mad about molly bair
Being who you are is more important than being what others expect of you. Meet Molly Bair, the Philly girl with the big walk, big dreams and even bigger attitude.
Molly wears top Chloé.
Jacket DKNY. Jeans Red Valentino.
Blazer Christopher Kane. Rollneck John Smedley.
Jacket Vintage Sir Jac from Rokit. T-shirt and skirt AG Jeans. Tights Emilio Cavallini.
Blazer Christopher Kane. Rollneck John Smedley. Leggings Roberto Cavalli. Socks The Sock Shop.
There's a lot to be said for a good runway walk, and 18-year-old Molly Bair -- with her gloriously propulsive stomp -- has one of fashion's most distinctive. A ferocious stride, incredibly fast, unapologetically determined… it's as though she's on a one-woman mission somewhere a helluva lot more interesting than the end of the runway. The long limbs with which Molly usually hurls herself down the catwalk are today being used to leave her first i-D photo shoot (and save for this writer's tug of her bomber jacket, very nearly into the oncoming traffic of suburban Willesden Green!). As Molly folds her 6ft 1" frame into the safety of an Uber, I ask her if she minds me turning the dictaphone on? "I wouldn't say anything different if it was on or off anyway," she responds, in her distinct deadpan drawl.
Born in Philadelphia in 1997, Molly Bair is Not Like Other Models™. Growing up she enjoyed studying ("I've always liked learning, so I paid attention in most classes"), but always felt like an outsider because of her immense height, naturally gravitating towards sports. "I was sort of jock-ish, I guess," she says. "I played a bunch of sports. I had my fair share of friends, and a good deal of enemies. But don't we all?" A tomboy at heart, Molly spent not one iota of her life thinking about fashion until someone from The Society Management, Elite's NYC division, approached her at a New York flea market in 2014 and asked her if she'd ever considered modeling? She hadn't.
Molly's face -- sharply defined, brilliantly expressive, utterly surprising and beautiful in every way -- has since earned her a place as one of the most dynamic models on catwalks today. Her expressions range from defiant, to ethereal, to bored, to downright livid, often just in one show! She oozes character from every pore. "I guess I'm embracing that alien-rat-demon-goblin-gremlin sort of vibe," she told CNN in an interview last year. While her otherworldly beauty is her USP, isn't it a bit rubbish having to constantly talk about how "interesting looking" you are? "Yeah," Molly confesses. "At some point when people keep on telling you that, it actually starts to feel kind of shitty. Like I get it, you know. I have nothing else to say about it. This is the way I look, okay?"
To pigeonhole the former high school tennis champ as some sort of "anti-model" would be to do her -- and those that cast her -- a great disservice. In all of her eye-opening, spectrum-broadening, moment-making difference, she's everything that a model in 2016 should be. And what's more -- like Cara or Edie or Binx before her -- she really gets it too. "I never take it too seriously," Molly confirms. "It's just clothes at the end of the day, they don't define who you are." Molly lists Proenza Schouler, Alexander Wang, and Marc Jacobs ("I think he's super amazing") as her favorite designers to work with, and Julia Nobis and Saskia de Brauw as her model role models. "I have loads of respect for Julia and Saskia because of the quantity and quality of top campaigns and editorials they have booked, while at the same time not developing a sense of entitlement or an attitude," she says. Despite being relatively new to modeling, Molly is very aware of the winds of change currently sweeping through the industry. "Everything is changing right now," she says. "All the stylists, designers, and casting directors are changing. So the identity of every brand is kind of different." As is the wider industry's perception of beauty. "Beauty is loving and having confidence in who you are and what you look like," Molly states. "Our society's so addicted to conforming to one standard of beauty, but don't hide what makes you special. Blow that shit up in people's faces so they know!"
Does she think about her own identity much and what she would be doing if she weren't modeling? "I would just be going to school, probably," she says. "I dunno... That feels like what I should be doing anyway! So it still feels weird that I'm doing this instead. It wasn't what my life path was supposed to be." Molly eventually wants to become an environmental lobbyist and is currently embarking on an online course to stop her mind from turning to mush backstage and on set. "I've always been really, really into politics," she confirms. "I get to vote this year for the first time because I just turned 18." As much brains as beauty, she spends a significant part of this interview discussing the intricacies of the US political system (She's Feeling the Bern, by the way). And if she could use her newfound fame to change the world, she would, "promote protecting the environment, such as enforcing stricter laws about emissions and pollution."
While Molly's quick to dismiss modeling as "just a phase" (as though it's an ill-advised beret or an awkward teenage fringe), it doesn't mean she doesn't appreciate the world of opportunity the fashion industry has opened up for her. If anything, it means she appreciates it more. "Of course, I'm still going to work hard, but, at the end of the day, if my career goes to crap I'm not going to be that upset about it," she concludes matter-of-factly. "I'll just go back to school and start my normal life again." Whatever path she chooses, you get the impression that for Molly Bair, life will be anything but normal.
Text Matthew Whitehouse
Photography Letty Schmiterlow
Styling Max Clark
Hair Kiyoko Odo using Bumble and bumble
Make-up Ciara O'Shea at LGA Management using YSL Beauté
Production Julie Velut at Artistry London
Photography assistance Yi Chen, Scott Gallagher
Styling assistance Bojana Kozarevic, Louis Prier-Tisdall
Model Molly Bair at Elite London
Printed by Luke at Touch