It’s testament to Molly Goddard’s ability to translate girlish codes into clothes coveted by women that when I speak to the designer over the phone ahead of her Fashion in Motion show at the V&A, she has just finished fitting Hollywood publicist Peggy Siegal in a pair of giant frocks from her A/W17 collection. “She chose two dresses to wear to some high profile events tonight and tomorrow; really big pink dresses in blown up in baby-doll proportions,” she tells me, a hint of surprise in her voice.
There’s nothing surprising about it really; in just three short years Goddard has carved out her niche, employing traditional craft-based processes and fairytale-princess-at-a-tea-party charm to appeal to a grown-up demographic, gaining an LVMH prize nomination in the process. Her playful ‘anything goes’ approach to dressing was evident in the Fashion in Motion show, presented in the cavernous newly built exhibition space in the South Kensington museum. An amalgam of pieces from seasons past – including some created during her Central Saint Martins BA – were shown side-by-side with a Resort 2018 collection featuring structured crinoline skirts and tartan smocks.
Goddard insists the show wasn’t retrospective, however. “It just feels too early to be doing anything like that, so that’s why I just wanted to mix everything together,” she explains. “It’s great seeing how things have progressed, and also what was good about the stuff you did in the beginning – the best and the worst.” This artful mish-mashing included some of the more avant-garde work the designer has produced: from cobalt blue gowns constructed from mountains of tulle, shades of acid green paired with the rainbow knitwear worn by her S/S17 all-night ravers and 30-foot-long long dresses that she invited members of the public to hand embroider at NOW Gallery earlier this year. An example of the latter was chosen to open the show, metres of stitched fabric carried in the model’s hands, provocatively hitched up as though she were the heroine of a 19th-century romance novella.
Much like Goddard’s previous presentations, the models’ interaction with the set, designed by her mother Sarah Edwards, was a key component. After taking to the runway, they congregated in a sleepover-esque scenario atop a gargantuan replica of an 18th-century bed housed at the V&A. At the opposite end of the space was a dining table mise en scène in the colours of Wedgewood pottery, and forming a centrepiece was an array of cloth covered pillars – ancient Greek statues in transit, perhaps? – where her girls sat and sketched their observations on clipboards. Upon leaving the show, the groups of school children drawing in the sculpture gallery just outside the exit mirrored this performative touch and marked a similarity to the designer’s own relationship with the museum. “Whenever I need to get some inspiration and get out the house, I always visit the V&A,” she says. “I never know what I’m looking at or going to look for, but just enjoy looking.”
To partake in Fashion in Motion is to join an esteemed roster of designers, including Alexander McQueen and Yohji Yamamoto, so the future looks bright for Goddard. She’s soon moving studios due to a lack of room to store her work and is starting the process of archiving her pieces. “I now make the effort to order one of pretty much everything for the archive, but I never had the money to do that before, and it’s still quite a big expense. It’s something I never ever thought about before – I never thought ‘where am I going to keep all these enormous dresses?!’” she laughs. 2017 may have been too premature for a retrospective, but watch this space.