s book, Juno Valentine and the Magical Shoes, mixes fashion, which is obviously a big part of your life, and women’s history. What inspired you to pull all of the elements together to make this book?
Eva Chen: I’ve wanted to write children’s books since I was a kid. My daughter, obviously, is a huge inspiration. I feel like there’s a responsibility for adults to tell children, constantly, that they are worthy, that they are important, that they can grow up to be anything they want to be. I think about the climate that we’re in, not just in this country but in the whole world, and I just feel like there’s never enough [times] that you can tell a young girl that she’s important, that she has a voice, that she has strength, that she has power. That’s really why I wanted to write this book.
B+C: You had said it was your dream to write a children’s book. How did you make it happen?
EC: I have a book agent and she was taking me around to different publishing houses so they could meet me and hear my vision for this story. And I’m a huge bookworm, so I nerded out being at all these publishing houses — at Scholastic, the original publishing house of Harry Potter in America, or at Abrams or Random House, I would [be] like, touching a first edition of a book that I super loved. So I was posting this on Instagram, and an editor who works at Macmillan, who I had worked with when I was a magazine editor, direct messaged me. I think her exact words were, “Why are you visiting every publishing house except for Macmillan?” And I said to her, “I’m pretty sure Macmillan passed on my book. We don’t have Macmillan on our schedule.” And via DM, she said, “Come in tomorrow at noon. Our publisher wants to meet you.” That next day, by 5pm, I had a book deal.
B+C: What do you see as a way for creative women to jump into what they love doing and connecting on Instagram as a way of making their dreams happen like you did?
EC: There are so many small businesses that have launched through Instagram, like jewelry designers, artists, illustrators, certainly, manicurists — so many nail artists. The key thing with Instagram is it’s a billion people around the world and so there are billions of interests around the world. Tapping into that global audience and global community is really important. When I thinking about my children’s book, I followed the hashtags like #childrensbooks and #childrensillustrator because I wanted to see what was out there. When you engage in that conversation, it can be really rewarding because you can meet people and you don’t know what opportunities will then come.
B+C: How did that vision for the Janie and Jack collection, which was inspired by your children’s book, come together and translate into something people could actually buy?
EC: Ren and Tao wear a lot of Janie and Jack; some of my favorite pieces have been from the line. When [the brand] approached me with the opportunity to collaborate and do something together, it was really a dream come true. I’ve never designed — and I’ve been asked before in the past — [but] as soon as I got the opportunity to work with Janie and Jack, it was like, “Yes, that would be so fun.” Designing clothes for tiny humans is so much more fun than designing clothing for adults.
I had a very specific point of view. I wanted a tutu, but I want it to be kind of like a longer tutu, like a knee-length tutu ($48) because it’s more dramatic that way. I knew I wanted purple sparkly sneakers ($49), because my daughter loves sparkles, but she likes wearing sneakers, probably because she can be the most active in them. My favorite, of course, are the teeny-tiny pair of cat-eye glasses ($16) that are just so adorable. [My main character] Juno’s always wearing kind of a nautical striped blue-and-white shirt ($30) and I knew I wanted to make a faux fur jacket ($109). And so, we made that for kids but then once I saw it, I was like, “Can you guys make me one in a grown-up size too?” (PS. Women can buy the nautical striped tee ($49)).
B+C: What you would share with young women who want to switch careers or are not sure where their career is and are figuring out their place in the world?
EC: It’s tough because in your 20s, I think a lot of people think that you graduated, you can find a job, you work there, and it’s what you want to do. But I think, career-wise, a career can comprise a lot of stops and starts before you actually figure out what you want to do.
I had no idea. But what I always did was follow my interests. I was pre-med, and then I got an internship at a magazine and fell in love with it. Then I couldn’t find a job in magazines, so I worked at a law firm. I definitely did not have an interest in that. I worked at Teen Vogue for seven years, then I went freelance because my husband was working on a project in Los Angeles with Vivo. We all moved out there and then I took the job at Lucky, but then I left Lucky and I took some time off because I had just had Ren. Then I was approached with this job at Instagram.
A lot of that has to do with preparation. It’s not just about having a fragrant, color-coded résumé. If you have an interview, you better know everything about the company you’re applying to and be able to talk about what your road map would be at that company and what you would contribute to that company and what the person you’re interviewing with has done at the company. Most people I talk to say, “I want to do fashion or tech.” But then it’s not specific. It’s 2018 — there’s so much information out there about what everyone does career-wise. Do your homework is my top advice.
B+C: How did your Instagram hashtag #evachenpose start? Any fun fan stories from your hashtag?
EC: It came about unexpectedly. I was a magazine editor at the time, and I had a lot of friends who are bloggers who were always traveling to really exotic, amazing locations. Their hair was perfect and their makeup was perfect. I always just was like, “Okay, my hair’s not done. My makeup’s not done. I’m wearing a white T-shirt and jeans, but I do have cool shoes and I love bags.” And so, every day, I started taking a picture in the back of the taxi on my way to work and I would post it on Instagram. What I learned was, first of all, women on Instagram, and men, they really love shoes and they really love bags. I started posting that on Instagram pretty much every day. My assistant at the time, Kristie Dash, who works with me now at Instagram, was always like, “#evachenpose.” I was like, “Oh my God, I feel like an egomaniac having my own hashtag.” But then, it was amazing. People just started doing it and tagging me. It’s been so fun to see people engage and be a part of the conversation from everywhere from Indonesia to São Paulo to Mexico to Lagos. Around the world. It’s funny that it’s taken on a life of its own.
B+C: We’re seeing diversity in fashion, children’s literature, and movies. Why is important to see diversity in kid’s books and beyond?
EC: I think it’s critical that the world is represented in books. You learn about the world through books. You learn about human behavior and standards of beauty and what is considered cool from books from a very young age. I see that in my daughter. It’s critical that books reflect the beauty of the world and the diversity in the world. When you look at [my main character] Juno Valentine, who is meant to be mixed race, and you look at the spread that is Juno as a ballet dancer, she puts on Misty’s shoes and she becomes a ballerina. We chose to have different kinds of skin colors and hair textures represented. That’s why a lot of different icons in this book — Yayoi Kusama, Frida Kahlo, Serena Williams, Misty Copeland, and Oprah Winfrey — are there, in addition to Queen Elizabeth. It was really critical for me that it had that kind of representation.
What’s your favorite piece of advice that Eva Chen shared? Tweet us at @BritandCo and let us know.
(Photos via Janie and Jack)
Brit + Co may at times use affiliate links to promote products sold by others, but always offers genuine editorial recommendations.