Explaining who Eva Chen is to someone who doesn't follow her is tough. In a previous life she was a magazine editor—editor-in-chief of Condé Nast title Lucky, and beauty and health director at Teen Vogue. But now she's known for her current role as Instagram's Head of Fashion Partnerships, and for her personal Instagram account. Chen is an influencer, a career woman and somewhat of a celebrity, all rolled up into one.
The most enchanting thing about Chen's Instagram, and the reason we think she's amassed almost a million followers, is that she doesn't only showcase the shiny aspects of life. She uses Instagram without filters—no photo-editing, no perfect poses, no tightly-kept aesthetic. Right alongside her seemingly limitless shoe collection (documented with the hashtag #EvaChenPose) and celebrity selfies, Chen captures her toddlers at home, days at the office, and trips to the grocery store. She mixes the everyday in with the extraordinary to depict an accurate montage of her life. Yes, Chen's sunny outlook makes it look fun, but it's not curated in the way we've come to expect from Instagram influencers.
In an interview with our sister site MyDomaine, Chen spoke candidly about her unconventional career path and walked us through her typical work day. Here, Chen speaks more directly to her tips for using Instagram, the brands she thinks you should be following, and reveals the best way to take a selfie (celebrity friends optional). Read on, as Chen discusses why we need to drop the filters and start reflecting real life on Instagram.
How do you like to use Instagram?
Frequently. A lot. I've posted three times today already. I posted a video. I posted a photo, and I posted a carousel slideshow. I posted probably 20 stories. I've done two Instagram Lives. I post a lot to Instagram. I tend not to overthink it. I know that some people, they agonise over everything. I work at Instagram so I can authoritatively say that's not how to use Instagram. Instagram is meant to be instant. You should be showing your full self and not overthinking it. Because really, that takes the fun out of it.
I know you inspire people to use Instagram in a more relaxed way—we all are so conscious of how we use it, but we need to relax!
It's not editorial. That's the thing. Instagram is not supposed to be editorial. Instagram is supposed to be more reflective of real life. A lot of it is a mental hurdle. I've had this conversation with a few designers—mostly younger designers—who once they make that switch in their mind from everything has to be perfect and editorial and look like Vogue, they realise that wait, Vogue exits. Vogue is Vogue. Instagram is for me. It's for fun. It's for posting my matcha latte or posting the vacation I'm on. I've had a lot of people reach out to me to be like I feel so much lighter now. I feel like once you take that step, you're not going to look back.
Do you think the world of the flatlay is over?
I follow hashtag #bookstagram which is all basically flatlays of books. I still love it. But I feel like just a flatlay is not enough these days.
It needs to say something.
It needs to say something. If you do a flatlay, share the recipe of the smoothie that's in your flatlay. If you're posting a flatlay of an outfit, don't just say "shirt by by Carver, shorts by Scanlan Theodore, shoes by..." I'm trying to think of an Aussie shoe designer now. Senso. I love Senso. I'm super into Senso. I feel like it's not that it's not enough to do it, but it's kind of like, okay great, but tell me more about the inspiration for your outfit. Tell me where you found those Senso shoes. How you searched like four different stockists for it. Tell a story. I don't think flatlays are dead per se. It's just you need a little bit more substance.
What are some of, in your view, the most exciting fashion brands on Instagram at the moment?
I feel like Gucci is one that everyone says and I feel kind of sad and boring to say it, but it is true. I love what they do with illustrators. I love what they do with emerging talent; how they find people off the beaten path of fashion and introduce them to the fashion world and vice versa. I met a glasses designer here in Sydney called Shevoke.
I feel like their Instagram is pretty fun. The way they use Instagram, they use a lot of polls. They repost people wearing the glasses. He gave me a pair of the little Bella Hadid-esque sunglasses yesterday. I'm still not sure about that trend.
Did you see what Mindy Kaling said about that trend? So funny.
It's so true because I keep acquiring little glasses. Then every time I look at myself with little glasses, I'm like, um... But it's like I want to wear it so badly because Bella Hadid wears it and she looks so cool.
She looks amazing, doesn't she?
I think I've come to the conclusion today that only Bella Hadid and Keanu Reeves from The Matrix look good in those glasses. But anyway, I think they're doing a cool job because they're using stories really well. I now follow P.E Nation and it's definitely fitspo. It's definitely... I don't look like that when I work out, but it's cool. I guess it's meant not to be working out clothes though. It's more like athleisure.
It's a lifestyle.
Yeah, but I think their Instagram is very energetic. I think the brand Glossier, no one beats them in terms of customer engagement. And in terms of creating a lifestyle around themselves.
It has built a community.
Yeah, the Glossier girls, they have achieved the holy grail of engagement. Basically, they don't even have to answer the questions really anymore. Their other followers will respond which is amazing. That's very rare, so they've really achieved the holy grail.
Aside from the #EvaChenPose, what are some of your favourite poses for an Instagram selfie?
I feel like I just openly acknowledge the 'awkward' so I just kind of grin like a maniac and I usually have a double chin situation. I think whoever has the longest arms should be taking the selfie.
That's a very good tip.
It's almost always me with the longest arms. But if I'm with a model like Kendall Jenner whose limbs are extremely long, I will ask her to take the selfie.
Who took that Met Gala selfie?
At first, Kim Kardashian offered to take it and I was like no, you gotta be in the picture. It was a waiter. He was this waiter who literally had to take it like 500 times. That picture is taken from so many different angles. Then Cole Sprouse had a camera at that event. He took a lot of pictures. He's really talented.
What would be your advice to emerging designers and fashion brands? How could they use Instagram to help build their brand?
My advice would be to talk to my coworker Emily. No, I'm kidding. My advice would be to think globally. Years ago, I first heard about Dion Lee because of Instagram. I'm wearing Zimmerman today, but I learned so much more about Zimmerman through Instagram. Now, years later, Instagram is the global marketplace. I've learned about brands from Florence to Tokyo to here, Australia, to Los Angeles. You guys don't sell Glossier here but you all know about it.
Yeah, and we all find a way to shop it somehow!
You know? That's the amazing thing about Instagram is that it has made the fashion world a much smaller place. It's made it possible for emerging designers and small businesses to become businesses, like viable businesses. The way to do it really, is you talk to people. That human connection. It's like Instagram is the customer service counter. Reach out to people that you admire, whose style you like. This is a bad example because it's not really fashion. But a cake company reached out to me over direct message. They were like hey, we wanted to send the Facebook offices a cake. Are you interested? I'm like yes, yes, we are. Thank you.
Give us the cake.
Yes, please give us all the cake. It's called a smash cake.
They're perfect for Instagram moments.
I'm super excited. So it's like that kind of thing. Take a risk. Reach out to people. I've done that too myself, not from a business standpoint. But literally just reached out to people I admire, most notably being someone from The Bachelorette who was my favorite Bachelorette contestant ever in the US. I was like obsessed with her. This is embarrassing now.