There’s a lot of talk these days about living an authentic life—but, as evidenced by countless filtered vacation photos on Instagram, that’s not always easy to do. Most of us censor ourselves, at least before we present our images to the world.
Molly Rosen has shed those protective layers. The founder of cool girl bridal company, Stone Fox Bride, had long attracted a sizable following, featuring images of chic engagement rings with captions that detailed intimate—and often edgy—proposal stories from compelling women. Her brand was a celebration of love told through a modern lens. Having pioneered this more contemporary bridal aesthetic, she was named one of the “Most Creative People” by Fast Company and included as one of Refinery29’s “Top 30 Visionaries.” She became a contributing editor at Vogue and the executive weddings editor at Domino.
That all changed when her own marriage dissolved and her father passed away within six months time. Suddenly, her feed became a kind of confessional, where she confronted (and continues to confront) taboo topics that most people are afraid to address—especially publicly. Writing—her first love—finally became her primary focus, as she got honest about the pain of loss in all its forms.
As opposed to losing her audience, even more followers flocked to her account, anxious for their next chance to commiserate, feel understood and be moved by her entrancing prose. Recently, she let her bridal business go, shifting her company name to Stone Fox Ride—a pun on her bumpy path.
Now, in the calm after the storm, Rosen has found a kind of happy place, learning to work with the challenges that linger at the edges. Most notably, she’s begun offering “Love, Loss and Storytelling” memoir workshops around which she builds communities of fellow writers.
Here, Rosen shares her unlikely journey to creating the life she wants to live—full of truth and beauty:
Live The Process: You’re often praised for your creative thinking. Tell us a bit about your upbringing. Were you always encouraged to think untraditionally and act without fear?
Molly Rosen: In my house, “creativity” was not a bad word. My dad worked in commercial real estate and my mom taught writing in public schools. She also published poetry in local journals and managed property. I had aunts and uncles who were very creative: artists and set designers etc. But, ultimately, we were taught to go to school and get a desk job.
I always loved to write; I was the editor of my school literary journal and stuff like that. But my family didn’t really consider writing a skillset that should be encouraged as a career. So, when I went to college and wanted to study creative writing, I had to downplay it.
And, when I moved to New York when I was 23, I didn’t realize that if you wanted to be a writer, you could waitress or bartend or pick up freelance jobs and write on the side. The family ethos was: get an office job. That’s what my dad did, that’s what my sister did, that’s what nice Jewish girls from Chicago did.
So, I got a job at YM magazine. I was an assistant and worked my way up to a staff writer and then to the fiction editor. And then I worked at Nylon; I was the beauty and style editor. Nylon was awesome: I oversaw eighteen pages a month and wrote essays about adolescence and teenage angst; I drank wine at my desk, wore pajamas to advertiser lunches and brought my cat to work. But the thought of having a desk job for the rest of my life—the whole 9-5 corporate lifestyle—gave me nightmares. It made it made me feel like I was suffocating.
So, I applied to MFA programs and decided to go to the New School. It was walking distance from my apartment, classes were at night and I was able to still do some freelance writing during the day. Incredible experience. I studied fiction. I wrote constantly. I’ll never forget that time: I would like, rip up Nabakov books and color code them in crayon and weep over Mary Gaitskill and fill up journals with scribbles. I’d sit in every cafe in the East Village writing my brains out, mining my imagination for every last scrap of memory I could transform into short stories. My best friend from high school killed himself during that time, and I was in my Saturn Return. I was, shall we say, hanging on by a psychic thread. The dark night of the soul. I was so lucky; I just wrote myself through that whole period until I emerged, calm and whole (sort of), on the other side.
Then, it was back to work. got a job writing beauty copy at Estée Lauder, then at a fitness blog. I was so sad that the creative writing once again fell by the wayside.
LTP: So much of your trajectory seems to have started with the creation of Stone Fox Bride. How did the company launch and evolve?
MR: I started Stone Fox Bride because, after I got married, I realized there was no cool store for brides who didn’t want to buy big poofy dresses at a princess store uptown. I thought maybe I could open one. I had a vision of starting an anti-wedding wedding shop, modeled after my friend Brónagh’s store, Sweet William. The idea was to create a mellow, laid-back space for punk-bohemian women to find the wedding dresses of their dreams.
Back then, when people thought of weddings, the vibe was still very much bouffants, Martha Stewart, fondant cakes and cheesy bridesmaids with bad fake tans, crying over the bouquet toss. The first day we opened, T Magazine did a story; New York Magazine did a story. It was big news in fashion. I kept saying: Let’s think about a wedding as a big party that’s an expression of authentic love. The conversation started to change.
And then I had my first baby and Instagram launched, and I saw all these content opportunities. I realized I could put pictures up of people’s rings and tell their stories. It was just about cool women—Rebecca Minkoff, someone on the subway who had a crazy wedding ring. Or I sat next to Rosie Assoulin at a dinner party and asked her about love and marriage. Then we were exploding with content and I got a book deal.
LTP: In recent years, you’ve gone from talking about the magical world of weddings to delving into raw emotions around loss and grieving. How did you make that transition?
MR: I always loved selling wedding dresses and interacting with people, but I was very heavy-hearted a lot of the days because I would be talking about love and marriage and my own marriage was suffering. And then my dad got sick.
When he was dying, I was off Instagram so I could be present with him. After his death, I started a new account where I wrote daily letters and anecdotes about our relationship. I also got divorced during this time, and I kept it a secret for awhile. Finally, I started talking about it publicly and it seemed to resonate with a lot of my followers.
Recently, I started teaching writing classes that focus on love and loss and transition. The relationships I’ve been making through teaching writing, reading and working on my own stuff have been great. Getting to make my own schedule and see my kids more is a real payoff.
LTP: What are you reading right now, by favorite authors and writers?
MR: There’s so much! I have this awesome syllabus that I’ve created for my class. But there are certain things I’ve read that have particularly helped me through this time: There’s an article by Katherine Schultz in The New Yorker called, “When Things Go Missing.” There’s a Moth story by Elizabeth Gilbert that came out in January about the death of her girlfriend called, “The Alpha Wolf.” A TED Talk by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie called “The Danger Of A Single Story”
There’s a really beautiful story I read in The New York Times Magazine called “The Senseless Logic of the Wild” by Jon Mooallem. Everyone should read it.
LTP: What does happiness look like to you?
MR: There is a difference between happiness and success. I know, conventionally, what success is: Every podcast these days features a successful person talking about how they “get it done.” Making a shit-ton of money, staying zen all day long and exercising at four in the morning, while simultaneously being the family matriarch and maintaining a thriving spiritual life and running a sustainable business rooted in social justice and conscious capitalism. I get it. Success. But where is the conversation that focuses on happiness? On how we actually feel during the day? On whether or not we are enjoying the minutes of our lives?
I started to think about that after my dad died. He got diagnosed when he was 52—which is 10 years older than I am now. I thought: How am I spending my time? Am I happy? The most “successful” kid from my high school class—the one who was student body president and went onto Harvard Medical School—threw himself off a building ten years ago.
I think I’m at a point in my life where I’m ready to reframe this notion of success. I know plenty of people who started their companies around or after the same time I started SFB, and their business are now valued close to a billion dollars. Does that make them successful? Yes. Does that make them happy? I have no idea. All I know is that I want to be able to enjoy my creative work and make enough money to support my family while I’m at it.
It’s simple—and it’s not simple. It’s humbling as shit. I have no idea what I’m doing most of the time. I ask God daily to help me surrender to the bigger plan and practice discipline daily.
LTP: What does it mean to you to “Live The Process” and how can we all do that more each day?
MR: Staying in the moment. It’s so hard to do. Don’t regret the past; don’t trip out on the future. Truth and beauty, baby. Find it wherever you are.
For more info on Molly Rosen’s memoir writing workshops, email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.