Molly Goddard Gives Us More
The Young British Designer Talks About Why Her Designs are Anything but Whimsical
- Interview: Rebecca Storm
- Photography: Lukas Gansterer
“I get miserable sometimes when I walk down the street,” explains designer Molly Goddard, “and everyone is wearing either black or navy or grey.” Minimalism’s zenith has infiltrated nearly every aspect of our lives and is beginning to overstay its welcome. Goddard’s work stands as a rebuttal to diatonic palettes and enigmatic silhouettes. Against the background of our achromatic urban sprawl, her pieces incite a jarring sensation similar to what audiences might have experienced when seeing Fellini’s first technicolor film, Juliet of the Spirits. One could say that Goddard’s designs pay homage to mid-century Italian cinema, but don’t call them costumes. Goddard instead invites us to re-think our staples. And it’s an invitation we ought to accept.
You do a lot of work by hand, where does it all start?
The way we begin our collections is I’ll do loads of research. I go to the library and collect lots of images. We buy vintage clothing and take it apart. We look at different kinds of techniques, and then we buy interesting fabrics and really experiment with those fabrics to see what we can do. We work in the studio for a few weeks up until the show experimenting—lots of things are made up as we go along. We don’t draw up a sketch and then send it to a factory. It’s more of a constant process.
Do you develop a sort of a personal attachment with each piece?
Definitely. There are some things I don’t want to ever have reproduced.
Do you have formal training, or have you been navigating this work all yourself?
I studied fashion at university, but I taught myself more than anything else. The people that work in the studio are all trained in costume, so it’s a learning curve for them trying to think about things from a fashion approach rather than a costume approach. Sometimes it’s a case of me telling them not to do things so perfectly, or them making me do something more perfectly. It’s a good balance.
Aside from this serious dedication to the technical and production, there’s also this ethos of nostalgia as well. Do you ever feel like it’s hard to balance those aspects?
Not really. I think that nostalgia has gotten a bit of a bad name for itself. I don’t invent things out of thin air necessarily. There’s always some sort of reference from the past—whether it’s a memory, or a dress I wore when I was younger, or an image I’m inspired by. I think that drawing from the past goes hand-in-hand with being creative and having ideas.
Many of your pieces could be classified as ultra-feminine, but they also challenge that with the fact that they’re see-through and can be worn over jeans and hoodies. Are you hoping to redefine this idea of dressing up, or simply broaden it?
That’s something I’m still figuring out. I like the idea that the clothes can blend in with what that person is already about, rather than function as a total transformation. I don’t know if that’s something I’m going to do forever, but at the moment the transition interests me. I guess it’s the idea of day-to-night, but in a bigger sense in many ways. What was I saying? I’ve lost my thread…
I mean, do you think your pieces should be treated as costumes?
I would really prefer if they weren’t treated as costumes. Obviously there are some things that are not something you could necessarily wear to walk down the street everyday because they’re enormous, but they’re not costumes. They’re like the big ideas, and then you let that filter down to more wearable pieces.
Would you prefer to see them more as wardrobe staples?
I wouldn’t want people to wear them and feel like they’re in a costume. I want them to feel amazing. We’ve worked hard to make a collection where there’s big ones that have so many meters of fabric, and you could wear it during the day. I love that idea. I like to be casual at night and wear big dresses during the day. I quite like that kind of contradiction.
Do you think your work would be treated the same if you chose a more muted palette, like white and black and grey?
We always do offer everything in black and white and grey a lot of the time. I love grey. It’s one of my favorite colors. But I’m just always drawn to color. If you can use it, why not use it? I get miserable sometimes when you walk down the street and everyone is wearing either black or navy or grey. People are surprised by pops of color, and I wish it was kind of the other way around.
I guess that keeps color sacred in a way. How integral would you say color is to your creative process?
It’s very important. I like it when things clash. And I like it when things aren’t quite expected and are almost not too beautiful. I quite like a pink that’s too pink, next to brown. I don’t really follow the rules, if there even are any rules!
Have you ever seen one of your dresses worn in a way that was really unexpected or inspiring for you?
Probably Rihanna. She’s obviously incredibly confident and incredibly beautiful, so I think that’s quite exciting—she’s brave and doesn’t mind what people say.
What about any strangers?
I saw someone wearing one with a big kind of army jacket on top, like a grey one with a big green army jacket and trainers, it looked natural and relaxed. I think it was over jeans.
It’s interesting to see them dressed down.
That’s how I wear everything. I wear pretty much all my dresses over jeans and trainers during the day.
You’ve basically mastered dresses. Are there other pieces of clothing you’d like to try?
I love knitwear, but finding the manufacturing is quite hard. I want to find a really good factory that I enjoy working with in England. I think we’re working on that now, so I’m looking forward to doing some new knitwear.
As someone who actively makes elements of the past contemporary, what are some of the greatest sources of inspiration for you?
When I research, I kind of just go to the library and pull out random books. I sometimes pull out an architecture book and look at what the people are wearing—if they have an amazing house they’re likely to have amazing clothes.
“If you do something pink and frilly, it’s almost immediately put in this princess bracket, or fairytale, and I don’t like that.”
What do you think is the most surprising source of inspiration?
I like looking at old men, seeing what they wear. I think old English men dress quite well in a strange way.
You mentioned you wanted the set for your Fall Winter 2017 show to be a party for every age. How important is inclusivity for you in terms of age?
Very important—we’ve worked with similar models for a long time now, and it’s been really nice. But I think I’ve definitely been wanting to work with slightly older models. When I design the collection, I don’t just think about people in their twenties. I think about all ages. With this collection, I was trying to think about clothes that everyone could wear. And I think everyone can wear my clothes.
So you don’t think that age should dictate the way anyone dresses?
No, definitely not.
That’s one thing that I love about your shows, is that it’s not only dainty women…
It kind of just comes naturally. With the styling, we use girls that are strong and confident and interesting and happy to stomp around. Girls that aren’t too fussy or vain—that’s what I like. There’s an interactive part to our shows, so you get to see that side of the girls’ personalities, rather than just them on a pedestal in this pink-frilled dress, which I think would give off the wrong message.
“I sometimes pull out an architecture book and look at what the people are wearing—if they have an amazing house they’re likely to have amazing clothes.”
Do you hope to redefine what can be constituted as “pretty?"
That’s a hard one. I think what I’m interested in is the word femininity—I think the words “pretty” and “girly” have slightly negative connotations. If you do something pink and frilly, it’s almost immediately put in this princess bracket, or fairytale, and I don’t like that. I like to think there’s quite a lot of strength to it, and it’s bold and fun rather than pretty and whimsical. I don’t think I’m very pretty or whimsical, so that’s what I like to play with and subvert. You can make something pink and it can be tough—it shouldn’t have to be girly. There’s nothing wrong with girly, it isn’t a bad thing, it’s just annoying if you’re forced to be one or the other.
- Interview: Rebecca Storm
- Photography: Lukas Gansterer