Racked is no longer publishing. Thank you to everyone who read our work over the years. The archives will remain available here; for new stories, head over to Vox.com, where our staff is covering consumer culture for The Goods by Vox. You can also see what we’re up to by signing up here.
Molly R. Stern has made it her business to make women look and feel beautiful. In addition to prettifying some of the most famous faces in fashion and film, the LA-bred celebrity makeup artist dressed them, too—in her own fashion line, M.R.S., which she founded in New York the late '90s. The brand was a hit: stores like Barneys and Saks stocked it; Gisele, Kate Hudson and Reese Witherspoon were fans; the MET added one of her dresses to their permanent collections.
Ten years ago, the creative maven shuttered her successful seven-year-old label and moved back to LA to start a family. "But I did miss my creative baby," Stern says. The designer recently revived her cult fave line, a collection of incredibly figure-flattering separates, swimwear and lingerie ($50 to $375) that abide by her mantra of "motivation, radiance, style." Designed to complement all body types, summer standouts include the breezy Arch Dress ($150), the uber-comfy Porter Lace Pant ($185) and the fluttery Crew Neck Tee ($75).
After the jump, see more pieces from Stern's line and get to know the inspiring designer.
M.R.S was first born in the late '90s. What inspired you to start the line?
"I'm addicted to women—I love women and I love encouraging women to figure out what they love about themselves. I fell in love with the whole moment when you get somebody dolled up and they go, 'Oh!' That second is such an electric feeling. I did makeup for many many years and I moved to New York in my mid-20s. I grew up in LA and thought 'I gotta get a little edge on me.'
I'd been kind of a tomboy up to that point and I was starting to embrace [...] my body, I was kind of this curvy girl. [At the time] I started playing in an instrument and I got into a Black Sabbath cover band (Editor's Note: We need to hear the rest of this story!); I exploded creatively so I started making these things for myself. I made eight shirts for myself and had my roommate at the time try them on.
She had the body of a 14-year-old boy, and we were both trying to come into ourselves as women. She tried on the shirts and said, 'Oh this feels really good, this feel really sexy.' It was very much in line with how I approach makeup artistry—what do you love, what do you hate about yourself? I want to bring out the parts that you enjoy. I truly feel when you focus on the positive, life is positive."
Then what happened?
"We were in business for seven years. We ended up in 33 stores, we got a ton of press and we never had a publicist—just my connections to the industry and people that I would work on. I could just hand it to people.
We made it on the cover of Rolling Stone—we had great luck. People loved it [and they] felt good in the clothes. Then, I met my husband and I wanted to start a family. We had no business model and everything we did [with the fashion line] was a reaction. I decided I'm going to take a break, move home, connect with this man and maybe start making human beings instead of art. I spent the next 10 years [raising my family and now] I have three kids.
I was with Cover Girl as their celebrity makeup artist and I realized that beauty was an amazing platform for me. I thought to myself, 'Is this really what I do, make the pretty people look prettier? [I realized that] I can be a voice, we're all dealing with the same stuff—this non-real woman or idea of perfection doesn't exist."
How has motherhood and your career as a makeup artist inspired your designs?
"I love the phrase 'modestly sexy.' I love to tap into my femininity and my sexuality and I love art and provocation, but I also feel there's real power in modesty. There's the arch dress, the back panel's slightly sheer fabric. These are double-lace pants, but nothing's hanging out. We do a very tight line of pajamas, it's lacy, it's drapy, it feels sexy on my body—but I can also make eggs for my kids in the morning wearing it."
What was it like returning to M.R.S after a ten-year hiatus?
"For a long time I thought I had failed after closing the doors. [My creativity]'s going to come in its ebbs and its flows, and that's actually been the most inspiring personal experience with the rebirth of this clothing.
I feel like I gained experience—now I can grow something smarter, that's more nature-conscious and actually woman-conscious and has a message and has a meaning and do it in a way that's more responsible for the planet."
· Mrs by Mrs [Official Site]