Dressed to frill: like her outfits, designer Molly Goddard’s reputation just keeps growing

She’s not yet a household name but the 28-year-old is on the way after her voluminous dresses stole the show at London fashion week

It was a day packed with not-to-be-missed shows at London fashion week. There was Versus, the secondary label from Versace, in town for a razzle dazzle show sure to please the paparazzi with a starry front row and roll-call of big-name models; JW Anderson with his influential mix of eclectic inspirations and gender play; and House of Holland for its sense of fun and guarantee of It girls. But all the anticipation on Saturday was for one twentysomething London designer who has enjoyed a rapid rise to prominence.

Molly Goddard may not be a household name – yet – but she is already award-winning, and worn by celebrities. Why is she the name to know? Frills are the look of the moment, and Goddard is the master. Since setting up her label in 2014, Goddard’s brightly coloured tulle and silk smock dresses – often using up to 30 metres of fabric – have quickly become a trademark, one that fashion insiders instantly recognised as the real deal, on both a creative and commercial level.

Her shows have the kind of editors who matter – Vogue’s Suzy Menkes, Alexandra Shulman, Sarah Mower – in the front row, with retailers including Colette and Dover Street Market also attending. Recognition of her good work has come quickly – at last year’s fashion awards in London, she won British emerging talent.

Editors at fashion week pledged their allegiance to Team Goddard by wearing her designs in the front row, and Goddard’s dresses are also a celebrity favourite. Agyness Deyn wore Goddard when she married Joel McAndrew last summer. Rihanna has worn her clothes since last year – with a pink Goddard tulle mini-dress part of her outfit for the women’s march in January. And Zawe Ashton chose a gingham Goddard dress for the Elle style awards last week. Goddard deserved a gold star for imagination at Saturday afternoon’s show. The brutalist space of the Switch House extension of Tate Modern was transformed into the scene of a just-finished dinner party – with long tables in the centre and upholstered chairs out of place. Glasses of half-drunk wine and crumpled napkins covered the tablecloths, waiting to be cleared up by their hosts the next day. Chaises longues and wicker chairs were part of the show seating, and there were ingredients for martinis on tables.

Molly Goddard’s brightly coloured designs lit up the brutalist Switch House extension at Tate Modern.
Molly Goddard’s brightly coloured designs lit up the brutalist Switch House extension at Tate Modern. Photograph: Tim P Whitby/Getty Images

The set-up would have chimed with anyone who spent their youth being taken to dinner parties thrown by their parents’ friends in liberal Bohemian London, especially when the models sat at the table and tucked into the drinks provided. “I was thinking about when all the generations come together,” said Goddard, the daughter of a sculptor and a set designer who grew up in Ladbroke Grove, west London. “When I was younger, your parents’ friends invited you round and there would be really old ladies and babies and everyone there – you don’t know what to expect so you either dress up too much or not enough.”

With this collection, the former prevailed as Goddard continued – and went further – on her frill odyssey. The first dress out was a pink frilled midi-length concoction, with enormous puffed sleeves – like the nightie that Clara in The Nutcracker wears, reimagined for a millennial.

Volume remained a theme – with tutus, frilled skirts and smocked dresses featuring, and a wide turquoise dress of tiered tulle a highlight. “I always like to do bigger,” said Goddard. “The big blue one was actually meant to be half the size, and everyone was worried they made a mistake, but I was overjoyed because it’s bigger. I like things scaled down or scaled up. The middle ground is not so interesting to me.”

Volume was a theme of Molly Goddard’s show at London fashion week.
Volume was a theme of Molly Goddard’s show at London fashion week. Photograph: Tim P Whitby/Getty Images

Goddard studied at Central Saint Martins, completing a BA but dropping out of college before finishing her MA. The dinner party was the latest in a series of shows that have played around with the traditional fashion show format.

Her first collection – spring/summer 2015, shown in September 2014 – was a series of those tulle dresses modelled by Goddard’s friends, and accessorised with plastic cups at a party during London fashion week. The following season saw her models wear her designs in a presentation that doubled as a life-drawing class, while another had models “working” in a sandwich factory.

An interactive exhibition at Greenwich’s Now Gallery last year, What I Like, brought these ideas to the public. Goddard’s designs hung from the ceiling, with visitors encouraged to embroider the dresses with phrases as they saw fit. The idea was, said Goddard, “to create intricate, bold and incredibly varied embroidered dresses, so they become like a living thing, changing daily”.

Frills are the look of the moment, and Molly Goddard is the master.
Frills are the look of the moment, and Molly Goddard is the master. Photograph: Tim P Whitby/Getty Images

The designer is still based in Ladbroke Grove. The family and friends set-up for this show makes sense. Her mother and father regularly help with the show staging. Her sister, Alice, is the co-founder of up-and-coming Hot and Cool magazine and works on the styling for Goddard’s show. Goddard’s boyfriend, meanwhile, is her business partner and studio manager as well as playing bass in an indie band, Spector.

It’s all a support network that has helped the designer go to the next level. Goddard’s first major order came from the biggest designer store in China the day after that September 2014 show. The brightly-coloured tulle dresses for the store were all made by Goddard on a sewing machine set up in the family home.

Fast forward three years, and the collections are now made by a factory in north London and sold in more than 30 stores all over the world. This collection will no doubt add more to that tally of stockists, as Goddard’s reputation – like her dresses – only grows bigger.

Goddard’s CV

Born 1988, London.

Home Ladbroke Grove, London.

Educated BA in fashion knitwear at Central St Martins. She also studied on the fashion knitwear MA course in 2014, but didn’t complete it.

Career Her first show, in 2014, was put together in six weeks for £50. It was picked up by Dazed & Confused and i-D, and, following their coverage, the influential Dover Street Market put in an order. Her second collection, at London fashion week 2015, was presented as a mock life-drawing class in which the models posed as artists, and older men posed nude. Later, for spring/summer 2016 she set up a production line of women making salad sandwiches with lettuce leaves and tomatoes that matched the colours of the dresses. She won the award for British emerging talent at the 2016 fashion awards.


Lauren Cochrane

The GuardianTramp

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