Celebrating a subversive kind of femininity, Molly Goddard makes handmade dresses for girls who can’t keep still
Ripped My Favourite Party Dress
All clothing Molly Goddard SS15 throughout.
From the Summer Fashion Issue of Wonderland.
Molly Goddard is redefining girliness. Not in a trite, superficial way and not in the kind of way that requires an impenetrable essay in the show notes to explain it, but in a powerful, confident, super-smart way that champions (thank God) a sharp sense of humour. Known for her sugar-pink ruched and floaty tulle dresses, Molly’s subversion of gender stereotypes is worlds away from Tom Ford’s dubious streetwalker empowerment or Chanel’s feminism-by-numbers. Instead, she takes classically feminine, romantic tropes and re-imagines them in a world of scruffy hair, scabby knees and scuffed trainers.
For AW15, Molly and her gang of diverse street-cast models took over a presentation room and, aided by her set-designer mother, turned it into a live life-drawing class. Wooden easels were propped up across the space while paintbrushes, paint pots and pencils were scattered throughout. At the centre, surrounded by a troupe of squinting, studious artists in frothy dresses, corduroy smocks and knitted lurex jumpers, stood a stark naked man. It was a subversion of clichéd fashion in the most fun, least pretentious way possible. “I’m not consciously trying to do things differently. It all happened naturally,” says Goddard. “I think there’s something quite dated about totally static models. I like those old Dior shoots where the models were really energetic and had a bit of personality – it makes the clothes so much more exciting when you see them moving in a real environment.” As far as it being a statement on gender, she adds, rather refreshingly, “Obviously I consider myself a feminist, but I try not to get too into that because it can make everything seem quite contrived.” Clearly this isn’t feminism for fashion’s sake, though despite not wanting to make things “overly complex”, there is certainly a sharp self-awareness to everything Goddard does. I sense a slight exasperation with the current fashion climate and when discussing admin difficulties over her decision to cast a naked man in the presentation, she quips: “God, you get half naked women walking down catwalks every day.” She’s got a point. Being selected for NEWGEN sponsorship for AW15 puts Goddard in the “Young London Designer To Watch” bracket, but similarities to her peers are few and far between, namely because in a climate of “more is more”, she still makes each piece by hand. “I don’t like the idea of mass production and even if I’m making 20 of the same dress, I like it when they’re all a bit different. Hand-making makes everything a lot more precious. If you buy an amazing suit you know hours of work have gone
into the cut, but I suppose I like it to be a bit more obvious than that. I like it to feel as though it’s been a labour of love.” Despite working for hours and hours on intricate, hand-crafted pieces, Goddard’s dresses aren’t in luxurious organza or silk but tulle, largely because initially, when toiling, she used it as a cheaper alternative to calico. “I like the idea of using something that certainly isn’t a couture fabric and manipulating it so it becomes really special,” she explains. “I’m trying to keep my prices as low as I can because I want [my designs] to be quite accessible. Everything is handmade, but I don’t want to make pieces that most people absolutely can’t afford.”
By refusing to play by the rules of high-end fashion, Goddard singles herself out from the rest of London’s pretty dress-makers. Instead of mere floaty romance, her dresses are tactile, genuinely youthful and often styled with trainers or plain cotton tops underneath. “There are things that you could wear with [my dresses] that can really change the tone, I find that quite scary. I think there’s a very fine line with my stuff. That’s why I only like working with my sister – she tones it down.” Molly’s sister Alice, stylist and editor of style title Hot and Cool, has consistently styled and cast her shows. “Working with Alice is great, because she’ll put a dress with a scruffy t-shirt and then find that girl who would wear the scruffy t-shirt.” She laughs that the whole set-up is a “bit of a family affair”, with her mum usually doing set design for fashion week and her boyfriend, Tom Shickle, (of indie band Spector) helping with production. “I love the idea that your mum’s put you in this really amazing dress, but you’ve shoved a sweatshirt on top so you can only see the hem or something.”
It’s hard to imagine how, after hours of sewing and ruching, the designer can muster up the willingness to place her dresses in the context of a careless, tomboyish character who’s probably going to fall over and rip the sleeve as soon as she’s out the door. But it’s precisely this unique, modern vision of femininity that makes her designs work so well. Unsurprisingly it’s catching on quick. And faced with a daunting number of Dover Street Market re-orders from last season, she has to rush off. Before her departure, I ask her if there’s anything she misses now that she’s so busy with fashion. “When I was younger I used to be quite obsessed with painting trees,” she laughs. “It sounds a bit romantic, but I used to just churn them out.” Romantic? Yes – and wildly peculiar. Perfect? Absolutely.
Photographer: Hanna Moon.
Fashion Editor: Issey Brunner.
Words: Bertie Brandes.