Editing Thrifted Fashion: In Conversation with Molly Apple
Interview by Victoria Nergaard (FS ’20) for Badlands Fashion featuring Molly Apple (FS ’20) for MERDE.
Like a luxury dress in the aisles of Value Village, it stands out amongst the thousands of fashion editorials gracing magazine pages around the globe. Thrifted fashion is almost nowhere to be seen in the magazine editorial realm. Often deemed “not profitable enough” for VOGUE and its famous counterparts (considering that Goodwill isn’t exactly paying for ELLE ad space), most magazines recoil in fear at the thought of editorializing thrifted clothing. Even as vintage shopping secures its popularity within our current cultural consciousness, the inability for thrifted fashion to be consumed en masse by readers banishes it from the glossy realm of publishing.
But not at MERDE magazine. The self-described self-depreciating magazine, which is available in print ONLY on their website, as well as in select magazine shops around the world, took a leap of faith for their third issue. MERDE issue III, themed around guilty pleasures, explores a range of not-so-guilty sustainable fashion options, delving into the idea of the thrifted editorial. The magazine’s editor-in-chief, as well as friend of BADLANDS, Molly Apple (FS ’20), collaborated with New Hampshire-based second hand store Cash Only Vintage to place second hand clothing on the magazine page.
The editorial, which we encourage you to see with your own eyes, features a range of fun and funny second hand fashion which is at the ready to inspire you to create some circular looks of your own. We sit down with Molly, who has recently moved her magazine from Paris to New York City, and chat about the joys and challenges when it comes to building a fashion editorial around thrifted apparel. Is it current? Is it feasible? Is it even fashion? Molly weighs in:
BADLANDS: What was your inspiration for representing vintage clothes in a print magazine?
Molly Apple: My inspiration started with the idea of digging into someone’s closet and showcasing their personal style. I think when you interview someone and just put clothes on them, if you style them with clothes from a brand, it’s not as personal. You’re putting paid content on them rather than showing what they have in their closet, where they found it, the story behind it, whether or not they have a memory attached to it, if they shop there often. It started with people’s closets and the fact that they sometimes couldn’t remember or didn’t know the brand name, but remembered where they got the item, at which vintage or consignment shop.
That was where the initial idea came from to show vintage and consigned clothes.
Also, I was working with a stylist, Hugo, who’s now taking over the Paris side of MERDE. He was styling a shoot for the last issue and all of the clothes were his own. He told me that he loved styling shoots with clothes he already had and collected. It’s this collection idea, which is a theme that I have for the next issue. I just have this fascination with people who collect things, and don’t get rid of it, and love the hunt.
BADLANDS: What was the process of creating this shoot?
Molly Apple: We came up with some cheeky themes, there was 90s, there was 70s, there was ski chalet. It was fun to work with a local community which I also think is something that MERDE is about, even though it’s dispersed across many continents. This shoot was in New Hampshire for me, and so I found this photographer who does marketing for all the local businesses and does amazing photography; he’s super talented. We want to do a similar concept in other cities where our team is located, so Paris, Milan, showcasing smaller shops instead of these big brands that get so much attention. Every magazine has the same pieces from the same brands from the same collections. In MERDE I really want to show unique pieces that tell a story about a specific person, rather than what some designer from a big label decided everyone was going to wear that season.
“In MERDE I really want to show unique pieces that tell a story about a specific person, rather than what some designer from a big label decided everyone was going to wear that season.”
BADLANDS: Did you want this spread to have an editorial feel?
Molly Apple: I wanted it to have a fun pop feel through the themes and captions. It fits the thrift aesthetic better, and MERDE doesn’t typically take itself too seriously.
At the same time, I do want my content to be up to an editorial standard of quality, but still light-hearted and escapist. I’m working on developing my quality so it’s taken seriously within the industry as a magazine.
BADLANDS: Do you think magazines that feature ads and are profit driven can represent thrifted fashion in the same way as MERDE?
Molly Apple: I wish I knew, because I’ve never been on the inside of a big, corporate magazine. My reason for being ad-free is to maintain a position of anti-bias. I’m not really sure if these big, international magazines necessarily wouldn’t feature thrifted, I just think they’re working with too big of a scope to consider it. This smaller scope of local brands and thrift stores, however, is my focus.
BADLANDS: Do you see a future in representing thrifted clothes in magazines?
Molly Apple: I do, but then it’s one of those things where if say, Vogue, was to feature a thrift store they would sell out in a week. Once an international magazine like that features something it becomes so massive. I’m sure some thrift stores don’t want to be featured in those kinds of magazines because they don’t want that kind of exposure that brings their business to a different level. Not just an economic level. I also think that they don’t want to be associated with big fashion outlets, they want to maintain their local clientele and community. It’s also working people who have the same ethos as you, and the same values. Small business owners are more receptive to working with other small business owners. It’s more of a mutual benefit and collaboration than something that could end up exploitative or mess with their values as a small business.
“I’m sure some thrift stores don’t want to be featured in those kinds of magazines because they don’t want that kind of exposure that brings their business on a different level. Not just an economic level. I also think that they don’t want to be associated with big fashion outlets, they want to maintain their local clientele and community.”
BADLANDS: Do you feel like thrifted fashion still instructs readers on what’s “fashionable” in the same way as traditional editorials?
Molly Apple: I feel like it instructs you better in a way, because in order to be a second hand or consignment shopper, you need to know your personal style or go through enough stuff to find what your personal style is. Instead of thrifted fashion telling you what to wear, you have to see what stands out to you the most. You go with your gut, sometimes your gut feeling can be going for something really weird. That’s what I do like about consignment and thrift.
That’s what was limiting too about the Cash Only shoot too, because I had to choose from so much stuff I could’ve put in the shoot. It wasn’t even the best stuff that I ended up putting in. There’s so much that I could’ve styled, but these were the items that I thought were fun and playful. It’s not necessarily that I was trying to sell those items, I was just trying to sell the concept of the editorial as a whole. I don’t think that promoting thrift in an editorial concept is selling a specific item, it’s promoting the idea of shopping second hand. It’s promoting the idea to get out there, and hunt, and find what calls to you.
Interview reprinted with permission from Badlands Fashion and MERDE.