amy van doran
photo: Photographer: Janine Ngai. Retouching: Heeral Chhibber

#SuperProfesh is all about highlighting the vibrant personal style of entrepreneurial women from every field and background, showing the world that a work uniform never has to be basic.

Amy Van Doran is the matchmaker who genuinely cares about your love life. The founder and CEO of Modern Love Club, Van Doran is well known for her gleefully over-the-top style, her neon hair, and her thoughtful approach to matchmaking.

We visited her East Village office, which doubles as a gallery space, to talk about her career in romance, her style, and what it takes to run your own business in NYC. (Hint: sneakers, puppets, and a basketball purse.)

Art direction: Heeral Chhibber
Photography: Janine Ngai
Lighting: Will Johnson
Hair and makeup: Glamsquad
Words: Alle Connell

amy van doran
photo: Photographer: Janine Ngai. Retouching: Heeral Chhibber

“I became a matchmaker 12 years ago. I wanted to be a performance artist, so I moved to New York from Florida to make weird art. One day I set up this table in the park with a sign that said “free love advice” and started giving strangers love advice as they walked past on the street. I started getting a little famous in, like, a two-block radius as the lady who gave love advice. That’s how it all started for me.”

“Matchmaking felt like a very natural thing for me to do. I’d always been interested in love and setting people up and helping them be happy. In school, I would matchmake my friends at the mall and send secret letters … I always thought it was inspiring to put people together, to help them find that joy. If there’s any way for there to be more wonder or joy or strangeness in the world, I want to be part of that. My style is an extension of that.”

amy van doran modern love club
photo: Photographer: Janine Ngai. Retouching: Heeral Chhibber

“I’d describe my style as 1960s futurism, maybe with a splash of surrealism. I usually dress to amuse myself, but my outfits are really all about happiness. When you’re wearing a really great outfit, your day goes better — if you’re walking down the street and six people tell you your outfit has made their day, it’s very hard to be in a bad mood! But it also might brighten someone else’s day, and maybe gives them permission to do what they want with their own style.”

amy van doran
photo: Photographer: Janine Ngai. Retouching: Heeral Chhibber

“Fashion should make you feel confident and excited. I’m very emotional when it comes to style, and I’m very emotional when it comes to colors. I’m definitely attracted to orange items. I have a purse that’s a basketball that I carry around. Orange is a very emotional color for me right now!”

amy van doran
photo: Photographer: Janine Ngai. Retouching: Heeral Chhibber

“As a matchmaker, I am aggressively marching to the beat of my own drum, and the way I dress reflects that. Matchmaking has been an industry built on making people feel afraid — afraid of being alone, afraid of not being good enough — so then they hire a matchmaker. Those matchmakers give advice like, ‘Oh, you need to change your body by putting it into this uncomfortable clothing, or be more blonde, or not have curly hair.’ I don’t approach matchmaking by making people feel fear, and my style reflects my ethos.”

amy van doran
photo: Photographer: Janine Ngai. Retouching: Heeral Chhibber

“I do give clients style advice, but not to tell them what to wear to attract a partner. I try to help people find their personal voice, and help them express that in the way they present themselves. When the things that you love are able to be expressed through your style, that’s a beautiful thing. I think a person’s style should be an extension of them and the things they care most about.”

“Having a strong, specific style and aesthetic to yourself is extremely important. If you’re looking to develop your sense of style, know that it has to be about you — not trends, not about other people. Find the things that you love and share them!”

amy van doran
photo: Photographer: Janine Ngai. Retouching: Heeral Chhibber

“I’ve never had to dress a specific way for work, but when I first started, I thought I had to look like all the other matchmakers, so I tried to dress richer than I was. I tried to buy fancier things for my work wardrobe. But then on the weekends, I’d wear my bright and colorful vintage clothing! I realized that clients connect with me when I look like *me,* and when I’m my most authentic self. My clients know that I’m the best at what I do, and they’re going to work with me no matter what I’m wearing!”

“Though my style can be a little wacky, I take my career very seriously. I’ve interviewed more than 7,000 single people, which I think is more than all the other matchmakers combined. I’m very academic about romance and the structure of what makes one experience different from another.”

amy van doran
photo: Photographer: Janine Ngai. Retouching: Heeral Chhibber

“I think that no matter your job, you can always find little pockets of personality for your wardrobe. Whether that’s a brooch on a more professional jacket, or a conservative look and then some wacky glasses, you can usually find a way to make your style YOUR OWN. You can infuse your own style into any work wardrobe with some creativity.”

amy van doran
photo: Photographer: Janine Ngai. Retouching: Heeral Chhibber

“One of the things I love about being in my 30s is that I don’t have to pretend. My style, and my life, has become more authentic. I’ve really come to a place of radical self-acceptance. I feel very authentic in my skin, and that carries through to my style. I feel like a more lived-in, comfortable version of my style in my 20s.”

“My style has changed, and now it’s more important for me to be comfortable. I’ve been wearing a lot of jumpsuits and space suits lately, because I need to be able to move, do some karate chops. I've recently discovered sneakers, which has vastly improved my life. Until recently, I was always in heels.”

amy van doran
photo: Photographer: Janine Ngai. Retouching: Heeral Chhibber

“When I’m getting dressed for work, the most important thing that informs my outfit is what I’ll be doing that day. Style is about self-expression, but as a small-business owner, it also has to meet my needs. Maybe I’ll be doing eight matchmaking interviews, then gallery stuff, then meetings, maybe I’ll want to go exercise — so the most important thing when I get dressed for work, whatever that looks like in a day, is how can my outfit serve as many of these needs as possible.”

amy van doran
photo: Photographer: Janine Ngai. Retouching: Heeral Chhibber

“I always say that your look attracts your tribe, and there’s a great community here in the East Village, where the Modern Love Club storefront is located. Right now, we have an art exhibit up until the end of the month, and then my friend Arielle is having a feminist pop-up clothing shop here … it’s so great to have a space where people can do the things they’re SUPPOSED to do. I think if you’re open to wonder, and if you make room for it to exist, it comes in. That’s what this space is all about.”

“As a matchmaker, I bear witness to the hopes, fears, and desires of a lot of people. When people talk to me about the love they want for the future, you’re talking about childhood traumas, devastating heartbreak, all these painful things that hold people back from the love they deserve. It gets heavy. So my #1 thing is walking — I’ll walk from Harlem to Chinatown — which was at odds with my love of frivolous outfits. Something had to give. And my emotional well-being was more important, so sneakers had to come into my life.”

amy van doran
photo: Photographer: Janine Ngai. Retouching: Heeral Chhibber

“Being a small-business owner makes sense for me, but I don’t think it was expected. I come from a family of brilliant but bizarre misfits, and I grew up as a latchkey child raised by circus people. People had quite low expectations for me. So I was very happy to escape my socio-economic situation.”

“The thing is, if you grow up as poor as I was, you really can’t be afraid. If you have money, you know you can lose it. But for me, it was like, ‘I don’t have anything anyway. I’ll just move to New York! I can’t be more poor than poor!’ I was already the most amount of poor I could be. It knocked the fear out of me.”

amy van doran
photo: Photographer: Janine Ngai. Retouching: Heeral Chhibber

“The best thing in my closet isn’t clothing. It’s a puppet. His name is Maurice. I got him at this vintage warehouse in Ohio, and it didn’t occur to me that the puppet looked exactly like me!”

“Even after 12 years, I still love matchmaking. Recently, I was hanging out with this couple I introduced, and I was just watching them interact. These people were already so great, but then they came together and came into their highest selves. Later, the woman came up to me and said, ‘You know, I’ve been in love before. This is the real deal.’ She was looking at her guy, her guy was looking at her, and they were just getting each other. It’s creating moments like that that’s so beautiful.”

“From an emotional standpoint, it’s so great to see people in love and say, we did that. And sometimes the journey is long, but you get there in the end.”

amy van doran
photo: Photographer: Janine Ngai. Retouching: Heeral Chhibber

“For all the young people, if your life isn’t what you want it to be, know that there will be a point in your life where you are not at the whim of your circumstances. And if you can imagine what you want your life to look like, if you can create that, and if you stick to your guns, you can make it happen. I can’t guarantee you’ll be rich, but you could have a store in the East Village with a strange clown family.”

“Having meaning and community is the secret to life. You have to amuse yourself so you can continue the fight.”

  

Learn more about Amy Van Doran's Modern Love Club here.
To see which shows are in the Modern Love Club's gallery space, check out the website.
This story contains images of Molly McKinley's Salt Monoliths. Learn more about the artist here.