Polly Mellen


‘My life has been a visual privilege.’

Legendary stylist and editor, Polly Mellen, on a life less ordinary.

Interview by Jonathan Wingfield



Polly Mellen is a legend. For over 50 years, she worked with some of the world’s greatest photographers to create images that have marked fashion history forever. There was the painterly yet scandalous bathhouse shoot with Deborah Turbeville for Vogue, as well as the daringly lusty 1975 shoot with Helmut Newton, cheekily titled “The Story of Ohhh…”. Not forgetting her work with Irving Penn, Guy Bourdin, David Bailey, and Saul Leiter, and later on, with Herb Ritts, Steven Meisel, Mario Testino, and Steven Klein.

From the very beginning of her career as a stylist and editor, up to the shoots in the early new millennium, there was also Richard Avedon. Their professional partnership helped shape the vision of Harper’s Bazaar in the 1950s, and Vogue from 1960s to the 1980s.

System, and creative director Dennis Freedman, visited Mellen at her home in Connecticut to discuss what it was like working with fashion’s legends, and now, later in life, being one.

Read the conversation in full in System issue No. 9.