MAC's Jenne Lombardo Does it All
by Anne-Marie Guarnieri
New York is well stocked with people who have fantasy jobs. Who wouldn’t want to be a restaurant critic? Or a stylist for a top magazine? Or a Broadway choreographer? Or collaborate with celebrities, designers and artists on a cult-favorite cosmetics brand? As executive director of global talent relations, global fashion relations and special events for MAC, that’s exactly what Jenne Lombardo does: She brings creative and talented people, like Cyndi Lauper and Lady Gaga—the new Viva Glam spokeswomen—together with the brand not just to generate buzz, but to build real relationships.
Recently, a large part of Lombardo’s relationship building has centered on the Fashion Week shows at Milk Studios, where MAC created a unique program for designers starting last September with the spring 2010 season. “We’re really encouraging people to explore new mediums of showing,” Lombardo explains. With participants like Proenza Schouler, Peter Som and Alexander Wang, the MAC and Milk pairing was, by all accounts, a huge success, and fall 2010 promises more of the same.
A fast-paced career, three small children and a relationship with in-demand hairstylist Ric Pipino—how does she keep it all together? “I wish I had an answer,” says the Cleveland, Ohio, native. “I’m a Midwestern girl at the end of the day, and I’ll always hold on to those values.” And caffeine definitely helps….
GOTHAM: How did you get involved with MAC?
JENNE LOMBARDO: I was working at Interview magazine about six years ago and a friend recruited me over to MAC. I remember in my interview with my boss, John Demsey [group president of the Estée Lauder Companies Inc.], he was like, “We don’t have a position here that really fi ts your past experience, but let’s just get you in here and make something happen.” And now I head up our fashion, celebrity and events department.
G: That’s such a unique job—what does it entail?
JL: I have many different roles: Special events, celebrity relations—I identify talent for all of our campaigns with John and James Gager, our creative director—and then I initiate outreach. For example, we recently launched a makeup collection with Dsquared2. And there’s a fashion component, too.
G: On that note, tell us about MAC’s involvement with Milk Studios and Fashion Week.
JL: We’ve always been heavily involved in Fashion Week and support 250-plus shows every season and do an incredible amount of work with designers. And John and I were talking and said we needed a fashion department. It’s something that I worked really hard on with a lot of different team members to develop, and what resulted was this idea of MAC and Milk, which has since taken off and is proving to be quite a wonderful success for us.
FROM LEFT: A Richard Phillips painting from MAC’s fall 2009 color campaign graces a dining room wall. “That was the image that was created for the collection we did,” says Lombardo. Some of the fashion photographs lining the other wall were gifts from Pipino’s late brother, Marc; The pig side table “was a gift from a friend of ours who was moving and it wouldn’t fit into his apartment!” she says; Lombardo with four-year-old Roxy and Bowie, two and a half. (Not pictured: Valentine, their newest little addition, born in July.) Dress. Proenza Schouler; shoes, Versace; jewelry, Pamela Love
G: How did the collaboration come about?
JL: We were at the end of our contract with IMG [producer of Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week] and we really wanted to renew it, but because of the economy, their prices increased tremendously and we couldn’t make the numbers work. At the same time, I’m hearing from designers that they couldn’t afford to show for another season. And I thought, What if we instead invested our money into a show space and amortized that investment and funneled in X number of shows where every designer could be supported? Now it’s really exciting. At the end of the day, everyone’s core objective is to reach the consumer. How do we work with each other and help each other and help engage the consumer in the final product?
G: What designers do you love?
JL: The list is endless! I could wear Alexander Wang, Opening Ceremony, Gareth Pugh and Rick Owens every day. Proenza Schouler and Rodarte I save for when I take my kids to the park! I also love all the sick jewelry designers out there as well. My daughter and I rock my girl Genevieve Jones’ blackdiamond safety pin earrings. I can’t leave the house without Pamela Love’s jewels—they’re more important than my credit cards.
G: Who or what inspires you?
JL: Montauk inspires me. It’s my favorite place in the world. My girlfriend Fabiola Beracasa inspires me. She definitely challenges me and pushes me to new levels of fashion exploration. My girlfriends Chelsea Leyland and Alice Dellal intrigue me. They are these young, gorgeous girls from London who can get away with anything. I also adore Daphne Guinness. Wow—she is out of this world.
G: One thing the women you’ve mentioned have in common is that their looks are very distinct.
JL: I gravitate toward women who have a clear point of view when it comes to fashion. I’m cute, but I’m not a beautiful woman in the traditional sense of the word. And that allows me the freedom not to always dress to be “pretty.”
G: Do you have a signature look?
JL: Heels, but not just heels—heels that defy gravity. And my tattoos. My friend Scott Campbell just gave me a tattoo of my kids’ names, which I adore.
G: Speaking of the kids, how do you balance the intense needs of an unconventional career such as yours with the intense needs of being a parent?
JL: We are just very efficient, organized parents. I am not saying it’s easy, but it’s just the way it has to be to keep our little family operation up and running. We have lots of help, and my family lives in Brooklyn, so we are blessed. We are very handson parents. Ric makes breakfast for the kids every morning, which is always waffles and eggs. I usually lay in bed until Roxy or Bowie brings me my latte—Ric’s gentle way of saying, “Get up!”
PHOTOGRAPHS BY JOHN LEI
Cover shoot: May/June 2014 issue of Gotham magazine.