When it comes to mixing celebrity with fashion, there are plenty of ways to shake up that cocktail. From a super hands-on approach to a relationship that's more about posing for a camera (reference Kylie Jenner and her stunning new Puma ads), stars can get as involved as they want. Enter Eva Mendes, an example of someone who's a big part of the product bearing her name. She's worked with New York & Company on a collection since 2013, is releasing her spring '16 range now, and makes it abundantly clear in conversation that this is a project she cares about immensely.
"With social media, you have a direct connection to the customer," she said, excitement coming through in her voice. "When I put something out, I'm asking these women personally, 'Please, give me your feedback.' I'm the one answering and giving answers. I read them, and it's really important to me because it's how we make changes, how we improve."
Eva wearing the Del Mar dress, $90, nyandcompany.com
It's those customer voices that have led to some of the collection's most popular styles coming back over and over again (like the Sabrina and Maria dresses, and the Emma skirt). "Each time we bring them back we perfect it a little bit," she explained. "It's not only a new color or print, but I've taken all these notes from women who have written me to tell me about the fit, or if something is off. We go back to the drawing board and try to improve it."
See? That's a Hollywood actress (and mother and devoted partner to, swoon, Ryan Gosling) who honestly cares about the shoppers scooping up her styles. Check out the rest of our chat here, including thoughts on '90s fashion and what she, now 42, noticed changing about her personal style in her 30s.
Glamour: What's your current can't-live-without-it piece?
Eva Mendes: I'm waiting for off-the-shoulder. I haven't tried an off-the-shoulder dress in quite some time, and I'm excited to re-visit it. We have a dress called the Merida—an off-the-shoulder navy dress—and I actually had a version I bought in Mexico probably 13 years ago. I was working on this film called Once Upon a Time in Mexico, and I found this dress that I loved. I've kept it this whole time, and we finally just used it as inspiration. It's a little past its point, but I usually wear it around the house. It's a real market dress, an errand-day dress. If I want to feel super romantic cleaning the house I can do it in that one. It feels so great, like I'm wearing a huge scarf almost.
Glamour: Was there anything you wore in your 20s that makes you really cringe to think about now?
EM: Remember the jeans under a dress look? I wouldn't try that again for a host of reasons. I've totally given up on fluorescents. I tried for a minute, but it just doesn't work for me anymore. It was a fun idea, but it needs to be left where it was buried for me.
Glamour: Conversely, anything you're wanting to come back?
EM: I'm so excited about the choker comeback! I've always loved them, that typical '90s strap. I tried to bring it back [with a New York & Co. collection] about a year ago, and nobody was into it! Hopefully I'm going to try again soon with the ladies, because it didn't really stick. The one we created was inspired by a pearl choker that I actually wore to my prom [Editor's note: Check out a picture of Eva at prom here].
Glamour: Does your closet have anything you're never, ever getting rid of?
EM: Some really great, holey sweaters—I have a lot from a long time ago. I still have a pair of jean shorts I refuse to give up too. They're from 1991, and I might not wear them out, but I'm not certainly not getting rid of them. I refuse.
Glamour: Is there a piece of style advice you'd want to give to the young Eva?
EM: I would have told myself that if I'm wearing something short I need to balance it out with a baggier top. I definitely went through a phase with crop tops and short shorts which are cute when you're 16, but I would have advised myself to have more balance. What I did like about myself in my teens is that I didn't really wear makeup or do my hair, so it was all very natural beside the outrageous outfit. I never wore heels back then either. It probably wasn't until my early 20s when I wanted to feel more feminine. I remember going to a Via Spiga store and finding a pair of heels there and was like, "Oh, this is fun."
Eva wearing the Merida dress, $100, nyandcompany.com
Glamour: You really seem to have a signature look or shape that you rely on. Was that something that developed over time or did you have an a-ha moment where something clicked?
EM: It was over a period of time. I realized by trial and error what I didn't feel comfortable leaving the house in, whether it was to go to work or run an errand. Over the years, I've learned what I feel great in, and I've tried to make dresses [in the collection] that reflect that because I thought maybe other women are looking for that too.
I got to a certain age where I didn't want to be as body-conscious, not from an insecure place at all. It started happening gradually in my 30s where I didn't want that kind of attention anymore. I figured, "Okay, this is a style that works for me." I tend to like something that's fitted at the waist, but where I don't have to worry about tugging my dress down if I'm getting in or out of a car. A higher neckline—not to say it's more conservative, it's just more comfortable.
Glamour: How has having a baby changed your style?
EM: It's about how I can get out of the house faster, or how I can make this easier on myself. It's usually a dress because I don't have to think about coordinating or putting together an outfit. I just a really comfortable dress I can throw on, and depending on what hour of the day or where I'm going I can wear a higher heel or no heel. A dress I can count on and slip on in a minute makes it more stress-free for me.
That's what I'm hoping the line does now that we have shoes and handbags. I'm hoping it can make women's lives a little easier by saying, "Here you go. If you don't have time to think about it or you don't want to think about it, I've thought about it for you. This works."
Glamour: If you're going to an adult-only party or dinner, what item are you most excited to reach for?
EM: Earrings. I've learned that earrings and babies aren't a good mix. My daughter loves to pull them, which can be really fun for her, and not so much for me. They've become a luxury, and I'm looking forward to wearing them again at some point.
Ready to shop? The spring '16 pieces are online now and will be hitting New York & Company stores tomorrow (shop the full range in special Eva-focused boutiques throughout the country). Should you want to interview Eva yourself, hop on Facebook tomorrow at 1 pm EST—she'll be hosting a chat on the brand's page.
Watch model Precious Lee try three surprisingly flattering spring fashion trends for curvy girls.