Student finds success with blog, has promising career after graduation


Brenna Lyden, senior in apparel, merchandising and design, is the creator of fashion blog and styling company Chic Street Style. This past fall, Chic Street Style hit over 2 million views. 

Mariah Wellman

Coming back from winter break in January 2012, Brenna Lyden sat in her lofted bunk in Linden Hall, alone and bored with an empty Hulu account. She made a snap decision to start a blog, taking her first pictures with the Photobooth app, her Macbook balanced on top of fashion textbooks, only to crop out her roommate’s stuff out of the background. The blog, which she named Chic Street Style, came to life.

At the time, Lyden, now a senior in apparel, merchandising and design, never imagined that one small decision would lead to her styling women in Australia, hiring two interns and running a blog that would hit two million views during the fall of her senior year.

Lyden created Chic Street Style as more of a hobby than anything else. Her love for fashion and styling needed an outlet, and Lyden felt a blog would serve as a platform for her creativity.

Over the past three years, Chic Street Style has become Lyden’s source of income and a way for viewers in countries all over the world to communicate with her through the blog and the associated social media platforms.

Growing up in Minneapolis, Minn., Lyden’s interests differed from other children her age.

“From the time I was 3-years-old I refused to go anywhere without a full-on princess dress,” Lyden said. “My mom never fought me because I would throw a hissy fit, and it wasn’t worth it.”

Lyden’s parents encouraged her from a young age and helped her to create a style so many admire through their computer screens every day.

“Having the green light for creative freedom without judgment at such a young age truly helped me cultivate my own distinctive style,” Lyden said. “Somehow, someway, in some capacity, I knew I belonged in this crazy world of fashion.”

Lyden entered the world of fashion at the youngest age she possibly could, 16.

“I landed my first retail job at Delia’s the day before my 16th birthday,” Lyden said. “I walked in there, as a 15-year-old may I mind you, and essentially bullied them into hiring me, demanding that I start the next day.”

Lyden, confident in her abilities, added that if she wasn’t their top salesperson in a month, they could fire her. One month later she was exactly that.

“I’m still very close with my first manager, and she recalls that moment and says that when I walked out, they were all dumbfounded by the tenacity of a 15-year-old,” Lyden said.

At Delia’s, Lyden watched women with zero confidence enter the dressing room and walk out feeling like they could take over the world.

“Fashion gets a reputation for being very shallow, but it’s what occurs in the person wearing the clothes that makes me thrive,” Lyden said. “I’m a people person, very determined, and [I] always have had an eye for aesthetics; fashion is one of the only things that ever came easy and natural to me.”

When it came time to choose a university, Iowa State was not on Lyden’s short list.

“Long story short, I had my mind set on the Carlson School of Business at the University of Minnesota,” Lyden said. “I had never really considered any other options until I was wait-listed.”

Lyden panicked and went to her school counselor for advice. She felt strongly that if she didn’t go to the University of Minnesota, she wanted to study something along the lines of fashion. Lyden’s counselor recommended Iowa State.

“I laughed, thinking to myself that cornfields and Chanel typically don’t go hand-in-hand, but she insisted everyone who toured it had loved it,” Lyden said. “That weekend I drove the three-hour drive from Minneapolis with my mom in tow and by Sunday night I accepted my offer.”

The next day, Lyden found herself back in Minneapolis with a University of Minnesota acceptance letter sitting on the counter. She had already accepted her offer to Iowa State.

“I think it was divine intervention and haven’t looked back since,” Lyden said.

When Chic Street Style first started, Lyden documented her styled looks with the webcam on her Macbook. Her early Instagram posts were mirror selfies taken in campus bathrooms. The photos were of lower quality, but the looks were not.

In the beginning of Lyden’s sophomore year, Chic Street Style received a massive makeover. Focusing on the layout and how things appeared on the blog when being viewed on both a computer and on a phone, Lyden created a more user-friendly website that appealed to many, including brands offering sponsorships.

“I remember getting my first sponsorship with a small jewelry company called Taro Collection,” Lyden said. “I genuinely loved her designs, and I remember being ecstatic that I work side-by-side with companies and products that I loved. It was a win-win. Fast forward to nearly three years later, and I’ve been sponsored by fashion giants like H&M, Timex, Albion and Swell.”

In the spring of her junior year, Lyden took a fashion and beauty writing course taught by Debra Gibson, a professor and advisor in the Greenlee School of Journalism.

Gibson noticed Lyden in the class of fewer than 20 students. Lyden, she said, stood out.

“She stood out because she’s very polished,” Gibson said. “She had a maturity you don’t see often and always made a point to say hello and goodbye; not in a sense of buttering up, just because she is a genuinely kind person.”

Gibson is one of the professors that helped Lyden grow the most throughout her college career. Lyden called Gibson a soccer mom who was always there for her and interested in every aspect of her life.

“In the semester that I taught her, she grew a ton,” Gibson said. “She was always hungry to learn and worked very hard as a writer and reporter.”

In addition to working on Chic Street Style and her styling company of the same name which she refers to as her “baby,” Lyden has styled women all over the United States and Australia.

Lyden has styled Deborah Ianchello, a client from Australia, since March 2014. Lyden worked with Ianchello through a comprehensive six-stage process as part of her styling packages, which are alll available to the public.

Ianchello went through the Gold Shine Package and said she was so impressed with Lyden’s styling abilities that she decided to keep Lyden on as her permanent stylist.

“Since finishing the Gold Shine Package and having [Lyden] as my permanent stylist, there has been a significant change in my life,” Ianchello said. “My whole life I have struggled with my style and my self-esteem, and [Lyden] has changed all of that. I owe this beautiful young woman so much; I have been waiting my whole life for someone like [Lyden] to come along. Now that I have [Lyden] in my life I won’t let go.”

As her styling company grew along with her blog, Lyden fostered a relationship with Lance Wagner Photography. She and Wagner now have an agreement, and he is her professional blog photographer. Wagner Photography has photographed the cover of Rolling Stone Magazine, and now Wagner’s photos are showcased daily on Chic Street Style.

Lyden has also recently become a brand ambassador for Seven Salons in Seattle, a place she will soon call home.

Seattle is not only the home of Seven Salons, but also the home of Nordstrom Corporate. Lyden interned with Nordstrom this summer and left a lasting impression.

At the end of her summer internship, Nordstrom offered Lyden the opportunity to pursue a buying career upon graduation.

When asked to give references, Lyden asked Gibson to write one on her behalf. Gibson “basically told Nordstrom if they didn’t hire [Lyden] they would be making a huge mistake.”

Buying has been a dream for Lyden’s her entire life. Nordstrom gave her an opportunity of a lifetime.

“My experience this summer with Nordstrom was only the beginning of what I hope to be a life-long career with such an awe-inspiring company,” Lyden said. “I’m humbled and honored that they chose me.”

Lyden thinks of Nordstrom as a place of integrity and humility in the way they conduct business, which Lyden said is a rarity in the fashion world.

“Working for Nordstrom not only makes you a better merchant, but a better person,” Lyden said. “I wholeheartedly believe that.”

Coming back to campus in the fall after a summer in Seattle, Lyden was busier than ever and drowning in work.

“I apparently don’t value my sleep and like to be an extreme over-achiever. Sometimes that gets me way over my head,” Lyden said. “Here I was, coming off an absolute high of a summer working for Nordstrom and reality struck. I was a senior, running a successful fashion blog, a styling business, a stylist for Stella & Dot and [co-editor in chief] of “Trend Magazine” with a full course load. Something had to give.”

Lyden reached out with the hope that maybe someone might see the huge learning opportunity that would include a mentorship. Lyden chose Valerie Sanders and Sarah Mader, both sophomores in apparel, merchandising and design, out of the 20 applications she received.

“[Sanders] loves to style and she’s wicked talented at it, so she deals more with that aspect of the blog and my styling clients,” Lyden said. “[Mader] is like looking at me from two years ago — it’s scary how similar we are. That relentless determination needs a mentor and guidance. I was only planning on taking on one intern, but I couldn’t say no to helping these two break into the industry.”

Lyden mentors her interns every day and considers helping them as a way of giving back. She wants success for them just as badly as she wants success for herself. She does not intend to leave Iowa State and only pursue a career in buying; she wants and expects more of herself.

“I have zero intentions of being just a buyer,” Lyden said. “I want to be a triple threat. I want to work my dream: being a buyer with Nordstrom, continue to run my styling company, hopefully with a couple stylists working under my guidance and be a fashion blogger. I refuse to settle for the status quo. Mediocrity is something I’ve never done well.”

Follow Chic Street Style on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest and download the app.

Brittany Moon contributed to this article.