Stone Fox Bride made Molly Rosen Guy the face of bohemian weddings. Then her marriage ended.
A woman who bought her wedding dress at Stone Fox Bride was probably going to wear a flower crown along with it. She most likely idolised the Olsen twins and had an active Instagram presence. Her wedding was not going to be religious, but it was going to be spiritual, and her vows might even include curse words. She was going to buck tradition, and she was going to do it in a sunset-pink robe dress with silk chiffon bell sleeves that cost $6,800.
"Cool wedding culture — I'm proud to say, I think I was the pioneer of that space," said Molly Rosen Guy, the writer and designer who founded Stone Fox Bride in 2012. The high-priced bohemian wedding brand was born out of Guy's frustration when she planned her own wedding and didn't see retailers and media brands that reflected her vision for her special day.
"I couldn't find anything that looked or felt like how I looked or how I felt," Guy said. "I felt like I was entering this radical union with this really radical person, and I wanted to celebrate it and explore it. But all I could find was like, articles on bouffants and Bergdorf Goodman, where my sister got her wedding dress."
Once she got into the business, Guy started posting "cool wedding" content on Pinterest and Instagram, which were beginning to take off. Sharing photos of her clients, herself, her family and glamorous weddings past, she amassed over 100,000 followers on Instagram. She also started a website and an email newsletter, landed a book deal, and became the executive weddings editor at Domino magazine.
From the outside, it all looked picture perfect. But like so many online personas, Guy's masked the more complicated aspects of her personal life. In 2017, she separated from her husband, but she did not tell her followers or clients for fear of losing authority as an expert on weddings and all things happily ever after.
"I did start to feel like, I have to be the perfectly imperfect bohemian mom, because that was the brand," she said. "You know, because I was selling $10,000 dresses or $5,000 dresses."
Even as her own marriage was falling apart, Guy continued to post about flower crowns and heirloom emeralds. That is, until last year, when she came clean to her followers and renamed her brand. What happens to a weddings influencer when the honeymoon is over?
Building a brand
"First of all, the plan was never to be the public face of weddings," Guy said. "The plan was just to be a writer. To be the next Great American Novelist. I'm just kidding."
Sort of kidding. From the time she was young, Guy was obsessed with writers, celebrities and writers who became celebrities. She grew up in the Lincoln Park neighbourhood of Chicago, with a father who worked in real estate and a mother who was a poet. She attended college at Brown, and spent a summer in Los Angeles trying to become an actress and a model, and going to clubs with Leonardo DiCaprio. ("It was the summer before Romeo and Juliet came out," she said. "It was right after Gilbert Grape.")
When Hollywood didn't pan out, she graduated and moved to New York to pursue a career in fashion media, landing writing jobs at Nylon and the now-shuttered teen bible YM. The early 2000s were a fun time to be doing this kind of thing. At Nylon, "I was like, drowning in makeup and cigarettes and booze and cool people," Guy said.
In 2005, she took a break from the workforce to get an MFA in creative writing. She ended up selling a novel to Grove Atlantic, but "it sort of turned into a disaster," she said. She returned the advance and the book was never published. Then the recession hit, and Guy found herself boxed out of media, working instead as a copywriter for a large beauty conglomerate. After her wedding in 2011, she landed on the idea for Stone Fox Bride.
Guy secured US$250,000 ($$380,000) in investment from her brother-in-law, Peter Shapiro, the owner of Brooklyn Bowl. She rented a retail and studio space on Orchard Street and started cold-calling designers to make samples for the store. Many of them, including Ohne Titel and Ryan Roche, said yes.
When she introduced her own collection in 2013, her friends Pamela Love, a jewelry designer, and Jemima Kirke, an actress, modelled the dresses for the photographer Cass Bird. One of the photos, featuring Kirke and Love kissing, made headlines. "That's when we started to blow up," Guy said.
Later, Kirke's Girls co-star Allison Williams wore a Stone Fox Bride dress for her character's wedding on the show. More celebrity clients followed. When Guy started selling vintage pieces in her studio, the Olsen twins came through.
At the same time, she was baiting her followers on Instagram with content. Her most popular feature was #stonefoxrings, a hashtag she created to share her clients' proposal stories (and, of course, pictures of their gems).
"I was always fascinated by the engagement ring," Guy said. "Like when I would be at YM, I knew we were all making like $24,000, and suddenly my cubicle mate would come in with a $35,000 engagement ring and start planning like an outrageous wedding. And all I could think about was like, who paid for that? Where does it come from? What is going on? Like, who are you? It was all of the sudden like everyone pretended that she just became a different person."
Instagram became her journalistic outlet. It also became a place where Guy would share photos of her daughters and her husband.
"In hindsight, I wouldn't have done any of that," she said.
"Blood and diamonds"
By 2016, her marriage was coming to an end, and selling wedding dresses, in person and online, stopped being so fun. Guy closed her studio "the day Trump got elected," she said, and started selling her inventory out of her Williamsburg apartment, while her estranged husband lived in an Airstream around the corner.
"I was doing some wedding-dress fittings at my apartment with some very high-profile clients, and I would, like, pray to the gods that they wouldn't see him as they were walking in," she said. "I didn't want anyone to know that we were split."
"There was a lot of mental and emotional gymnastics that I was doing to sort of keep the brand afloat," she added.
At the end of 2017, Guy published her first book: a wedding planning guide "for the wild at heart." She was advised, she said, to keep her separation and eventual divorce a secret until the book was released. But shortly after, her father died, and she decided she did not want to keep up the "patina that I had things under control."
On Mother's Day in 2018, she announced her divorce to her followers on Instagram. To her surprise, they were supportive. In fact, the post got more "likes" than any wedding photos she'd shared before.
As has become the case with many influencers who built their brands with aspirational images, Guy began posting more "real" images and captions about her messy personal life and her anxieties. She changed her Instagram handle to @stonefoxride, dropping the "B," and started another account, @mollyrosenguy, where she wrote letters to her late father. On @stonefoxride, she stopped sharing the #stonefoxrings stories. Instead, she recently offered her followers a very different engagement ring story, involving an art deco diamond and a trip to the ER.
Now, Guy said she is working on a memoir, tentatively titled — what else? — "Blood and Diamonds." Her brand, she said, has evolved to represent "women in transition." As it turns out, she is not the only woman who had a perfectly-imperfect, bohemian wedding in the 2010s that ended in divorce.
In the brand's heyday, Guy featured wedding photos from many of her clients on Stone Fox Bride's website. A few years later, she started to get calls from brides who wanted to get the photos taken down.
"People started to say, 'I'm going through a divorce,' or 'my husband died,' or 'I'm going through a family drama and my name is in the press, I don't want to be on your website,'" she said. "A lot of my brides started to enter these messy transitional middle places, which I could really identify with."
With her wedding-dress business all but shuttered, Guy wondered how she might connect with these clients again. She still had her Instagram following, which included a new set of women drawn to her long, confessional captions about life after death and divorce. And so last year, she asked them if they would be interested in taking a writing class about "love and loss" in Williamsburg.
Twenty-seven of her followers signed up for her first class. Now, teaching writing is Guy's main profession; she calls her new business the Brooklyn Writers Collective. Some of her former bridal clients are her students. (A six-week course costs $1,500 — much less than a custom gown.)
In a syllabus from this past summer, she described the course as a "crash course writing workshop" for "foxes in flux." She shares some of her students' best work on, yes, Instagram.
Guy said she created the class as a way for women to tell the kind of stories that are not easily represented with a diamond ring or a white dress. But she may find a way to do that in the future, too: Women have started to approach her to make rings and dresses fit for a stylish and spiritual divorce.
Written by:Allie Jones
© 2019 THE NEW YORK TIMES