How Julie Mollo Became A Fashion Stalwart
“I definitely wanted to be my own boss, but I never thought it would happen at 20.”
Celebrating nearly a decade since her brand first launched, Brooklyn fashion and accessories designer Julie Mollo reflects on how her dreams of working in NYC with other designers took an unexpected turn for the best and transformed her brand into a fun, flirty, retro and rock ‘n’ roll wonderland.
Fashion was second nature to her. At a young age, she quickly learned how to sew from her crafty mother. It wasn’t until high school that she decided to take fashion seriously. Inspired by No Doubt and Gwen Stefani’s entrepreneurial spirit, she became interested in making her own clothes. She realized her love for art and fashion could exist in harmony and be used for something greater in her life. From this point, she enrolled in art and design classes outside of high school.
With no access to fabric stores, she began experimenting with design using anything she could find at home. Through trial and error, she created her first piece of clothing.
“I actually have it,” she says. “It’s a skirt. I would take the waistband off of jeans and sew a bunch of random quilting fabric on the bottom. Instead of having a real [zipper], it has velcro, but it was awesome!”
With a fashion career in mind, Mollo developed a foolproof plan: go to NYC, attend a design school and work for a fashion designer. She eventually enrolled in Pratt Institute. Despite this, she had no intention of establishing her own brand.
While in college, she decided to reach out to the management team of an up-and-coming artist who later became a household name. Does Katy Perry ring a bell? Within days, Perry replied to Mollo interested in wearing her clothes. Perry’s 2008 appearance on the Today Show wearing a watermelon romper garnered the attention of fashionistas across the country and jumpstarted Mollo’s career.
“The feeling of watching someone perform in your clothing is like a high that you will never understand unless it happens to you,” Mollo says. “You feel like you're the one on the stage, but it's your clothes. The first time I ever felt that, I will never ever forget.”
Soon she was receiving inquiries for custom designs from girls who wanted to look amazing for their special events. The problem was— she didn’t have any clothes for sale.
“All of a sudden, I had thousands of girls emailing me saying 'I wanna wear your clothes,’” she says. “I was like they're not even available, they're literally being graded at my professor's house.”
She had to find a way to give these clients what they wanted, so she established her own custom design business. Via email, she asked her clients to send her their measurements and in return she’d forward booklets filled with styles she could offer.
Her brand was well-received. Since 2008, her work has been featured in Teen Vogue, Entertainment Weekly, Seventeen and much more. Her edgy, retro pin-up aesthetic has also caught the attention of artists like Meghan Trainor, Andra Day and YouTube singer-songwriter Megan Nicole.
Recently, Mollo developed a love for clutch-making. A year and some change ago, she opened a pop-up shop in Chelsea Market. However, she felt something was missing in her line. She wanted something people could purchase without having to try it on or think too much about.
Clutches were the answer.
Her quirky designs for the bags, which varies from a drawing of a lady rocking a perfect cat eye and red lip to cute wine glasses stole the show at the pop-up shop. Within two days, they sold out. A year later, she’s sold thousands more to a wider audience.
“I sell them to five-year-olds who go to school, I sell it to 65-year-olds who want to wear a martini clutch out on a Friday night, everybody buys them,” she says.
Currently, she shifted away from making clothes and focused on creating more bags and accessories. As for future projects, she plans on establishing more pop-up shops in NYC, as well creating her own physical shop. She also hopes to find someone on the street sporting her clutches. “I want to be sitting on a subway and have a girl in front of me, pull out her clutch and fix her lipstick, ” she says. “I just want that moment to happen—it's gonna be great.”