Elizabeth Mollo

The Different Face of Her

WORDS Jyssica Yelas | PHOTOGRAPHY Tim Sugden

In today’s world, technology, current events and political climate are huge influencers on how the fashion industry is both created and consumed. Transparency is essential as well as experiences that bond an audience to a brand, and if you don’t adapt quickly, you drown. Mollo is an undeniable leader in this way.

It takes a special kind of innovator to create something that didn’t exist in the space before, and moreso for it to be thriving five years later. The first Fade to Light show was in 2012, and has been a bi-annual production since 2013. Throughout the production each designer shows a introductory video proceeding a collection that tells a story, complete with complimenting hair and makeup styling, and often a live performance.


How was the idea of Fade to Light first conceived? I co-produced the rock and roll fashion show Doom Town for the first time at the Crystal Ballroom with Erin Cry [in 2004], and on the McMenamins side of producing the show was Jimi Biron. Fast forward to the end of 2011 and Jimi asked me to come back and produce another fashion show, still keeping with a kind of rock and roll theme but making it more mature. I was in my early and mid-twenties when I produced Doom Town. My husband Greg, AKA DJ Gregarious, and I ended up at a Cut Copy show shortly after that, and boom! The idea of Fade to Light was born.

How was it first received? The very first show was fairly small. We had a raised runway with one lonely spotlight serving as the only light source. A few models later said they couldn’t see very well with a spotlight shining in their eyes and they almost walked right off the edge of the runway! All things considered, it was a great first show. For the next show in 2013 we put the runway on the floor and added better lighting, and then we added a second show in August to make it a biannual event. The 2013 shows were when our designers really started to become inspired and do creative and different things, and I think for every subsequent show designers have pushed the boundaries more, which I absolutely love. The crazier the better!

In your mind, what signifies a successful event? To me a successful event is when the audience, designers, models, and staff have an overall positive experience at the show. Another major marker of success for me is if a good amount of press, boutique buyers, and industry professionals attend the event. In regards to the last Fade to Light in August we had a good amount of people from all three of those sectors in attendance. To take that even further, it’s good if buyers actually buy pieces from the collections, which also happened at the last show. That is the whole point of a fashion show after all.

How is the experience of attending fashion events evolving as technology evolves? Fashion brands that have large budgets are able to best utilize the newest technology because they can afford the fancy lighting and audio visual equipment for their shows, and they have the staff in place to market their brand in a profound way over multiple platforms. The rise of social media has also made mandatory that clothing that was just featured on the runway be immediately available for purchase by the consumer. As a producer of a show with a smaller budget and staff, these items and strategies are not always possible, but I think even with small budgets companies are able to have a vast outreach to different people if they know how to utilize social media platforms correctly.

Exclusivity and privacy seem less and less common this day and age. When you watch videos of Fashion Week runways, you see cell phones at most every chair. What do you make of all this as the one creating the experience itself? On the one hand, I really like that people are engaging with the show in this way, that they are posting photos and videos to their social media, expressing how amazing the designer’s collections are, that they are having a great time at the show, etc. I mean, it’s free advertising! On the other hand, I don’t like that some people are basically watching the show through their phones, that they are not present in the moment and not letting the experience of being at the show sink in fully. There needs to be a happy medium.

How do you see fashion evolving and responding to the current political climate? I very much disagree with the current administration on a very visceral level, as do most people in the fashion industry. I feel that much of this industry is made up of people that have felt marginalized in some way, whether they be women or identify as LGBTQ, and the current administration and those that agree with it seem to want to take the country backward and erase all of the progress with equality we have made over the last few years. That being said, I think that all of this turmoil has really galvanized the industry and people are speaking out now more than ever.

Which designer has made the largest impact on your career? Why? Alexander McQueen. The way he approached and then presented those collections really resonates with me. There was always a story and clear inspiration to each collection. The fabric and silhouettes of the clothing went with the hair and make-up styling, which went with the set design, which went with the music and any live performance that may have been a part of the show. This might not have been the best way to sell a collection on a commercial level, but it established his point of view and showed how much of a genius he was.

What is the industry in Portland still missing? The biggest component missing is sizeable manufacturing infrastructure. We have so many designers here and I know many of them still sew everything themselves. In the end this is not a sustainable way to run a clothing company long-term. Designers should be focusing on designing collections, marketing and selling their brand, and running their business, not sewing for hours on end! If we had a larger manufacturing network here I think this would make that possible. Not to say designers would never sew again, but if they want to sell large quantities of their pieces, which is how a designer ultimately makes money, the manufacturing component must be in place.