In her ongoing Fashion Icons series at New York’s 92Y, Fern Mallis interviewed the icon to end all icons: Polly Allen Mellen.
While most folks outside of the fashion world might not have heard of her, Polly Mellen is a legend in the industry. The stylist responsible for some of fashion’s most indelible 20th-century images – Twiggy’s flower-power Vogue covers, Nastassja Kinski and the snake, Lisa Taylor in The Story of Ohhh…., Deborah Turbeville’s bathhouse shots – Polly started her career as a salesgirl and display designer at Lord & Taylor before going on to work as a sittings editor at Harper’s Bazaar, Vogue, and Allure.
She retired in 2001, after winning the CFDA Lifetime Achievement Award, to spend time with her beloved family, but is enjoying a mini comeback thanks to her inclusion in the new book, In Vogue: The Editor’s Eye, and her appearance in the accompanying HBO documentary of the same name, in which she stars alongside Vogue fashion editors Babs Simpson, Tonne Goodman, and Grace Coddington.
On Wednesday night, the 88-year-old spitfire (who still skis, swims, hikes, gardens, and does Pilates every day) took to the stage in her trademark silver bob, black turtleneck, and sparkly Vera Wang trousers to talk about her days at Miss Porter’s School alongside classmates Gloria Vanderbilt and Jacqueline Bouvier, her reputation as a demanding boss (both Vera Wang and Joe Zee got their starts as Polly’s assistant), and her storied 60-year career working with Diana Vreeland and such legendary photographers as Richard Avedon, Helmut Newton, Irving Penn, Arthur Elgort, and Bruce Weber. Here are the highlights.
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