EMILY LUPTON reviews ‘What I Like’, an interactive exhibition by fashion designer Molly Goddard at the NOW Gallery.
Fashion can seem intimidatingly serious and exclusive. Something actively encouraged and curated by ‘high’ fashion brands, via two-way Instagram endorsement and the appointment of ‘brand ambassadors’. Molly Goddard, an increasingly important presence in British fashion, caters to a far wider audience. Goddard’s Spring/ Summer 2017 ready to wear show, a rave-themed neon party, was described by Vogue as a ‘much needed shot in the art near the close of a long day of shows’. Goddard instructed her models to dance down the catwalk and firmly eschewed the much overdone moody strut. She also regularly enlists her friends to model her designs, in favour of professional models. For Goddard, fashion can be a powerful and irreverent force in the creation of community.
The designer’s latest endeavour, an exhibition at the NOW gallery in Greenwich, has allowed Goddard to take her belief in fun, inclusive fashion to a new level. Several trademark dresses, each seven metres long, hang from the ceiling of the gallery at varying heights. They are giant, colourful, tulle tents just waiting to be played with. While exhibition goers can climb into the dresses, as a friend and I joyfully discovered, Molly also hopes that viewers will engage with her designs through embroidery. Anybody and everybody is invited to ‘doodle’ on these dresses. This warm, friendly, and crucially, unselfconscious approach to fashion enables a much wider scope for people to feel included in the process, rather than being distant onlookers. Goddard’s dresses feel like fashion’s answer to graffiti, sewn-in tags and pictures cover them from top to bottom. Viewed as a whole, these dresses, littered individual marks and traces, usher in a new, collaborative idea of fashion in a uniquely enchanting manner.
The act of threading a needle back and forth though the fabric is calming, even meditative, but it also serves as a reminder of the sheer amount of skill needed to create high quality clothing. This reminder was another aim of Goddard’s; the designer has shown frustration at the fashion industry’s increasing concern with fame at the expense of craft. The simple act of getting viewers to sit down and try their hand at embroidery encourages a greater appreciation of fashion as artistry-something that requires real talent and practice. By placing a firm emphasis on the creative process which underscores fashion’s final products, Goddard takes us back to the medium’s fundamental elements. The skill of the craftspeople behind the impressive garments which adorn celebrities also deserves applause. This exhibition repositions fashion as an artistic piece or work to be admired and wondered at, not just a product to be consumed.
Of course the dresses themselves are beautiful. Their bright neon colours jump out through giant glass windows as viewers approach the gallery. Goddard’s use of tulle, one of the designer’s favourite fabrics, cannot fail to impress. It is so easy for a material generally used to make ballet tutus to look childish and dated, yet Goddard’s reinvention of the fabric feels extremely current. Her influence is easily traced; High street establishments such as Newlook and Topshop abound in long, opaque tulle dresses. Yet, despite her increasing influence, and meteoric rise within the fashion industry, this open exhibition serves as a statement that Goddard’s ethos will not be changing. Fashion, according to Molly, should not be a serious business limited to celebrities and the superrich, but should prompt respect, and above all, joy.
‘What I Like’, by Molly Goddard is open to the public at the NOW Gallery until the 22nd of February. Other work by the designer can be found on her website: http://mollygoddard.com/collections/