The day before she turned 15, Brenna Lyden marched into Delia’s at Burnsville Center, demanded a job at the teen fashion store and offered to be fired if she didn’t become its top sales person.
Lyden delivered as promised and has been bending the fashion world to her will ever since. People all over the world read her profitable fashion blog, she gets free stuff from major brands and she’s about to begin a coveted job at Nordstrom headquarters in Seattle.
“I was told very, very early on in life that those who say they can and those who say they can’t are usually right,” said Lyden, who graduated May 8 from Iowa State University, where she majored in apparel merchandising and minored in journalism and entrepreneurship.
Lyden was an Iowa State freshman when she launched her blog, Chic Street Style, from her dorm room. As a senior she was co-editor in chief of Trend Magazine, the school’s twice-yearly fashion publication.
The 2011 Apple Valley High School graduate grew up in Burnsville — raised, she said, by an entrepreneurial mother, Julie, in a home that had been scarred by turbulence and divorce.
“I had a pretty rough childhood, and fashion was a way for me to speak for me, for me to matter, and for me to have a voice when no one was really there to listen,” Lyden said. “For me, it was the healthiest way of self-expression at the time. Clothes and fashion were kind of my scapegoat for everything that was going on at the time.”
Originally determined to attend the Carlson School of Management, where an uncle was a professor, Lyden got a rejection letter. She then asked her high school counselor about good fashion schools.
“She said, ‘Iowa State.’ And I kind of joked, ‘Cornfields and Chanelle just don’t go hand in hand,’ ” Lyden recalled.
Actually, the school has a highly ranked apparel, merchandising and design program. After a trip to Ames with her mother, Lyden was sold.
“I always listen to my gut,” she said. “When I don’t, it gets me in trouble. I make decisions remarkably fast.”
She started a personal style blog by posting selfies and “cropping my roommate’s mess out of the background.” She eventually invested in a better digital camera and learned a thing or two about lighting.
Lyden expanded Chic Street Style to include a personal styling service, complete with Skyped consultations. She’s worked with about 50 clients — from as far away as Canada, Australia, Greece and the United Kingdom — and now has an intern helping on that side of the business.
“I wanted the mom going to a soccer game at 5 and PTA at 7 to feel fashionable and amazing and confident,” Lyden said.
Chic Street Style took off when the list-happy Lyden wrote “50 for a Fashionista,” about 50 items every girl should have in her closet to create limitless style options.
“That went completely and utterly viral and created a ton of traffic for my site,” said Lyden, who went on to create the “For a Fashionista” series. It includes “30 for the (College) Fashionista” and “The Fashionista’s Ultimate Packing Guide,” which revolved around Lyden’s semester of study in Florence, Italy.
“I literally laid out every single piece I packed,” she said. “I packed one suitcase and never created an outfit twice.”
Lyden has collected more than 3 million views on her site, where she declared herself a “Midwest ma’am specializing in generating dynamic cheap-chic looks,” a “self-confessed shoe hoarder” and a “high-low fashion mixologist.”
Chic Street Style gets 150,000 to 250,000 views a month, said Lyden, who has more than 20,000 Instagram followers. And she’s had affiliate sponsorships with more than 100 brands, including Target, Nordstrom, Billabong, Daniel Wellington watches and H&M. She gets free product to promote on her site and a percentage of the purchases made by her Web followers.
“I’ve been able to completely support myself since the end of my freshman year off my styling company and my blog,” Lyden said.
Next stop, Seattle, home of Nordstrom, where Lyden said she was one of 8,000 applicants for 40 internships last summer. Now she’s one of 15 of the 40 invited back to work full time.
She’ll head out on May 31 with fiance Zach Moulds in tow. A photographer and a partner on Chic Street Style, Moulds also works with Lyden on their Amway-affiliated marketing company. The two plan to marry in August 2016.
“I absolutely am so, so blessed, but I don’t think it was any accident,” Lyden said of her successes. “There were a lot of sleepless nights. I didn’t do the typical college thing. I didn’t go out, I didn’t party. I stayed home on Friday nights and worked on my business. That fulfills me a lot more than any kind of bar ever would.”