molly goddard on embroidery, giant hanging dresses, wrestlers, and world peace

Fresh from the opening of Molly Goddard’s debut exhibition 'What I Like,' we talk to the young London designer about, well, lots of things.

by Tish Weinstock
04 November 2016, 5:50pm

Molly Goddard is like a ray of sunshine. Go to one of her shows and you're left with a giant smile across your face, feeling like you want to dance, and get to know her too. Visit her debut exhibition, What I Like, and you might also be inspired to take up sewing.

Picture a brightly colored array of Molly Goddard dresses suspended from the ceiling of the NOW gallery, in the Greenwich Peninsula — only picture them made for giants. The garments's 23-foot tulle skirts dangle down to the floor below. Stationed near each dress is a selection of super-sized needles and thread which visitors are encouraged to use, transforming the dresses as they see fit. "I want embroideries of football badges, TVs, flowers; anything people like," says Molly, "They can be crap and crude or immaculate. I like the combination." Fresh from last night's exhibition opening we talk to Molly about keeping the skill of embroidery alive and the future of fashion presentation.

How did you get involved with NOW gallery?
I had seen Phoebe English's exhibition and loved it. After that, a few people got in touch telling me about the possibility of doing a show there, so I contacted them, then presented my proposal and got the job!

What's the concept behind the show?
It's about embroidery; I want people who don't know how to sew to sew, and people who do to use that skill with no restrictions. The Greenwich Peninsula, where the gallery is, is all very new and shiny. The enormous tulle dresses will fill the big curved glass space and hopefully throughout the exhibition, be transformed with everyone's embroideries.

Why was it so important to have something interactive?
I guess I didn't want to make something which would be put on a pedestal so to speak. I love hand-made things and it's getting harder and harder for us in the studio to make things which have actual skill in them. It made sense for the massive dresses to be something people could touch and be interactive with; I don't want it to feel like an exhibition of clothing.

Why is embroidery as a craft so significant for you, and what do you hope to convey about it through the exhibition?
I've always been a bit obsessed with the random unexpected groups who do embroidery around the UK and the world. There are men who wrestle in pants and vests covered in flower embroidery — things like that. I really, really want groups like that to come and show what they can do. Also, fewer people have theses skills nowadays, so I guess we are trying to keep it alive! I would love it if a child who had never embroidered before had a go and got hooked.

Who are you hoping to draw in with the exhibition?
Anyone who can thread a needle. There will be some helpful guide posters on the wall for people who have never picked up a needle and thread before, and everything is super-size, which makes it easy. I hope that people who work in nearby offices will embroider in their lunch break, students, WI groups, men, my friends. I find it very relaxing, like meditation. I am sure we will get some willies.

The interactive side puts a sense of fun back into fashion. Do you think fashion sometimes takes itself too seriously?
I think fashion exhibitions can be a bit stale; it's hard to show clothes in such a static way and keep them fun. It's certainly one of the less serious jobs around, so [it's] worth making it fun when you can.

Exhibiting your work in a gallery space is a departure from traditional modes of presentation. Do you think this is the direction the fashion world is moving  away from the seasonal catwalk?
I don't think so; I think the seasonal catwalk is a great thing. But the pressure to sell more than everyone else to pay the bills does make it harder to do frivolous catwalk shows. I would be very sad if catwalk shows stopped altogether though, I love them.

What else are you working on at the moment?
Working on fall/winter 17. I am very excited about it as I have more time than usual to research and have a good idea for the show, which hopefully will keep presentation-lovers happy.

What are your hopes and dreams for the future?
World peace.

'What I Like' is showing at the NOW gallery through February 19, 2017.


Text Tish Weinstock
Photography Charles Emerson

London designers
Molly Goddard
now gallery