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When Molly Guy, a veteran magazine journalist living in New York, got engaged in 2010, she saw a void in the bridal market. Most dresses offered frills, lace and lots of volume, but offerings for the nontraditional bride were slim.
After working for more than a decade at titles like Nylon, Maxim, and Elle, in 2011 Guy started her own boutique, Stone Fox Bride, in New York City's Soho neighborhood. With a mantra of "Fuck Weddings," Guy soon had a cult following of anti-bridal brides. Friends, such as HBO's Jemima Kirke, helped increase buzz by modeling for the brand's attention-grabbing lookbooks.
Racked caught up with Guy recently to talk about changing the bridal industry's aesthetic, her social media strategy and the lessons she had to learn the hard way.
Kirke kisses a model in a Stone Fox Bride lookbook. Photo: Stone Fox Bride
What were you up to before you started Stone Fox Bride?
I was a writer. I had moved to New York to work for magazines in 1997 but the industry had changed so much. [Magazines] were a super exciting place to be but not in 2009. My interests had changed, I guess. Then I headed to graduate school and it took longer than I thought, and then I had a book deal and I was really unhappy with the edits and so I pulled it right before publishing. After that, I scrambled to get a job and no one would hire me because no one knew who I was, so I took some uncool jobs and I was like, 'this sucks so hard, I'm sitting in a cubicle, I can't wear jeans to work.' Around that time I got married and I felt so uninspired with the process of wedding planning—no wedding store spoke to me.
Were you always interested in the bridal industry?
Never. If you had told me 10 years ago [that I would open a bridal boutique], I wouldn't have believed you. People were embarrassed for me when I told them I was working in bridal. Bridal was dorky, it wasn't cool. Most bridal salons have an "uptown" feel, with an antiquated idea that dresses should be formal, heavy, and expensive, and that a woman should feel like a princess. The culture was very formal and didn't feel relaxed, stylish, or fashionable. I thought my store would be small, but the demand got so big that we developed our own content [with the blog], our own line of dresses, and launched flowers and jewelry. It's really taken off.
Why the mantra "Fuck Weddings?"
That came out of the blue. After I opened Stone Fox Bride, I had a baby and I came to work one day when she was six weeks old and had an intern stencil that onto a onesie, and sent it to my parents to horrify them. I put it on Facebook and people wanted orders of it. Then I got the URL. It was just a funny thing
Guy's studio in Soho. Photo by William Chan for Racked NY
Your dresses are pretty pricey, is there a specific reason for that?
We are about to start wholesaling dresses, so they will be lower but they start at $3,000 and go up. They are made in New York, and the process is expensive, handmade and local.
Is it hard to compete in the bridal world?
Bridal is super competitive, but there are very few brands doing similar things to what we do, and we like to think of our dresses as second skin. No one is carrying dresses like us. They have several layers of silk and chiffon, which creates a dreamy, ethereal, flowy look and we are conscious to make sure they aren't see-through. The most important thing is to feel comfortable, so brides feel like themselves.
How do you decide which designers to carry?
It's like a marriage; there are people who like what we do and want to be a part of it, and then are [designers] that don't. People like Mandy Coon, Ryan Roche, Honor; those are people we work with.
Actress Zosia Mamet modeling for Stone Fox Bride. Photo: Stone Fox Bride
Do you find women want to wear dress alternatives these days, like rompers?
Most girls don't want to get married in pantsuits. One thing I've learned is that one wants to look cool. They want to look beautiful and thin. It's a day you want to honor your family and look your very best. I've only had two brides who wore pantsuits.
What else are you working on?
There's a book proposal in the works, and we're also working on developing other garments around the wedding experience, like wedding pajamas and clothes for the honeymoon.
Is it hard to keep the brand's messaging so focused?
I'm very proud of that because a lot of the [branding] stuff is what I do. I've always been so embarrassed that the only thing I've ever cared about was writing, and developing my own voice and creative point of view—it's not exactly a skill set that I thought could make me successful. But in the world of social media, it comes in handy. When it comes to writing or having a voice, I'm militant. Even for an Instagram post, I won't compromise at all. Have I had to turn down brands [because they didn't fit with Stone Fox Bride's vision]? Yes but not that many. Most people have the same mindset when they approach us.
Stone Fox Bride's studio interior. Photo by William Chan for Racked NY
Can you share any social media secrets? Your Instagram is so successful.
I do it all myself. I guess I would say that's because I have no social life. But one thing I will say I noticed, when we first started, I had 200 followers and didn't even understand Instagram. We did a photo shoot with Pamela Love, and she tagged us and out account blew up. I paid attention and in the beginning would just ask friends to tag us. Now we get 1,000 new followers a week. People really like our photos. I wish I could give a specific answer [of how we do things] but I don't exactly have a strategy. Like right now I purposely post things I know wouldn't work in a corporate world, like saying fuck, cunt and posting naked photos. But I try to have a balance between our photos and stock photos. I try to thing about the people on Instagram in smaller cities and think, 'what would they want to see'? I try to give the feel of what it's like to be in Brooklyn or downtown. I keep a ratio, like out of 10 posts, 3 to 4 of things as they happen [at the studio] and the rest are of images I pull.
Is it weird to share some photos of your private life, like of your family?
I'm definitely selective about the photos I post. I know the messaging should always be about love and weddings so I'm not going to be posting photos of us in couples therapy or of my daughter crying with boogers. I limit myself to one photo of my husband or daughter [a day] because otherwise it would be so boring. With photos of my daughter, I try to minimize it. I've done a few shoots with my daughter and then I cry in therapy that I'm like a mom from Toddlers & Tiaras, but I don't post photos of her naked!
A dress from Stone Fox Bride's current collection.
What were some early challenges you faced?
Making sales. The first few months we had crazy inventory and our stuff was too edgy for clients so I had to figure out how to provide more traditional wedding stuff to the untraditional. A lot of it was trial and error.
What about now?
When you run a small business, every second is a challenge. I've been working for people my whole life so the fact that I don't need someone to approve my blog posts is a dream. But when it comes to business stuff, like negotiations, I had no idea what I was doing. I had to figure out what was revenue, what was net, and what was profit.
Molly Guy in her studio.
What lessons have you had to learn the hard way?
One thing I've learned, being a start-up, is that I've had to ask a lot of favors from friends, like being a model or photographer, or helping me build something. It's amazing and fun but working with friends can by tricky. There is an invisible line that can be crossed and I have gotten into altercations [concerning] that. I've also learned that you shouldn't spend a lot of money on something unless you have someone you trust advising you how to spend.
What advice would you give to someone about to start a small business?
My first advice would be about money. Starting a business is intoxicating and horrible and exciting and there are several ways to start. I've had friends who started with large investments and others who grew from nothing. [Referencing the HBO show Silicon Valley], Stone Fox Bride was like sticking a bunch of stylish girls in an office and having them figure out LLC and trade marking, and we had no idea what we are doing. You need to have someone who is a "Jared" [who understands the business side]. It can be hard to swallow your pride and for me to admit that I didn't know anything, but you need to humble yourself and ask people who know things so there will be less time and money you will waste.
Yes, another thing people should know is that everyone who has a cool job or cool social media account that you admire is just as tortured and unhappy and as confused as you are. I swear. The whole smoke and mirrors culture of social media and Instagram is a real disservice to us because we think that branding is more important than the actual product. But in order to run a business you need to have cash and in order to have cash, you need a product. So always put product before branding.
A client wearing a Stone Fox Bride dress, veil and flower crown.