We all buy clothes, but no two people shop the same. It can be a social experience, and a deeply personal one; at times, it can be impulsive and entertaining, at others, purpose-driven, a chore. Where do you shop? When do you shop? How do you decide what you need, how much to spend and what's "you"? These are some of the questions we're putting to prominent figures in the fashion industry with our column, "How I Shop."
As a writer working and living in New York City, I've studiously followed Molly Young, a writer working and living in New York City, for longer than I should admit knowing that she herself will definitely read this at some point. I'll never forget that when I was a ye babe at Lucky (RIP), Young — who leads a team in Warby Parker's creative department by day — wrote a riveting cover story for us that involved taking a cab with known-boring-person (Tyler's words), Karlie Kloss. (Most recently, she just interviewed model Halima Aden for her July 2017 Allure cover story.) Her extracurriculars — or "outside projects," as we probably say in the adult world, are stacked: She makes crossword puzzles for The New York Times and Kinfolk, and co-runs a Steve Martin-inspired collection of paper goods, Compliments Of. She's also working on a book, perhaps as I type this, called D C-T with illustrator Joana Avillez, to be published this fall by Penguin Press. That about catches us up.
Though Young's expertise extends far beyond fashion, she's achieved a definite recognition from the business for her industry-adjacent profiles (like Sophia Amoruso, Jenna Lyons and Riccardo Tisci) and her Glossier pink table, the latter of which is exceptional for Instagram purposes. Her personal style is just as interesting, but we'll let her speak for herself. We hopped on the phone with Young to discuss her well-founded theory of shopping, her Mad Pax backpack and how she keeps her now-signature head-to-toe white ensembles so stain-free. May we all be so lucky to absorb some of her efficiency — and spectacular vocabulary — through reading this.
"First of all, I don't buy a lot of clothes, quantity-wise. I tend to be strategic to a fault about clothing. I have a handful of things that I will splurge on and those things I buy in-person because I want to make sure they fit well. It's a small enough handful that I can enumerate them. It's a classic Max Mara belted camel coat. The best. I have a narrow-shouldered Nina Ricci coat; it's black cashmere. A pair of vintage Levi's 501s from the '70's. A black high-cut Norma Kamali swimsuit. And a vintage black-and-white houndstooth Chanel coat with bracelet sleeves.
And then my bag inventory is three bags. They're all Bottega Veneta Intrecciato bags. There's one black, one tan, one white. One big, one little, one medium. I buy those in-person also, because I need to try them on to make sure they fit my shoulder well and sort of hang correctly. I like those because the hand-braiding turns that really soft leather into this magically resilient material and I don't think that they look bad when they're a little bit shabby.
Those are my big purchases, and I buy those in-person, and then the rest of my clothing I pretty much buy online because I don't like spending a lot of time shopping. My theory of shopping is basically my theory of money, which is that, you don't need to have a lot in order to be happy. You just need to be very deliberate about what you do spend money on, and don't spend a single cent on things that don't matter to you. Don't buy clothes that are only okay.
The way that I facilitate my shopping is, I don't go out to restaurants or bars. I don't order a lot of Seamless. I never take taxis; I always take the subway. I never get manicures or facials, because spending money on those things does not make me happy at all. It doesn't make me any happier than spending money on that beautiful Max Mara coat that I'll wear for years and that every time I put it on I feel sheltered from the New York City elements, and it fills me with joy. That's totally worth spending money on in my book.
For a couple years, I tended to wear head-to-toe white because it's really practical and it makes me look like a big glass of milk. People always ask me, 'Does it ever get stained?' I'm like, 'No, you just throw everything in the laundry with bleach and everything is always sparkling clean.' I basically have three pairs of white Levi's that I shuffle between and then a bunch of interchangeable white tops. I keep a Tide pen at the office, which makes it easier. Getting dressed is like putting together a very easy IKEA piece of furniture. One white pant, one white top.
I've never sat down and come up with a branding hierarchy for my personal style. I think comfort is really important because I walk a lot and take the subway and I'm on my feet all day, and I just have no tolerance for waistbands that pinch or shoes that chafe or tops that ride up. I can't handle that. I don't want to wear clothing that distracts me from what I'm working on. I think I exclude a lot of items. Nothing that's uncomfortable. Nothing that's really impractical unless, again, that Marie Kondo principal of, if it sparks a really insane amount of joy that can overcome a lot of practical concerns. I think people are insane about bags. I do think that's a weird thing. When I hear someone refer to a bag as an investment, I start to wonder about their cognition. I feel like the idea of a status bag is kind of law.
There's a lot of smaller brands that I really like; Nanushka, I think they're out of Budapest, and they have some really interesting pieces. I always love Veda. They have the perfect leather jackets. A lot of the time they'll come out with one in a really interesting cranberry color or just an unusual twist that people will inevitably ask me where I got my jacket and I always tell them, 'Veda!' I really love Sincerely, Tommy. I just like to see what Kai [Avent deLeon], the owner, has her eye on, because she has a really interesting eye, and she picks up on designers before a lot of other buyers do. I love Datura and wear their white linen sundress promiscuously. I also carry around a Mad Pax backpack and get a ton of compliments on it, primarily from children.
I do a lot of eBay-ing. My best friend is also like my best informal personal shopper. She does a lot of vintage shopping and will find random shit on eBay and will text me, 'This will look great on you! Do you want me to get it?' And I always say yes.
The last clothing I bought was from The RealReal. It was actually the shoes that I'm going wear in my wedding! They were very new — they didn't have a lot of wear on them — and they're these Oscar de la Renta really red, super-high heels and the heel is lucite, kind of this beautiful combination of Cinderella and stripper shoe.
You have to make sure you're in the right mental condition to start to go shopping, right? You never go to the grocery store when you're hungry and you should never go shopping when you're extremely stressed. I end up buying things that don't fit sometimes with the assumption that I'll get them tailored and then I never actually get them tailored or I will get them tailored, but I'll go to a shitty one.
I like to get in a really zen, calm, blood sugar-regulated zone before I [do any vintage shopping]. I really just like to be open to possibilities. Obviously, you don't go vintage shopping to find a specific piece. I don't even think you can have a specific category in mind. I don't walk into a store and think like, I need pants. It's just what catches your eye in a very organic, magpie way. I find that the things that I'm immediately attracted to are the things that I usually walk out of the store with.
God, New York sucks for vintage shopping because everything's so picked over. I honestly don't shop for vintage in New York. But when I go to Cape Cod for the summer, there's those weird, out-of-the-way places that have like, a faded, crazy Kenzo poncho. You know, like who was wearing this?
I think [I'll have] the tan Bottega Veneta bag [for a very long time], because it's one of those items that looks so elegant when it's shabby. I think when that leather starts to fray and when the color starts to rub off, it turns from a purse into a beautiful relic."
This interview has been edited and condensed.