Discovery: Molly Goddard

Published July 20, 2015

ABOVE: MOLLY GODDARD. PHOTO COURTESY OF LILY BERTRAND-WEBB

In a city rife with promising up-and-comers, Molly Goddard stands out. The London-based designer staged her first presentation last September in a church hall, featuring her friends modeling an insouciant collection of voluminous handcrafted party frocks, balloons and cups of refreshments in hand. Rites of passage like debutante balls, parties, and dressing in one’s Sunday best have all found their way into her trademark sheer, subversively feminine gossamer tulle confections, which she sews by hand in her West London studio. It’s no wonder Goddard’s whimsical approach has given the Central Saint Martins alumna a steadily growing following. (A capsule collection she did with ASOS, in 2013, sold out instantly.) And in a time when fashion’s latest fix is decidedly tech-focused, Goddard’s commitment to handmade fabrication is a welcome return to the art of craft.

One of the stockists that have scooped up Goddard’s line is Dover Street Market, which unveiled their “New Beginning” seasonal transition over the weekend. DSM invited Goddard to mount an installation on the ground floor of the New York store space, as well as a window display at the London flagship, alongside her fall collection. Inspired by Goddard’s NEWGEN-sponsored presentation—where a group of street cast models wearing pink smocked dresses over knit sweaters, sheer skirts over felt trousers, and sturdy mustard colored corduroy engaged in a life drawing class complete with a nude model named George—the New York installation takes the form of an abandoned art studio, complete with a paint splattered carpet and papered with drawings created during the fall presentation. “The drawings are just really amazing,” Goddard remarks. “I hope to be making a little book of them as well.” We spoke to Goddard recently by phone, while she was in the midst of finishing it all.

LABEL: Molly Goddard

AGE: 26

HOMETOWN: London

ALMA MATER: Central Saint Martins (where she interned with John Galliano and Meadham Kirchoff)

BEGINNINGS: It sounds like such a cliché, but I always wanted to be a fashion designer. Even if I wanted to be a farmer at one point, all I really cared about were what my outfits would be like. I always had a sketchbook. I always did little drawings. I’m sure they’re really embarrassing to look at now, but I did lots of drawings of what I wanted to be wearing, what I’d make. Also, growing up, my mum made all sorts of clothes. That influenced me quite a lot because I knew what you could make quite easily. I used to make myself all these jersey dresses to go out. I’d go and buy all different patterns of jersey and just work up a dress. It was never finished, but it was just always the shape that I liked. I’d make it in half an hour and go out to a party. I was about 14.

HAND-CRAFTED: I think it sort of happened by mistake, actually [that I studied knitwear at CSM]. Kind of a happy accident. I applied to womenswear because I thought it was the only option. Then one of the teachers said, “Oh, you should apply for knitwear,” because I think a lot of my work was more about texture than silhouette or the fit of it. I always made more oversized things and it was about how it gathered or what was applied to make something new. I always liked the craft behind things, how traditional things are made. I had a lot of hand-knitted jumpers from my granny when I was younger and hand-smocked dresses from my great-granny. I think those are always my greatest inspiration. I just think they’re so beautiful. I love when things have taken a lot of time, a lot of care and attention. Spending months trialing for a perfect looking jacket…I prefer spending months making the fabric. With tulle, I think maybe on my B.A. I started making trials out of it. I was gathering so much fabric and it was the lightest and one of the most inexpensive fabrics to use. I wanted to use silk organza and then I ended up just loving the tulle more. There’s so much you can do with it. It’s very versatile.

A SENSE OF OCCASION: I never really had a ball or a prom or anything like that. That’s part of the intrigue, but I also like that coming of age moment, where you’re feeling grown up in whatever you were wearing, but that slight awkwardness of being maybe a bit too dressed up for your age or your mentality. Whether it may be like, you absolutely love it, or you wear it, but you wear it with trainers. That whole aspect of it appeals to me, just the messiness of it, I suppose. There’s something quite disjointed about the whole thing.

FALL/WINTER 2015: I was thinking about what I imagine as this ’50s posh boarding school—a bit bohemian, a bit mad, but on the surface quite grand. The idea was the girls had all been out the night before to some fancy ball and then hadn’t been to bed and stayed up for their life drawing class in the morning, but it was a bit chilly, so they wore jumpers and big wool trousers with their dresses. [The life drawing presentation] happened quite naturally. That was part of my research.  I wanted something for the models to do and I think it’s nice to see the clothes with a bit of movement and for the girls to feel comfortable and natural. We weren’t sure if we were going to have a naked man, but luckily we did, because I think it really made it. It made it very authentic.

THE FEMININE POINT OF VIEW: I’ve always liked being really girly, but I’ve always been a massive tomboy. I think that’s just something that comes quite naturally. My main thing is I like women to be comfortable. It was kind of lucky; I managed to make dresses that make you feel really special, but you don’t feel like you’re corseted up and constricted in any way. You can still move and be natural and free. I think that’s maybe what makes them feminine above everything else; you can totally be comfortable, rather than the dressmaking transforming you into something. It becomes part of what you wear because they’re often sold as just a sheer dress that you then have to choose what you wear underneath. I think that’s an important part of it. You still keep quite a lot of your character.

TO LEARN MORE ABOUT MOLLY GODDARD, VISIT HER WEBSITE. HER INSTALLATION AT DOVER STREET MARKET NEW YORK IS CURRENTLY ON VIEW ON THE STORE’S GROUND FLOOR, 160 LEXINGTON AVENUE.