How Harry Styles' Creative Director Fell Into the Music Industry

ISSUE 04 2020 - PR PHOTO
Hélène Marie Pambrun
Molly Hawkins

In the early 2000s when Molly Hawkins was 20, she moved to New York to pursue a career as a DJ — but ended up working in fashion and “hated it,” she says. She became a waitress instead.

That spring, she and her friend, Terrible Records co-founder Ethan Silverman, drove to South by Southwest, and when she returned, a friend from Nashville who happened to be in the band Chairlift hit her up, saying, “ ‘I heard you’re in the music industry now!’ ” she recalls. “I was like, ‘Oh, my God, it worked!’ ” The friend asked Hawkins to be the band’s tour manager as it hit the road with MGMT in 2007; following the tour, she started managing Chairlift full time. “Shortly thereafter we got a commercial with Apple, so I quit my waitressing job — and that was the last one I ever had,” she says.

After that, Hawkins spent five years as the creative director of independent label Young Turks in London, through which she met label founder Caius Pawson, who introduced her to client The xx. More recently, the now-35-year-old has worked with Harry Styles and rising artist Kelsey Lu. “The xx, Harry, Lu — they are all in control,” she says. “There are so many dudes in this industry who just want to be like, ‘Well, basically I’m a genius.’ But I wouldn’t be shit without [the artists].”

 

Nine months before Styles released his 2017 self-titled solo debut, his producer played some unreleased tracks at a party. Hawkins was there — and was impressed: “I texted Jeffrey Azoff, [Harry’s] manager, who I knew from a previous client. I was like, ‘Dude, let me meet Harry. I think we could do something really special.’ ” They immediately hit it off. For Harry Styles and last year’s Fine Line, they texted images back and forth until they landed on a direction that felt right. Visuals aside, Hawkins believes the ethos of both projects is the same: “When I think about seeing Harry live as a fan, I try to remember how I felt about Leonardo DiCaprio when I was 13, and how as a young woman it was fucking awesome to see a man that was so romantic and unabashed.”

 

Hawkins met the British DJ-producer when she worked with his group The xx early on, and soon discovered their shared love of raving. “We’re both the kind of people to be the last at the party, and we really bonded over that.” Hawkins says that because so many of Jamie’s initial fans and partners (like KCRW Santa Monica, Calif.) came from a more indie-leaning world, “There was this super fun challenge of giving the experience of 3, 4, 5 a.m. in a warehouse in Manchester [England] to people at 9 p.m. at the Shrine [Auditorium] in Los Angeles or 4 p.m. at a festival tent stage.” Her solution? A massive disco ball. “Not the most original idea ever,” says Hawkins, “but there’s a reason it works: It makes everyone feel like the show is them.”

 

When Hawkins left Young Turks and moved back to the United States around 2014, she felt that something was missing. “I just knew I wanted to manage another artist again,” she recalls. While watching the New York-based band Wet perform (her friend managed the act), she was struck by the opener, Kelsey Lu. “I was just like, ‘Look, I’m in love with you, you need to let me manage you,’ ” says Hawkins, adding: “A couple months later, she was like, ‘Fine!’ ” Hawkins, who also works with Lu on creative direction, says she’s inspired by the artist, who has performed with Blood Orange and Florence + The Machine, saying: “[She’s] brave and doesn’t give a fuck about how many streams she has or who thinks whatever — she is on her own path.”

This article originally appeared in the Feb. 15, 2020 issue of Billboard.


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