The Luxurious World of Elizabeth Webbe Lunny
As vice president of style for The New York Times, Elizabeth Webbe Lunny ’93 is at the helm of an industry with revenue in excess of a few hundred million dollars.
Not only does Lunny oversee all luxury advertising revenue for the Times—she also facilitates campaigns for clients like Louis Vuitton, Christian Dior and Fendi by infusing traditional branding, video and digital with state-of-the-art techniques including augmented and virtual reality. In addition, she organizes and attends events like “New York Times Talks” where a reading of Good Will Hunting might end with a surprise pop-in from Ben Affleck and Matt Damon. And there is the annual Luxury Summit, which took place last year in Washington, D.C. and included 50 CEOs from luxury companies including Calvin Klein and the Ritz Carlton as well as Al Gore and several members of President Obama’s cabinet.
But that’s not her only job. In fact—it’s only half of it.
Lunny is also the publisher of T Magazine—The New York Times fashion brand, which regularly features celebrities like Lady Gaga, Kanye West and Nicole Kidman. Published 11 times each year, it focuses on fashion, style, art, literature, design, interior and travel.
So between jetting off to fashion shows in London, Paris and Milan, attending meetings with staff, design teams and financial officers and hosting business lunches with clients from Christian Dior and Rolex—how does she do it all?
Well, the fact that she’s married to the nicest guy in the world doesn’t hurt.
His name is BJ and together they have two children—Ben, 13 and Michael, 11. He works as an IT manager for the insurance company, Chubb.
“He is my rock, ever calm, ever positive,” Lunny said. “He is the nicest guy in the whole world, and he makes me a better person.”
This busy life is a team effort. The power couple has been married since 1999—ever supportive of each other’s careers—while also keeping their family life a priority.
New Day, New Challenge
Lunny’s dual role at The New York Times is always comprised of something new and exciting, but most recently her favorite moment was being part of the hiring process of T’s new editor-in-chief, Hanya Yanagihara.
“She is not your typical fashion editor; she’s very in line with what makes sense from an intellectual perspective,” Lunny said. “To sit at the table and watch this happen was so impressive.”Yanagihara served as editor-at-large at Condé Nast Traveler and deputy editor of T Magazine. She is also the author of A Little Life—published in 2015, the book was named to the shortlist for the Man Booker Prize for fiction and the National Book Award for fiction.
Lunny previously held high-profile positions at Women’s Health, Harper’s Bazaar, Teen Vogue, Vogue, Women’s Wear Daily, Three Lions Entertainment and Condé Nast.
“I’ve spent my entire career in the fashion and luxury world,” Lunny said. “It’s a fantastic world.”
Working at the epicenter of the fashion industry gives her tremendous insight on what the next big deal in style could be—and she has a few predictions for the upcoming fashion season.
“I think what you’re going to see in fashion is a trend toward lightness and the celebration of life just because tensions are high in the political landscape,” Lunny said. “What you see during these times is designers embracing escapism and that could be demonstrated with a lightness and airiness, it’s how they channel that escapism and do their part to lighten the seriousness in the world.”
The FIT Difference
But her vision, her passion and her determination actually all started to form on the campus of Florida Tech where her father, Frank Webbe, is a professor and the former dean of the School of Psychology.
The family moved to Melbourne when she was young, and the campus became her playground. She knew the entire faculty, attended mass on campus and explored every inch of the grounds.
“I grew up on the campus, and I loved everything it stood for,” Lunny said. “Life is kind of serendipitous. It leads you in ways you didn’t realize you would go.”
When the time came to choose a college, Florida Tech felt right.
“I chose it for the academics and the excellence, it was small, yet there was an international student body, so there was openness, sharing and respect of other cultures and religious beliefs,” Lunny said. “My only issue was that I wasn’t an engineer or a pilot.”
Known by many as a feeder school for NASA, Florida Tech has a solid reputation for engineering, science and aeronautics. But Lunny gravitated to the College of Psychology & Liberal Arts, selecting humanities as her major.
“Humanities seemed like the best fit,” Lunny said. “I enjoyed literature and philosophy, history and civics.”
But just because she didn’t major in chemical engineering or aeronautics, the academics were still challenging.
“The school didn’t coddle and the standards were rigorous,” Lunny said. “The students at FIT were very serious about education and what they were going to do with their lives. They came in with the attitude that they would soak in everything, learn everything.”
Lunny loved everything about the school and cultivated strong relationships with her teachers, including history professor Gordon Patterson.
“He was one of the best professors I ever had,” Lunny said. “He reminded me of a Robin Williams in ‘Dead Poets Society.’”
Patterson, who still teaches at Florida Tech, says he might know why he reminded her of Williams’s character.
“I have a vague memory of climbing up on a desk in class to emphasize a point,” Patterson said. “Liz is a gem; bright, enthusiastic and sincere. It was a pleasure and an honor to be her professor. She made going to class a delight.”
Lunny credits Patterson and other Florida Tech professors with giving her a sense of self-confidence and the belief that she could do anything she set her mind to.
After graduating Lunny knew it was time for a change of scenery and set out for New York City—the hub of fashion and style.
The Big Apple
Elizabeth Webbe Lunny didn’t know a soul in the city. In Connecticut, a friend’s sister let her stay with their family for a month to get her bearings.
She spent her days looking for work and eventually found a temp job as a receptionist for a barter finance company in the city. Lunny then found an apartment where she could afford one—in New Jersey. She signed a lease to share it with a roommate she had just met.
Then she got to work—literally working as hard as she could, never complaining or shuffling work on someone else—and was rewarded with a permanent position and three promotions in three years—doubling her salary each time—allowing her to move into the city.
A Little Advice
Her advice for people trying to move up at work is simple, work hard and smile because those who succeed have similar characteristics.
“You didn’t complain, you pulled the long hours, you did the work and you developed really thick skin,” Lunny said. “I never complained. If I wanted to complain or I didn’t want to do something, I went home and dealt with it privately.”
Elizabeth Webbe Lunny: Hometown Hero
Bino Campanini, vice president of Florida Tech’s Office of Alumni Affairs, recently honored Lunny with an Outstanding Alumnus Award.
“Florida Tech is extremely proud of Elizabeth Webbe Lunny and her achievements in the world of publishing,” Campanini said. “She was a worthy recipient of COPLA’s 2016 Outstanding Alumni Award.”
Lunny is often asked for her advice on achieving dreams and finding success in life. She’s always happy to share her “secrets.”
“Take constructive criticism and turn it into something really positive. It’s the only way you’re going to excel and show that you have the ability to grow in the position you currently have and in something that you want at the next step,” Lunny said. “And at that next step, you really have to become the type of leader where people will follow you and believe they can achieve anything.”