In a bi-weekly series, we're interviewing female executives, founders, CEOs—basically, boss ladies—on their "power suit" a.k.a. the outfit they wear every day for easy dressing to conquer whatever the job throws at them.
CEO and Founder of Henning, Lauren Chan, has a career end-game: "to help women who have been excluded because of their size in fashion feel equal and capable." The former plus-size model and magazine editor (she served as Glamour's fashion editor for three years and worked at Vogue prior to that) turned designer/entrepreneur says this mission formed gradually from her past work experiences and culminated in her own plus-size luxury clothing brand.
Henning, launched last year, offers luxury ready-to-wear pieces for women sizes 12 to 24. The brand primarily focuses on staple pieces—work-appropriate blazers, an everyday leather jacket—since they are the building blocks of everyone's wardrobe.
"I think that the plus-size market has fast fashion trends down pat and unfortunately, the customer, myself included, is very used to only being able to shop a selection of watered down semi-trendy pieces that aren't really appealing," Chan says. "If fast fashion is all that's available to these women, then what we're telling them in terms of messaging is that this is all they're worth. It's important to me to rebrand plus size fashion and the people that consume it as aspirational, impressive, successful, and equal."
Chan comes up with the designs herself and wear-tests every piece, making sure they're perfect before they hit the market. The designer shares that a lot of Henning garments have practical additions to them, like a hidden button in the button-downs to prevent buttons from popping open and gel tape on the inner side seam of pants to prevent against thigh chaffing.
Chan makes the whole process of designing and starting one's own company sound easy, but don't be fooled, Chan put in the hard work to make her business happen. "I was like, Okay, what does it really take to get a fashion brand built and off the ground?" she says. Her initial research had her running around the Garment District, knocking on factory doors to ask if they made plus sizes and were willing to take on a new client. "I think that a lot of the early research was very hands on in a way that I hadn't experienced before," she says.
As for her brand's name, Henning, Chan worked with an agency called Red Antler (clients include Casper and Allbirds) to concept it. Henning is meant to be abstract but to Chan it means "a gathering of women, a play on the word hen." Chan acknowledges that it's been a wild ride running her own brand, especially in a time when many big and small fashion brands have been hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic.
When she first heard about the pandemic, she was worried about the health and safety of everyone she worked with. It took a few days for them to all figure out an alternate process, and then she thought about the effects of the pandemic on her business. "There's so much dysfunction at the current moment," she says. "One of the lessons I've learned as a startup founder is to embrace the fear of the unknown, frankly. I'm personally very focused on not getting too worried, staying focused, and staying positive."
In keeping with this mentality, Chan went ahead with the launch of a leather jacket last month, adding a meaningful message behind it: For every jacket sold, Henning will donate $50 to Food Bank for New York City. Henning joins a long list of other brands who are coming together to assist those in need.
Currently, Chan is riding out this wave like the rest of us: at home. Ahead, she shares the power outfit she wears to the office and what she's currently wearing as a WFH boss lady.
Her Morning Routine
"I have tried to keep [current WFH] routine very similar [to my regular one]. I usually wake up between 6:30 a.m. and 7 a.m., depending on what I have to do that morning or if my dog starts barking at me. I take care of her and make myself coffee. I open up my notes because I have a running to-do list and before I get any assignments from anyone else, I like to ground myself in what I said I would do that day. Then I open my inbox and answer any pressing emails.
I get dressed first then go through my beauty routine, which is very simple. I wash my face, I put on my serum, moisturizer, eye cream, and SPF. [If I'm going into the office] I'll throw on some NARS creamy radiant concealer and Benefit's goof proof eyebrow pencil. Then I'll pack my bags for the day, which can range from packing fabric swatches to lunch to a change of outfits for later that night."
Her Getting Dressed Strategy
"My style has changed so much over the past decade and I think that's an effect of having all of these different careers. When I was a model, I would dress very body conscious and feminine for castings. Then when I was an editor, my style was more office-appropriate, colorful, and I took more [fashion] risks. When I became an entrepreneur and worked for myself, I realized I didn't have to dress any type of way."
Her Work Uniform
"Most days I would say I'm in jeans (brands like Citizens of Humanity, Good American, and American Eagle), white sneakers, a t-shirt (from For Days) or turtlenecks (from Universal Standard), and a blazer. This is a season-less uniform, but I do switch out something here and there like a turtleneck when it's summertime. I also love a pantsuit.
But, like most people, I've been working from home for the past few weeks, so my uniform has changed. If I have days with video meetings I'll wear stretchy straight-leg jeans and loose, soft button-downs—and on days where no one has to see me, I've been living in comfy sweats.
The other thing that makes up my closet is outerwear. I started collecting jackets that I love when I was an editor and I didn't have a huge budget for clothes. My strategy was that if I invested in great coats, I could wear them multiple times a week and elevate my outfit that way. Since then, I've accumulated a number of coats that I love from our Henning leather jacket to vintage shearling pieces to menswear coats.
For accessories, I like Adidas superstars and Nike Air Force One sneakers. I'll typically do a mid-sized work bag and then my Henning canvas tote because if I don't need any more storage that day, I can just fold the canvas tote up into my handbag. It helps me to not have to switch my handbag every day."
The Three Words That Describe Her Power Outfit
"Chic, sharp, and strong."
"Lean into what makes you different because that's what makes you great."
If you love Chan's effortless and sharp work outfits, shop from her favorite brands:
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