Lucky Editor Eva Chen Makes a Case for a Shopping Magazine

Surviving amid popular e-commerce sites


Age 33

New gig Editor in chief, Lucky

Old gig Beauty director, Teen Vogue

How did you go from pre-med at Johns Hopkins to magazines?

I always thought about magazines and fashion as a very far-removed kind of thing. The summer between junior and senior year of college, before I took the MCATs, I was like, “I want a summer off.” So I applied to 20 internships, including one at Harper’s Bazaar. That was the only one that paid, so I took it. It was difficult to tell my parents that I was no longer pre-med—they were not so happy as first-generation immigrant parents. I still don’t know that they fully understand what I do.

As beauty director at Teen Vogue, you developed a reputation for being social media savvy. Were you always into technology?

I don’t think I was that early of an adopter. I would go to an event, and I’d get way too much information and end up putting two quotes in an article. So Twitter became this overflow area where I could share knowledge that didn’t make it into the magazine. Instagram started because I had so many opportunities to take pictures at these crazy events. And I started my Tumblr blog as a way to catalog the things I love—almost as a shopping wish list, pre-Pinterest.

Now that you’re an editor in chief, will you cut back on your social media sharing?

I haven’t yet. Modern-day consumers want to consume everything. If they love a brand or a magazine or editor or personality, they want to know everything about them. For me, it’s like having a 24-hour-a-day focus group. If people want to know what shoes I’m wearing, that’s not a secret.

What’s changed since the first time you were at Lucky more than a decade ago?

At the time, Lucky would do something like a “bag guide” where there would be a spread with 50 bags, each one the size of a postage stamp. Nowadays, people want curation. That’s something that Lucky has always done, but now we’re doing it in a way that’s more stylish. Social media and shopping and personal style bloggers also definitely changed things. I see a great synergy and great opportunity between these bloggers and the magazine.

What were your biggest priorities when you came back?

I wanted to bring that original voice back. You could tell that the magazine used to be a consortium of these 10 to 15 women who had the style-obsessed conversations. I wanted to bring the editors back into the magazine a little bit more. And I wanted to bring in a very strong fashion eye and make a magazine that shows that fashion can be fun. I was brought in as a consultant by Anna [Wintour], and she has given priceless guidance and perspective. She does understand the innate differences between the magazines—actually, all the magazines in the portfolio—and that’s why it’s been so enjoyable working with her. She understands the tone and vision for Lucky as I see it.

One of the biggest critiques of Lucky is that a shopping magazine isn’t as relevant in a day and age when e-commerce sites like Shopbop or Net-a-Porter have great editorial that you also shop.

I think that people need a magazine to guide them toward the trends and in the right direction. When I’m shopping, it can be in-store, online, off a blog. Lucky will be the place that pulls it all together. I want the experience to be like word of mouth: We’re evangelizing everything from these tiny brands with hole-in-the-wall stores in Brooklyn to the big brands, but every item has to be special. 

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