Moldy Smith: A Name to Change the Fashion Game

Last semester, I decided to embark on a journey completely new in every aspect for me, but it has by far been one of the best decisions I’ve ever made: studying abroad in Paris. During the time I was studying abroad, I got to meet amazing people and build incredible memories that will be forever engraved in my heart.

Paris is a magical city with magical and interesting people. For my luck, I met Sabrina Lee (aka Moldy Smith) at my host institution in Paris, whom I felt the urge to interview due to her incredible creative personality. 

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So where are you originally from? Tell me a little bit about yourself.  

My name is Sabrina Lee, I’m 22, and I’m from Houston Texas. I’ve been here in Paris for 4 years studying entrepreneurship and fine arts at the American University of Paris. I’m actually in the process of starting my own clothing line.

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What are some of your favorite hobbies?

Sewing, taking pictures, making videos, and painting are big ones lately. Anything artistic. I do a little bit of everything, but I guess my main focus is fashion. I try to take funky pictures, do weird videos to get attention, and then build a following and see where that goes. But for the most part, fashion.

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What was moving to Paris like for you?

It’s been a wild ride.  A bunch of ups and down. On my freshman year I was so bright eyed, everything was new and once I moved out of the school housing and had my own space, I had a hard time adjusting. I felt like I saw a different side of Paris, I was living my life alone and I had my ups and downs but for the most part the reason why I started doing all the art is because I’m not really inspired by the Parisian fashion.

I feel very pressed and I can’t express myself like I can in America, so that’s why I started my Instagram page, taking weird photos and videos, and trying to find my own inspiration amongst the hardships. I feel like in Paris, I can’t dress up without getting weird stares on the metro, and it’s really tough for me because it’s such a big part of my life. It’s been getting easier each year, and I’ve been getting more and more confident. I want to see where it snowballs. 

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Are you planning to stay in France after graduation?

I would like to. I’m trying to figure out some plans. I have some options like either go back to language school just to get the visa but for the most part I’m working on my portfolio right now.

How long have you had Moldy Smith?

It actually started my freshman year. I had a different Instagram handle; I didn’t have many followers. I was just documenting my life in Paris and then freshman year one night I got really drunk and I painted my face blue and started taking pictures and it was such a new and weird experience. I really enjoyed building sets and dressing up, doing customs, doing random stuff so Moldy Smith kind of became an alter ego of who I wanted to be on the streets.

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How did you pick the name Moldy Smith

It’s actually a funny story. Me and my friend were watching this movie from New Zealand called Boy and the accent was really thick so you couldn’t really understand much, but in one part this  kid introduced himself and with the accent I heard Moldy Smith and I thought: that’s a cool ass name, I wish I had that name, and my friend goes:  “that’s not what he said, he said Morris Smith,” so I adopted it from that. 

What are your inspirations? What’s the process of Moldy Smith? When did you decide to start a YouTube channel?

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Well I’ve always had a YouTube channel, but I never knew what direction I wanted to take it. You always see these girls that get famous and they do beauty videos, fashion hauls or DIY videos, and for a second I did that, but it didn’t feel true to who I was. It just felt so commercial; everyone was doing it. And then inspiration started to strike me. Have you seen for a big-time call? (referring to one of her YouTube videos) like for that I saw a car mirror at a thrift shop and that inspire the whole video. 

I consider myself a bit shy to be honest, so I try to focus on the visuals. I’ve always loved Pee Wee’s playhouse, I watched it growing up.  very crude humor. Another thing that inspires me a lot is my neighborhood, Pigalle, also known as the sex neighborhood. But It depends on little things and of course, I love movies and directors like Wes Anderson and Tim burton.

Favorite contemporaries? Influences?

I like Chloe Wise. She inspired me to start painting again. She had a show last year in Paris that I went, and her paintings are just so beautiful, she uses a lot of clouds and food products with brand names, so it’s very capitalist, funny and ironic. Nadia Lee Cohen too, she does a lot of portraits too.

Do you go through the process of screenwriting/ storyboarding?

So this is my notebook, here is where I write all my ideas. My friend gave it to me for Christmas and she decorated it. I started doing storyboards because it really helps me to organize my thoughts.

I also scribble and doodle, I don’t necessarily script things, but I write down phrases and plan the sets. For example, the next thing I’m going to do it’s a horror trailer called “Rabid.”

Do you do the post production yourself as well?

I do it all. I edit and everything. I only have iMovie so I try to get as creative as I can. Ever since I was little, I would play around with windows moviemaker, but I didn’t really get into it until I found the voice and vision that I wanted to execute. 

Where do you get all the props?

I got the green screen on eBay, the props on AliExpress (but takes a minute to get them), and also dollar stores are a big thing for me. Here in Paris, I usually go to bazaars because they sell random stuff like this key chain… I see weird trinkets and they’ll inspire me like the car mirror, for example.

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Favorite thing about Paris?

UUUHH… I feel like I’ve had so many opportunities (besides my creative side being suppressed) I’ve come across so many opportunities once I searched for them. Once I started finding my own life outside AUP I felt like I really blossomed. And even though Paris for the most part is a pretty conservative city; I feel like the whole world is here. I’ve met so many amusing people and been to cool art shows and concerts that has helped me connect with people with similar taste and that’s been nice. 

Anything in specific that you remember?

I met Wes Anderson just walking around, crazy things like that that only happen in Paris. I also styled the photoshoot of one of my friends band and the pictures got really popular and the creative director of Celine notice them and she invited me to the after party… and I never thought that all of this would happened but the fact that everything is here and that Paris is so small and everyone comes it’s what has really opened the doors for me. 

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Follow her on Instagram: @MoldySmith

And for her amazing crazy YouTube videos:

Cinthya Franco