A Minute with Lan Jaenicke: The Clothing Designer on Creativity, Natural Beauty, and the Virtue of Focus
Lan Jaenicke remembers when she accidentally burned her parents' carpet. She was eleven, living in Beijing with her mother and father. A precocious and artistic child, Jaenicke was always drawing and making her own clothes. There was a pair of pants she needed to fix. "I was like, I want to iron this; I want to hem these pants," she recalls. So she ironed them on her parents' bedroom floor—of course, not understanding the concept of heat and carpet, she says, laughing.
The small singe was a precursor to the artistic flame that steadily grew in Jaenicke. The daughter of two artists—her mother, a clothing designer, her father a writer—it was as if the creativity spectrum was waiting for Jaenicke to claim her spot. She did—and then created an entirely new spectrum with her fervor for authenticity. After growing up in Beijing and attending boarding school in England, Jaenicke pivoted, earning a Bachelor of Science degree in mathematics at University College London. She then went to work in Hong Kong and New York in advertising. Eventually, coming full circle, she came back to the arts, earning an MFA in fashion merchandizing and design.
Today she is a lauded clothing designer known for her exquisite tailoring and loyalty to pure, raw materials. She founded her bespoke clothing line, Lan Jaenicke, in 2008, which she says was an organic evolution of her love of creating. Her pieces are ethereal. Dreamy. Rich cashmere jackets that seem to alchemize as they hug the body. Whispery silk dresses that kiss the skin.
What's so unique about Jaenicke is her capacity for seeing and celebrating individuality. As much as her designs are extensions of her artistic intelligence, they're items that mold into her customers' self-expression. "I always want to create a piece that's not about the garment but about enhancing a woman for who she is and who she wants to be," she says.
Which circles back to the singed carpet. Jaenicke has always honored her determination and vision—which has helped her nourish a life and career that is unequivocally genuine. We were thrilled to catch up with her recently to ask for her insight on nourishing creativity, running a business, and, of course, how she perceives—and honors—beauty.
A Minute with Lan Jaenicke
Q: How has creativity played a role throughout your life?
A: Creativity was always part of my upbringing. My parents are both very creative. They sent me to all kinds of art classes starting around the age of seven. I was learning the skills of an artist or painter, which continued when I went to boarding school.
My mom was a designer, so I was always watching her play with fabrics. I would get a scrap of left over fabric and make something out of it. I've always altered things and made my own clothes, even when I was quite young. That has always been a playground for me.
Q: What is your design process like today?
A: Every day is different. Everything starts very organically with an idea, thought, or curiosity to see how things would work together and then it evolves into a final product. Yesterday, for instance, I was working with this dress, playing with the texture, the smoothness of the cashmere, the structure of the silk, and then putting it all together.
So often, I may start with one idea and in the end it evolves into something completely different
Q: How do you want your customers to feel when they wear your designs?
A: I want them to feel like themselves. It's not about a label, it's not about a look, or a trend, it's about confidence and being comfortable. I feel that women are the most beautiful when they feel like themselves. That's my intention.
Q: You've talked about how you keep your designs very clean so your customers can wear the pieces in their own way. How do you honor this?
A: Everything I create is very understated, with very clean lines and pure materials, like 100 percent cashmere and 100 percent silk. I emphasize the purity of the fabric. I believe the raw materials need to be clean and pure to create something beautiful out of it, very much like with skincare or food.
From there, I always consider that everyone is different, with their own lifestyle and ways of doing things. Therefore I want to create pieces that leave room for my customers to twist the pieces into their own versions.
I always talk with my customers: What do they already own in their wardrobe? What is their lifestyle? Do they travel often? All of these are part of the consideration of a design piece. Essentially, it's not a garment, it's an extension of you, a part of your life to serve you and to make you feel good.
Q: What have been some of the biggest rewards and challenges of starting and running your company?
A: Focus is very important. Throughout the years I have heard "you should do this" or "you should do that." But I have always focused on what I do the best and what I love and am not distracted by other things. I've stayed true to pure materials and clean designs. I've worked on building the core of the brand to extend our signature pieces, so when people hear the name Lan Jaenicke they know it’s about coats and jackets, about pure cashmere and silk.
It’s important to know your vision and to be very confident in what you want to do so your brand grows organically from within you. It's not about someone else's curiosity or demand. Only you know your customers and yourself best. Trust that intuition and the integrity of your own intentions.
Q: How do you implement harmony in your life and in your career?
A: Harmony is actually a state of mind. You can feel out of balance but if you switch your mind to feel the right balance, you can find harmony again. It's very much like focus or a form of meditation. You can sync yourself at any time. We all have that ability to do that. We're in charge of our own peace and harmony.
It's also about having an awareness: to know what works for you, what triggers you, and what you're okay and not okay with. It's important to surround yourself with an environment filled with beautiful and uplifting spirits. Then you will feel at harmony much more easily. As we grow, as we have more experiences in our lives. The noise we experience when we're twenty is not as big of a deal when we're forty because we have so much more wisdom. It's so good to learn lessons and to challenge ourselves, but there are also times when we need to create a peacefulness around us so we can recharge.
Q: What is your approach to beauty? Are there products or rituals you love?
A: Beauty is embracing who you. Again, it's self love and a state of mind. If you feel beautiful, you are beautiful. When you choose beauty products, choose the ones that make you feel good. For example, I love the UMA rose toner because it makes me and my skin feel nourished. It smells heavenly and there's also an emotional connection because I got it from a beautiful friend.
In terms of what I think are the best things to do, I say do what makes you feel good. That may be spending a long time in front of the mirror, doing a facial massage or simply brushing your hair. Take your time, take a bath, or just do nothing. Just lying in a little chair and reading a book. Feeling relaxed and peaceful is so important. So there's no stress and you are doing something completely that allows you to feel total bliss.
To learn more about Lan Jaenicke, visit: lanjaenicke.com