Sunday, September 29, 2013

Stylist Influence: Polly Mellen

The Woman with a Worthy Career to Discover

Harriett “Polly” Allen Mellen is one of the most iconic American fashion editors of all time. The enthusiastic stylist and fashion editor properly retired from Conde’ Nast Publications in 1994 but continues to work as a consultant for special projects. She has over 60 years of expertise under her belt, with a career at both Harpers Bazaar and Vogue. She worked under Carmel Snow, Grace Mirabella, and Anna Wintor. As well as with the infamous Diana Vreeland, at Harpers Bazaar, during the magazine's heyday as the most artistically-inclined of the glossies.  She followed Vreeland to Vogue later, but she is most well known for her incredible working relationship with some of the greatest fashion photographers: from Helmut Newton and Irving Penn to Richard Avedon, to more recent photographers- Mario Testino, Steven Meisel and Steven Klein.

She was born in West Hartford Connecticut in 1924 and raves about her four siblings and caring parents. She is a homebody by heart and loves spending time with her sister, husband and children. Polly currently resides in South Kent, Connecticut with her husband Henry Wigglesworth of 47 years. She was married once before, to Louis Bell for 10 years. It was during her first marriage that she had her two children. Polly may have changed her mind about her first husband but she never questioned her desire to work in fashion. From the young age of four she peaked an interest in dressing models, them being her dolls of course. She would spend her playtime dressing, sewing and “styling” her dolls. Her early influences were that of the young starlets in the movies, Carole Lombard, Greta Garbo and, Marlene Dietrich. She often tried to channel the tomboy style of Katharine Hepburn. Her early education was attending Miss Porter’s School for girls in Farmington, Connecticut in 1940’s. After High school she worked as a nurses aid in a military hospital in Virginia during WWII.

 In 1949 she moved to the “Big Apple” and got a job, through a friend, working at Lord&Taylor. Her first official Magazine job was working as a fashion editor for Mademoiselle. Through the same friend she was introduced to Diana Vreeland and the rest was history. Vreeland took her under her wing for the next two years and together, along with Richard Avedon, they made fashion history. Mellon looked up to Vreeland as a mentor and acknowledges Avedon to be her greatest friend in the fashion world.  Some of the most iconic editorials to date were created during this era. She contributed to the early works involving Penelope Tree, Patti Hansen, Verushka, and Lauren Hutton. One of her and Avedon’s more famous works was that of a 1981 nude of actress Nastassja Kinski wearing nothing but a muslin bracelet and a live boa constrictor; thus proving that fashion wasn’t just about the clothes.
(Image taken from Interview Magazine)

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