IT BEGAN as a school project — but Molly Parmeter’s celebrity ‘style bible’ is a media sensation.
How did an 11-year-old from Carlow national school convince 53 style icons — from Gabriel Byrne to Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge — to describe their favourite fashion item?
She wrote, and asked them nicely. She wrote again, and thanked them.
(Gabriel Byrne’s fave was a black, double-breasted cashmere overcoat, and the Duchess of Cambridge gently said she was unable to choose a favourite.)
Molly’s Style Icons is an impressive list that includes Michael Flatley (classic Borsalino hat), Louis Copeland (pinstripe suit), Minister Joan Burton (light pink jacket), Rachel Allen (a fitted black jacket) and Celia Homan Lee (a glamorous dress).
That was August, 2012 and Molly was in sixth class — she wanted to raise money for a local charity shop, Chic and Cheerful, where her mum, Trish, worked.
“She was aware the shop needed money and knew it was not doing as well since the recession,” says Trish. “She was always hearing us talking about fund-raising ideas and she was very involved in it.”
Molly got her ‘style bible’ idea from a book of recipes collected from well-known people. “I really wanted to raise funds for the Chic & Cheerful shop, which raises money for two charities in Ethiopia and Kenya. I wanted to raise money for the shop, because of the recession and money being so tight, in this day and age. I decided to do this with fashion and I started to write letters to famous people. I looked at magazines and read the style sections of the Sunday papers and I knew people around Carlow who are very stylish, and I wrote to them, too.
“I looked up people like Rachel Allen on the internet and I got addresses for them. Some of the people had an agency, so I sent their letters to the agency. I also wrote to people in the style sections of the weekend newspapers and to RTÉ and the letters were passed on to the people I was trying to get hold of.”
For every reply, Molly did a beautiful illustration of the nominated piece of clothing or footwear. PR guru, Terry Prone, liked the letter Molly sent. It was typed by Molly’s father. “Terry sent back a letter mentioning her favourite item — a pair of high-heeled black boots with safety pins down the side.” But she also sent Molly a book: “She wrote back and sent me a book called How to Write and get Paid for it,” says Molly.
Prone said that someday Molly would write and get paid for it. Molly asked her Mum to send a copy of her school project to Prone.
“She sent the manuscript to Terry as a thank you gift and we forgot all about it. A few weeks later, Jo O’Donoghue, from Londubh publishers, said she’d been handed the manuscript and that she’d like to meet Molly with a view to possibly publishing the book,” says Molly’s mum.
“And that’s how it happened. From an idea to an actual book on the shelf in Eason took from August 2012 to around the end of October 2013, when it was published.”
Prone was touched by Molly’s letter — and her manuscript. “A lovely letter arrived from Molly. I had a fabulous lady, who has published me for the last 30 years and who could give her a steer. The next thing I heard was that Jo was going to publish Molly’s book. It’s a beautiful, hardback book.”
Molly contacted Lorraine Keane (red silk gown) who, as a prominent style icon and an ambassador for Trocaire, was the choice to write the foreword.
“She was lovely and she understood the charity element of it, because she works with Trocaire and World Vision and has visited camps in Africa, and in places like Lebanon, and she knows what it is like out there,” says Molly, now a first-year student at Kilkenny College, and living in Athy, Co Kildare, where her family have moved.
“I also love Helen Steele. She wrote me a letter about her favourite, short puffy jacket and she sent me a t-shirt from her own collection, which I wore to the launch of the book on Sunday, Nov 10, which is the international ‘day of giving’.
“Helen was really nice — she launched the book for us and she was so lovely. Out of the whole book, I love her short, black puffy jacket the best.”
Broadcaster Brendan Courtney nominated the beautifully cut, three-piece tweed suit he wore for his first appearance on the Late Late Show. “She wrote to me and I wrote back, explaining that my favourite was a vintage, three-piece tweed suit that I bought in the Harlequin second-hand shop in Dublin. It was for my first appearance on the Late Late Show, and I tried it on and it fit like a glove.”
The shop assistant said it had already been bought. “I rang the guy who bought it and explained that I was going on the Late Late Show and really wanted it.” The man sold the suit to Courtney for €200.
The last few weeks have been a rollercoaster for Molly — 450 people attended the launch of the book. “We sold about 200 books at the launch and Brown Thomas bought 100 copies for their Marble Room,” Molly says.
“I didn’t expect anything like this to happen — I came up with the idea and I just thought I’d see how it goes, but it took off and that’s great. The Chic and Cheerful shop, she says, does worthwhile work: “It’s a really fabulous charity and is completely volunteer-led. This shop feeds 390 children a day in Ethiopia and supports 200 children through their education in Kenya.”
Lorraine Keane first met Molly was she was seven years old. “She came to see me at the Irish Tatler Ultimate Girls’ Day Out weekend — an event I host in the RDS every year. My first impression was she was very sweet and polite, if a little shy, at first. That was until we started talking about what she was wearing.
“I was quite taken aback by her knowledge of all things fashion. She came back to say ‘hi’ every year after that and, last year, told me of her plan to write a fashion book.
“She was 10. Within a year, she had a publisher and, by the time she reached her 12th birthday, she was a published author.
“Her achievements are an example to children — and grown-ups — everywhere. How, if you care enough, really care, you can make a difference.
“Molly’s kindness and dedication will improve the lives of so many others who are less fortunate ... while still only a child herself. It is a remarkable achievement. If only we had more Molly Parmeters in the world today.
“Every year, I travel to the world’s poorest countries on behalf of Trócaire and World Vision, to highlight the incredible work they do, and it’s the saddest thing you ever saw.”
Says Molly: “There’s a painted message on the wall of the charity shop. It says: ‘We are in the business of changing lives’ and that is what my book is all about.”
* Molly’s Style Icons is published by Londubh books, www.londubh.ie, €20.
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