In school Devon chose the liberal arts route. “I thought learning the classics and art history would inform my creative process later. But I always knew that I wanted to design,” she says. “Right after I graduated from Brown, I knocked on Zac Posen’s door when he was still in his parents’ apartment.” An interesting choice, considering Posen’s obsession with over-the-top red-carpet glamour is a quantum leap from Devon’s practical ideals. But in this case, experience trumped taste. “I didn’t know anything about the business of fashion,” says Devon, who interned for Posen for a year and a half. “I mean, the first thing I did at Zac’s was put labels on all the clothes. But I got to see him move into his own studio. I saw everything—PR, sales and design.”
Her next step, assistant designer at Ralph Lauren Blue Label, was more in stride with her ethos. Devon seized her RL time as “an opportunity to steep myself in designer sportswear, learn about men’s tailoring and separates, and clothes for real women, real life,” which inspired her to take her own designs more seriously and beef up her made-to- measure business while there. “I left Ralph when I had enough clients to sustain me,” Devon says. “That was sort of the jumping-off point.”
And then some. Nearly three years later, those private clients, many of whom are family friends, make up the bulk of her tiny $750,000 business, which she claims is enough to support her as the collection grows. She’s well aware that, in her case, privilege has had its privileges, and she’s not apologizing for it. “I had access,” Devon says. “Whether it’s the schools I went to or the social set—for example, Barbara Tober lived in my building growing up. From day one I’ve benefited from having the client base that any retailer would want.” It’s an advantage that Devon has taken seriously with a savvy business approach. All that personalized service has helped her learn not only what her woman wants (“She could ask for something longer, with a sleeve, in a different color, with a different closure”) but also that selling direct turns a bigger profit, which, in turn, has funded bigger things.
Fall 2007 marked Devon’s debut runway presentation and her first wholesale order, written by Debi Greenberg of Louis Boston. “When I’m looking at people’s work, I try to make sure that it doesn’t look derivative of something else,” says Greenberg, who adds that her customers are women who go to work. “I usually already have the something else. I want something that has its own identity, and Lyn does. There’s a definite sophistication that is beyond her years, and she has a modern approach.” As for Devon’s lesser-known name and designer price tags ($500 to $900 for separates and up to $2,500 for coats), Greenberg says they haven’t been an issue for her customers, who are more interested in achieving a look than flaunting a label.