VOGUE / Part Deux
MEET MOLLY: FASHION STYLIST/VOGUE ASSISTANT
THIS PAST SEMESTER I WORKED WITH VOGUE CONTRIBUTING EDITOR, ELISSA SANTISI, AND HER ASSISTANT, MOLLY KENNEDY. I COULD BLAB ON AND ON ABOUT HOW AMAZING IT WAS BUT I THOUGHT MY TIME WOULD BE BETTER SPENT SHARING MOLLY’S PERSPECTIVE. I’VE ALWAYS WONDERED WHAT IT TAKES TO BE AN ASSISTANT—ESPECIALLY A VOGUE ASSISTANT. JUST LIKE ANY KID OUT THERE WITH A FERVOR FOR FASHION IN SHOME FAR OFF LAND, MOLLY WAS BORN IN WILLIAMSBURG, VA AND KNEW EARLY ON THAT FASHION AND WRITING WAS WHAT SHE WANTED TO DO. READ IN HER OWN WORDS HOW SHE WAS ABLE TO TRANSCEND THE BOUNDARIES OF COLONIAL VIRGINIA INTO THE BRIGHT CITY LIGHTS OF NYC.
Growing up, Molly got a healthy dose of travel before finally settling down in New Jersey, where she resides now with her fiance, Peter. ”My dad is a museum director so we moved a lot growing up. I was born in Virginia, in Williamsburg, then we moved to upstate New York where I lived until I was about 9. Then we moved to New Zealand where we were until I was about 15, and then we moved to Boston where I was a Freshman & Sophomore in high school. And THEN back to New Zealand,” where she received her B.A. in Art History from the University of Auckland. Reading this, I’m sure you wouldn’t find it surprising to know that she considers traveling to be a huge source of inspiration when it comes to her work as a stylist.
After New Zealand, Molly and Peter lived in Zurich for about a year. It was at this time that Molly experimented with her own creativity. “I didn’t have a working visa there so I was kind of left up to my own devices. I had a really strong interest in writing and in fashion so I always wanted to fuse the two and I ended up writing for Pete’s sister’s website TURNED OUT. I also started writing a fashion column for a PR firm that was based in New York. It was just a way to fill my time when I was in Zurich.” Molly didn’t stop there, she eventually started her own fashion blog. “This was three years ago so blogs were just becoming the phenomenon that they are now. I used it more as a platform to show my writing and my interest in fashion. I thought that since I wasn’t working in a mainstream sort of way, it was a great way to showcase what I’ve done and what I could do when I started to apply for jobs when we moved here [in NYC]. We always knew we were going to end up in the New York area.” (Take note; if you want to be a writer, then write! When I personally go on interviews and ask, do you have any advice for someone like me who wants to be a writer/editor; 99.9% of the answers are: START WRITING! Practicing your craft is like practicing a sport—you’ll get better, which means you’ll get noticed. Whether you blog or even just jot down your daily musings in a diary, you’re basically working the same muscle. Ok, now back to Molly.)
New York City—like Frank Sinatra says, “If you can make it here, you can make it anywhere.” Luckily for Molly, she made it, landing her first assisting job at Teen Vogue. It all started with an introduction, “a friend introduced me to her boss, Heathermary Jackson, who is an editor at Teen Vogue. I was lucky enough to assist with them on a few different photo shoots and I loved it!” It was in this moment that Molly found her calling. “I loved being on set. I think that’s a good sign, if you see a stylist or someone you want to emulate as a career and think, ‘oh I can do that;’ it shouldn’t be intimidating and it should come to you very easily.” Once Molly found what she wanted to do, she assisted a lot. “I worked at Victoria Secret Pink for a couple of years, assisting a couple stylists there and then ended up styling on my own there a little bit. Since it was part-time I was able to work with the people that I had met through assisting and then start shooting my own stuff and started building on that. I look at the first fashion story I did, it’s really embarrassing, but you just have to go through those growing pains.” By the way, you should check out her site to see her more recent editorials.
Inspiration can be found just about anywhere, especially in New York. Molly names a few great reasons why this city is considered by so many to be the center of the universe. “I love the neighborhoods of New York. I’m always very happy in the West Village, and the Upper Westside where there are old tree-lined streets that are just very specific to New York. I love the department stores that I would go to as a kid when we were visiting. Of course Barney’s. If you live here you just have access to everything. It’s pretty amazing.” Besides the bountiful boroughs of this city, Molly also finds inspiration for her work though film. ”Woody Allen has done some amazing New York films like Manhattan, Interiors, of course Annie Hall.” The people of New York also serve as inspiration, “My friends are a huge influence for me. Most of them are in the fashion industry but in very different ways. It’s great to see all of their career paths. We are able to kind of talk about things and bounce ideas off each other and stuff.”
So how does all this inspiration transition from idea to editorial? Two words—mood boards. ”I’m crazy about mood boards! I love pulling references from the internet or from magazines, movies, anything. So that’s definitely the first step to thinking up an idea; is to really see what’s out there that made you think of that and build on it. And then see if its been done. About a year ago I was doing a shoot with a friend and there was a Badlands theme, which is Terrence Malick movie and I thought, ‘oh that’s such a great idea!’ Then when I began researching online I realized that there had been a million fashion stories that had been done on the Badlands, so you know usually if it’s a good idea, there will be other people who think so too!” One of her favorite sites to pull inspiration from is Fashion Gone Rogue, ”it has everything on it…I’d say that’s a really, really great resource for stylists.” Another favorite site of hers is one I mentioned before, “I love my soon-to-be Sister-in-Law’s website, TURNED OUT. She has a take on fashion that’s very fun and not serious and I feel like that’s definitely my take as well. I’m not drawn to glamorous high-fashion; I mainly just like seeing a girl in her own clothes having a good-time.”
When I asked Molly about any challenges she’s faced, she said some things which I feel everyone should take note. “Yeah sure, there’s a lot of difficult people in this industry. It should be fun; and it shouldn’t be Rocket Science. I feel like I’ve worked with a lot of people who don’t really have the mindset to just make it work. Even if something goes wrong, I’ll just figure it out and it’s fine; it’s not the end of the world. It’s about figuring out how to work with these people because you’re going to have that in any industry you’re in; it’s not just fashion. So I think the challenges are making everybody happy but at the same time really being able to execute what you want to do. Another challenge is that it’s really difficult when you are just beginning. You’re just prancing around the city with bags and sweating; spending your money trying to get a shoot together. It’s difficult but it pays off.” Taking yourself outside your comfort zone where the world can see your mistakes can also be a bit challenging but worth the risks. “Putting yourself out there in any capacity is really difficult. When I was writing I was sometimes thinking, ‘What are people going to think of this?’ It was the same way with my work, but you still have to put yourself out there. If people don’t like it [what you're doing], you can’t take that personally; it’s all part of it.”
So what’s Molly’s advice to wannabes just like us? “I would say don’t put off a good idea that you have. Do it right there and then because somebody else will do it. Also, trust in what you think is a good idea; people are bound to agree with you. And just really only have people on your team that you feel are beneficial and that you admire and have mutual respect for. And don’t spend all your money. Don’t file for bankruptcy. Avoid that.”