Mission Driven: Henning Founder and CEO Lauren Chan Talks Inclusive Fashion and Her Must Have Hair Products

In our Mission Driven series we explore how we shape our hair and how our hair shapes us, through the words of leaders shaking up the status quo.

Here we chat with Lauren Chan, model and founder & CEO of the size inclusive clothing brand Henning.

Table of Contents

    Telling a short(er) story

    For most of my life, my hair was quite long—about to my center back. It was either one layer or a few long layers. In the midst of the pandemic, though, with the staleness of being at home and not getting out, I wanted to feel lighter. So, I cut it to be about shoulder-length, and it’s been creeping upwards ever since. 

    Looking back, my hair style and my personal style tend to play off one another. Before I took the plunge to shoulder-length, I had it just above my chest with curtain bangs. At that time, I was wearing more 70s-inspired pieces at the time—bell bottoms, a vintage suede jacket, and this vintage Men’s Etro printed button-down. 

    My current cut, more than anything, feels fresh—like a new season. It’s quite blunt, and I love the sleekness of it. For summer, I like to wear it with jean shorts or sweat shorts, and graphic, long-sleeve tees or short-sleeve button-downs.

    Style for all sizes

    Working as a fashion editor, I always felt on the outs because I was a size 14 to 20—whether I was appearing on Good Morning America and The Today Show wearing Forever 21 while my peers wore Celine, or going to fashion weeks around the world and literally being too big to sit in the 12-inch seats. 

    The message that I absorbed over time was that I was of lesser value, because fashion didn’t include me. I got sick of that feeling; that’s not how I felt about myself. I felt confident. I had a great career. I wanted clothes that reinforced that, but I could never find a plus-size brand that stood on equal ground with my straight-size peers. I couldn’t find something that was luxurious, well-made, and ethically manufactured, so I started Henning in 2019 to create what I couldn’t find.

    We’re past days of people feeling like crap about themselves because the fashion media told them they should. I think I was lucky in that I was a fashion editor during a time when the media started to change and adapt to body positivity, something Black women had long been leading online before it entered the mainstream.

    The number one thing I hear from customers also happens to be the most motivating thing: What we do at Henning helps our customers be seen and feel valuable, with clothes that make them able to outwardly express how great they feel on the inside. We, as plus size women, are so multifaceted—we have incredible careers, families, creative outlets. I think it’s really invigorating, to communicate that feeling of pride about yourself to the world.

    Photo Credit: CFA

    Raising the volume 

    When I’m not on set working, I really don’t style my hair. I wash it three to four times a week with a volumizing shampoo and conditioner and I just use the conditioner on the bottom half of my hair so I don’t weigh it down.

    Dry shampoo is my best friend. It gives my semi-fine hair the volume and texture that I wish my hair had naturally. I use it between washes and on clean hair too to just sort of pump it up.

    On set, most hair stylists don’t put dry shampoo on the top layer of hair. They’ll section it and start the dry shampoo one section below the top so the white of the dry shampoo isn’t visible on camera. In real life, though, I like to put it on top of my hair—I need it there the most since that’s the part that people are actually seeing.

    Color chameleon 

    In middle school I was obsessed with hair accessories like butterfly clips and hair wraps. Then, in high school I got the color bug. I dyed my hair bright red and even purple. I was into the crayon colors—there was this temporary dye at the drugstore I would use that would wash out over time. 

    I always wanted to be blonde; in retrospect, that was likely because it was the beauty ideal at the time. So, I tried it my final year in high school. I’m Chinese and Armenian and a head full of dark blonde highlights just looked bizarre on me. My hair didn’t fare very well—it made it really unhealthy and it was tough to get my natural, silky texture back. In the end, it was a short-lived experiment that taught me just to go with what I have naturally!

    Feature image credit: CFA