Anna Molinari Is Fashioning a Career From Household Trash

Anna Molinari Is Fashioning a Career From Household Trash

Story by Angelina Cantú / Photography by Hee Eun Chung / Styling by Chandler McMillan
Jan 10, 2024

A lot has changed since Anna Molinari’s first viral video on TikTok. Since launching her page in 2020, the 25-year-old has amassed 455,000 followers (and counting). Now a full-time content creator, the designer spends her days working on custom pieces for celebrity clients such as the champion of young designers herself, Julia Fox. With a rapidly growing account and big projects on the way her career is only going to get bigger and better. PAPER sat down to chat with the designer at NYC’s newest French neo-bistro, Ella Funt.

Tell me about how you got started. What is your earliest memory of designing?

Growing up I moved around a lot, and therefore was constantly switching schools. Throughout the process I clung on to this interest in fashion and clothes, and so I started collecting fabrics from thrift stores. I would then rework them into doll clothes, Barbie clothes, which became my passion that sort of carried through every place I lived as opposed to clinging on to friendships or certain places. Fashion became the only consistent thing in my life, and that has guided me ever since.

When you were moving around, you ended up at a boarding school; how did that change the way you viewed clothing?

The people around me... they were all very preppy. They dressed in the name brands we all know, and I felt kind of alienated with what I was wearing and what I was able to afford. So I decided to just lean into my creativity — if I‘m going to be different then I’ll be really different and stand out. So that’s really when I started making my own clothing, it made me feel safe within a group of people that was sort of uncomfortable for me.


The first time i’ve actually liked a pencil skirt on me #trashion #upcycle #tryon

Is that when you realized that you wanted to pursue design as a career, or was it still a hobby?

I think I’ve always known I wanted to pursue design as a career. When I was eight years old, I watched a Project Runway marathon. I made a shirt, pinned it on my sister (definitely poked her and made her cry), and ever since then I knew that this is what I wanted to do, never questioned it. Then, when I got to high school, I started to teach myself more technical skills, and that’s when I started experimenting with sculpture, which I think was huge for my experience.

Is your background in sculpture what led you to work with unconventional materials?

Definitely, I took a sculpture class based on 3-D design, and for my thesis I asked if I could just make wearable sculptures. So they gave me a giant box of old perfume caps and I collected bunches of toothpicks and I started playing around with these unconventional materials. It was really fun, still is years later. My favorite projects are the ones that are really tedious and time-consuming.

Tell us about how you got your start on TikTok.

I studied Fashion Design and Entrepreneurship at Syracuse University, and when 2020 rolled around I was working on my thesis collection. School got canceled, we got sent home, I mean we all know how that went, but they didn’t give us any alternatives for our canceled runway show. I realized no one was going to see this collection that I poured myself into for a year. So I decided, okay, if those hundred people that were going to go to the show can’t see this then I am just going to start posting my work to TikTok. I downloaded the app and ever since then I have been posting every project that I do.

One of the first videos you posted really blew up.

Literally the second video I shared to TikTok was of these unconventional material pieces that I made in high school, and the video gained a million views overnight. I realized people actually liked it, so I just continued posting and sharing. But of course I was freaking out at the time, because only 10 people at once had ever seen my pieces. There was a big rush that came with that much visibility.

One person in particular came across your videos —how has your relationship with her impacted your brand?

One year ago, Julia Fox commented on one of my videos, so I made a video response to her comment saying these are all of the pieces I have that I think you would love. And then as I am getting in bed one night, it’s like 11 PM and I look down at my phone and there are 10 messages from Julia. I’m screaming, because I’ve never had a celebrity client before or a relationship of this nature. Since that night one year ago I have been working very closely with her stylist, Brianna Andalore, she’s amazing. They are super supportive, it’s been a dream team type experience.

Has your creative process evolved since moving to NYC?

I’ve always made everything in my personal space (AKA my bedroom) and so living in the city, I’ve had to consolidate my process to a small space, which is very tricky. The goal is to one day have a studio where I can kind of spread out, but it’s funny to me that I am creating custom looks for someone like Julia Fox on my bedroom floor.

Are all of these pieces made out of your personal trash?

I keep all of my single-use plastic as well as my friends’ and family’s. So over the years I have accumulated so much trash that I had to get a storage unit down the street where I keep full to the brim of all different kinds of trash, neatly sorted.

You have to be very creative to see the beauty in everyday waste. Where does your inspiration come from?

At the moment my inspiration comes from New York. I mean it’s hard not to feel inspired when you walk outside and there are mountains of trash. It inspires me in sort of a negative way, but it makes me want to create change. It goes to show just how much overconsumption and pollution there is in this city, and it makes me want to do what I can to spread a larger message through my designs.There is so much waste, and we need to be smarter about our consumer habits.

What message do you hope people take from your work?

I just want people to be face-to-face with how much we are consuming and the pace that we are consuming. I want my pieces to inspire people to be creative with how they lessen it. That could be upcycling, or it could just be being more conscious of how many plastic water bottles you're buying and where you're throwing those away. I just hope I can inspire people to be more conscious and make better decisions regarding their waste.

Photography: Hee Eun Chung
Photography assistant: Ellie Love Rha
Styling: Chandler McMillan

Editor-in-chief: Justin Moran
Managing editor: Matt Wille
Fashion editor: Andrew Nguyen
Editorial producer: Angelina Cantú