By Michal Goldfein
Living in Brooklyn, and growing up there, I’ve always loved the hustle and bustle of city life. When I go to out-of-town places, though, I truly appreciate the down-to-earth, open-hearted mentality of people who live in the suburbs. This rings true every time I visit my in-laws in Bala Cynwyd, Pennsylvania. Although it is an out-of-town place, due to a thriving Jewish community it has become an epicenter for culture, food, and fashion.
One of the places I love most there is Jody’s Collection. Jody Molinari, the owner of Jody’s Collection, sells women’s, teen, and girls’ clothing. They have fashionable, on-trend pieces mixed with classic pieces that have a modern edge to them. What I love most about her store — and the owner — is the personalized touch Jody brings to the customer experience. She wants you to look good and feel good, and that is the atmosphere in her store. She also carries a unique set of accessories and clothes, which makes her a one-stop shop. I’d highly suggest a stop at her store whenever you are in the Philadelphia area. You can also shop her clothes on Instagram @jodyscollection and on Facebook. Trust me: you will not be disappointed.
Michal Goldfein: How did you become interested in fashion?
Jody Molinari: I was always interested in fashion and in making my own clothes.
MG: What is your earliest fashion memory?
JM: I was always going into my mother’s closet, but, in fact, one thing in particular comes to mind. I distinctly recall my grandmother’s cedar closet on the third floor of her house. My sister and I used to run up there and go through all her gorgeous gowns. I loved watching her get dressed and was always enthralled by that. I even remember going into my mother’s closet and taking her scarfs and tying them to look like skirts or shirts.
MG: So you definitely had the passion for fashion at a young age! How would you describe your personal style?
JM: My personal style is very classic. I tend to wear straight silhouettes that are clean and crisp. Personally I’m not so trendy and I keep things for many years.
MG: What inspired you to open your store?
JM: Well, my background is in the fashion industry. I went to FIT and worked in the fashion industry in Manhattan. I started out in the wholesale business in menswear for many years. When I moved to Bala Cynwyd, I ran into the issue of not being able to find clothes for my daughter. So what inspired me was that I looked around and saw that there really wasn’t a store where I could buy clothes for my daughter. My store was born out of the need for modest clothes in the community. That need was the impetus for me to start my business.
MG: I don’t even think you have any competition!
JM: There were a few others when I started out but now I’m the only frum clothing store around. There was a real need when I started out. I opened my store in my home with just basics for girls, like shells and pencil skirts, and it grew from there.
MG: As a mother, has it been hard to balance work and life?
JM: My kids are older so I don’t have that struggle so much. Once in a while I will get that phone call, and my daughter will say, “Oh, I see you can’t talk right now, you’re in the store.” But I’m definitely sympathetic to those young mothers out there trying to achieve that balance. Baruch Hashem, at this point in my life, it’s the perfect career for me.
MG: How do you decide what trends to bring to your store?
JM: Part of it is dictated by the market but another aspect of it is dictated by what my customers need. My taste level, and what I want to sell to my customers, is a factor as well. It’s really a few things that play into the decision-making process. For example, this fall I have a lot of fur and velvet. I’m also seeing a lot of play on fabrics, like the ponte with a velvet, or fur and fabric. I have to take into account what’s in the market and what my customers would buy.
MG: In terms of modest fashion, do you think there are enough options, and where do you see room for growth in that part of the industry?
JM: When I first started out there wasn’t a lot available. In today’s day and age, I have to narrow things down to what I want to give to my customers. I have to think about how to give my customers clothes with great fit, cut, and quality.
MG: What’s amazing is that you are selecting clothes for girls, teens, and adults!
JM: Basically, I start with apparel for girls in sizes 6–18; teens are 12–22, and women’s sizing goes from XS–XXL. We really do have to pay attention to the women’s market and the sizing for women. This is an area that I think could be improved upon.
MG: Can you explain that a bit further?
JM: I think the manufacturers are not well-versed enough in the size scale, in the specs of what women need. From my background, I know that there should be a size scale that’s universal. It seems to me that the size scale is skewed a little bit. For example, an XL in one company is not an XL in another company, or even within the same brand. When a girl comes in and she’s buying a size 6 in one brand and she’s buying an extra-large in another brand, that’s a problem.
MG: Right, the companies are not on the same page!
JM: Even within the same manufacturer, one person can be two different sizes. It’s difficult to maintain the continuity within the market and that’s a challenge I find as a store owner. For me, customer service is the most important thing — that I give the customer a product that I can stand behind. Sizing is very important and we want to make the customers feel good. That’s an important aspect of the business. I do think it’s getting better, and I do try to work with companies that have more appropriate size scales. Thankfully, there’s a bevy of modest-clothing companies to choose from.
MG: Speaking of companies, do you have any companies you love?
JM: One company is Solika, which is great. Their fit is usually pretty consistent, their quality is terrific, and their prices are good, so that’s one company I know that I can depend on. In the kids’ market there’s Luella Couture, Three Bows, and Teela which all have nice quality. In the teen market, there’s a new brand called Lilac Designs and I love their quality. I happen to be very loyal to the ones I’ve used from the beginning, but my customers love seeing new companies being brought in.
MG: I remember first coming into my husband’s family, and seeing that there was nowhere to shop for modest clothes in Bala Cynwyd, so you’ve definitely filled that void.
JM: I have to make sure that my customers have what everyone else has. I have to make sure that I can be comparable to the stores in New York and New Jersey. Here I have to be very careful that everyone doesn’t see themselves coming and going. Since we are a small community, I have to buy one of everything. So definitely more styles, but only one of each size in that particular style. I make sure that I know what everyone is wearing so that when a customer comes in and says, “Oh I love this; who has it?” I can answer them honestly. For instance, I only buy one size range for a particular style, so only four people will have that in the community. Unless it’s a basic, I stick to this rule of thumb. My customers really appreciate this!
MG: What is your favorite season? Why?
JM: Fall/Winter, because I love the fabrics and the colors. This season there’s suede and velvet and it’s all so rich and luxe. It’s also much easier to be modest and fashionable in the fall. Everything can be long-sleeved, and you can wear a mock turtleneck as well. The boots and the gloves, the scarfs and the hats — it’s so much fun for my customers, and me— to accessorize as well. It was 100 degrees today and I’m selling the fall collections; it’s crazy and I love it!
MG: What are some fall trends you are excited about? I’m seeing a lot of color…
JM: There are a lot of jewel tones, which I love. Beautiful teals and burgundies. Women want to wear color and women look good in color. The biggest thing for me, when I buy color, is that I have to make sure I’m going to be able to tell a woman what to wear with it. When a woman buys a colorful dress, she always asks, “What color tights and what color shoes should I wear with it?”
MG: Sometimes it’s hard to decide when to wear a certain dress that has a dressier fabric, like a metallic.
JM: You know what my answer is? As long as you’re comfortable, go for it! I always say that you can wear whatever you want, as long as you own the look and feel confident in it.
MG: Is there anything new that we haven’t seen before this season?
JM: The real answer is that everything gets reinvented but in a different way. There’s a little bit of bronze and sequins going on, which is nice. What I’m seeing is dresses with two different types of treatments in them. I have a dress in the store that the front is velvet and the back is silk. So that’s new, mixed media in dresses, which are really nice.
Vertical treatments in dresses, which are new for this season, are very flattering. Every woman looks good in something vertical. Another trend for women is sweater tops with sweater bottoms, like an oversized sweater with a narrow sweater skirt bottom. They are coming back in treated fabrics like a lurex, or a sparkly knit. It makes it look a little bit newer and fresher.
For kids, I’m seeing a lot of whimsy, like cute appliqués and treatments such as bows.
MG: I know it can be tricky because I have two teenagers and one loves the feminine styles and one is very sporty and simple.
JM: You are lucky, because nowadays you can find both styles in the market.
MG: What is one piece of clothing that you think every woman should have in her closet?
JM: A good black dress so that she can layer something over it, or accessorize it.
MG: Is there a fashion trend that you wish would come back in style?
MG: Ha! I love your candor.
MG: How would you describe your store and the type of clothing you offer?
JM: I would say classic, fashionable, modest clothing. My vision is to keep to current, fashionable clothes that are in the market.
MG: I think fit is very important; is there any universally flattering silhouette?
JM: It’s so hard to say because there is no universal figure. All women are made so differently so you can’t say that one silhouette is going to fit all body types. I always say that you have to put on and wear what looks good on you. What looks good on me is not going to look good on a tall, thin woman or a pear-shaped woman. That’s why we have different colors and fabrics as well.
MG: What goals or plans do you have for your store in the future?
JM: Right now, I’m happy where I am. This is my third year in my storefront and I’m very happy with the progression of the store thus far. I just need more dressing rooms! My goals are to keep doing what I’m doing—giving women, teens, and girls fashion that they love.
MG: The truth is you’ve accomplished so much already! What advice would you give to someone trying to venture into the fashion industry?
JM: My biggest advice would be to love what you do, and to have a vision and stick to that vision. One other thing is to have a mentor, someone you can talk to and bounce ideas off of. Most importantly, though, is to have a vision and not to veer from that. To know where you’re going, why you’re going there, and how you’re going to get there.
MG: That’s very sage advice. Thank you for all your insight, and I can’t wait to see your new fall arrivals!
Michal Goldfein is a fashion influencer and content creator on Instagram and posts daily modest fashion inspiration @TheFashionDetour. You can listen to her modest fashion podcast on Apple podcast and on Jtriberadio.com. Email your fashion questions to Michal at Thefashiondetour@gmail.com.