There’s a homespun heart to Molly Goddard’s off-kilter collections, and even to the pieces that hang in her closet, like the tablecloth she once wore to a British Fashion Council awards nominees dinner at Soho House in 2015. “I’m surprised I still fit in it,” said the designer of her long, doilylike white skirt, a piece from her B.A. show at Central Saint Martins, where she graduated with a degree in knitwear.
Wearing a tablecloth to a fancy dinner may sound like a London fashion cliché, but everyday objects — be they from the kitchen table, the home closet or the baby’s bedroom — are rich fodder for Goddard’s galloping imagination — and the industry is paying heed. The 28-year-old redhead is one of London’s breakthrough designers and the winner in the Emerging Talent category at Britain’s 2016 Fashion Awards.
She’s making a name with skirts and dresses that have volume and flourish, thanks to generous layers of tulle and the hours Goddard clocks ruching, smocking, shearing. Her collections are inspired by old knitwear patterns and children’s wear, including the gingham and frilly outfits her mother and grandmother made for her when she was a child.
She loves skewed proportions and puts a glamorous spin on the awkward, so it’s no surprise she’s a big fan of Comme des Garçons. She sells at Dover Street Market in London, New York and Singapore as well as at the Trading Museum in Paris and Tokyo. Other outlets include I.T. in Hong Kong and Beijing, and Nordstrom Space, while late last year she launched her first e-commerce site.
For fall, she’s looking at different generations of women, starting with babies and ending with grannies.
“It’s a real celebration of everything that I love and am inspired by. I’m hoping that the setting is going to feel like an ageless party, at the end of the night, with everyone lounging around. I’m thinking a lot about age and the way women wear clothes throughout their lives,” said Goddard in an interview at her studio. Its walls are papered with her minimal, elegant sketches while a shrunken version of a bright pink tulle dress from a past collection doubles as a lampshade.
“I like babies in clothes because of how weird they look — christening gowns are so big and long and often ill-fitting. Teenagers, too, have that awkwardness of dressing up and feeling a bit grown up, but also still being half a kind of kid,” Goddard added. Her fall collection, she said, will also be inspired by an “ultra-confident 30-to-40 year-old,” women in big glamorous evening dresses, and the “comfort and layering” of granny dressing.
Her focus at Saint Martins was knitwear rather than textile design, and Goddard has said she loves the idea of creating textures — and then wrapping them around the body. “I like gathering fabrics and seeing what shapes I can make. It’s kind of like fabric manipulation, I suppose,” she said.
For her first art installation, which opened last fall and runs until the end of February at the Now Gallery in London’s Greenwich, Goddard hung six big tulle gowns from its soaring ceilings, and is inviting everyone to embroider them. The idea is to create a communal artwork.
“I wanted it to be a bit interactive, and about other people rather then about me, and the space is so big, slick and ultramodern, so this is a bit more crude.”
Goddard never thought her career would take off so quickly. After graduation, she returned to Saint Martins for a master’s degree, studying under the late professor Louise Wilson, who had famously taught and mentored designers including Alexander McQueen, Mary Katrantzou and Christopher Kane. She quit the program a year early to focus on putting together her spring 2015 collection, hoping it would help her get a job; little did she know she’d soon be running her own company.
This coming year will be all about growth — controlled growth. “I think I am probably quite entrepreneurial. I get involved in everything, which isn’t necessarily a good thing, I need to find that separation. That’s why I think it’s nice to be quite small and take it slowly.”
One thing is for sure: Like any proper catwalk couturier, she’ll always design the fantasy pieces, even if they never go into production. “I loved John Galliano, I loved Dior, I loved Comme des Garçons, but I also loved Valentino and those amazing evening gowns.” She added that, for her, seeing the pieces in those shows was like going to an an art gallery to admire the one-off works.
She realizes that not everyone thinks like her. “I think everyone wants to wear everything that’s on the catwalk nowadays, which is kind of a shame. Hopefully, this season, we’re going to do some pieces that you just won’t be able to wear,” said Goddard, the designer in the tablecloth skirt.