I first heard about Molly Goddard whilst I was working on a shoot styled by her sister Alice. Alice runs a biannual magazine called Hot and Cool alongside the extremely talented photographer Theo Sion. Working for Hot and Cool marked a change in my perception of what I had encountered of the modelling industry and the fashion world thus far (not so positive). The idea behind the shoot was to recreate a Smith’s album cover and Alice had prepared the most wonderfully original and varied wardrobe with clothes from Vivienne Westwood and the National Theatre costume store (as an aspiring actress I felt right at home).
I was also, for once, not greeted by the usual spread of coconut water and grapes but by the invitation to share some pizza with the team. I was most surprised by the way I was treated as an individual, rather than a mere ‘model’ in the very crudest of terms. Everyone seemed interested in what I thought of the clothes, asked how I wanted to approach certain shots and how comfortable I felt with certain stylistic choices, such as partial nudity. I felt respected and in turn I felt huge respect for both Alice and Theo. Their magazine, which is only available from their website and obscure London fashion markets, goes by the motto, “Don’t go to them, let them come to you.” They don’t believe in creating art for any other sake than to create art and that is why their work is imbued with integrity and originality. I left this shoot with a sad regret that the rest of the fashion industry could not live up to this.
A few weeks later I told my agency, MiLK, that I was going to take a break from modelling and they were amazingly understanding. Throughout my time as a model they were phenomenally kind and I owe the team so much for their never ending support – they were one of the many reasons I enjoyed the experience. Their approach to their models is refreshing in contrast to other agencies because they do not believe that any two models are alike and tailor their approach to suit each individual.
My hiatus was not because I hadn’t enjoyed my experiences so far, although it was one of the toughest things I had ever done, but because I was disillusioned with the rectitude of the industry. It seemed to jar with all the positive activism that I was seeing around me, I wanted to see the industry display the same strength, solidarity and diversity as I was seeing in the marches and protests for human rights. I have a deep respect for anyone who can endure the demands of the modelling industry, because I sure as hell wasn’t tough enough. I think that there are plenty of things that need to change and that there is a new generation of stylists and designers, of which Alice and Molly are two, who are already helping to achieve this change.
In February 2016 I took part in London Fashion Week, which I was hugely excited about. I couldn’t believe I got to be backstage – let alone on the runways – of an event I had always read about in magazines. And I did enjoy my experience; it was novel and totally eye-opening, but I wasn’t prepared for my induction into the grisly bowels of the fashion week experience. There were five days with approximately six castings a day, conveniently placed in random locations all over London – my pedometer tells me that in those five days I walked a grand total of 147,941 steps! I’d arrive at the various locations and present my show card to either an assistant or a designer, depending on the label, they would either glance at it and put it in the large pile of rejections whilst I showed myself out, or ask me to walk for them. For the most part, the castings were endless line of rejections and I’d arrive at each one amongst a crowd of girls who looked just like me and leave feeling a little less like me. I think the shortest casting I ever had must have lasted about three seconds, and on my way out a fellow model put her hand on my shoulder and told me I’d get used to it.
But this is the thing: I got used to it. I thought I had utterly moved beyond a fear of rejection after two years of failed drama school auditions and I didn’t bat an eyelid anymore when agents didn’t reply to my emails or told me I wasn’t right for a part. So why did the rejection of the modelling industry get to me so much? I think the answer is that these rejections were based on how I looked and I had always prided myself on a healthy amount of self-confidence which I was now rapidly losing. The real nail in the coffin was when I finally got through to a fitting for a show and the designer handed me a pair of breeches and I couldn’t get them past my calf muscles, which are pronounced because I’m a runner. The designer looked surprised and embarrassed as he said, “Sorry, it’s just we’re not used to girls who exercise”, implying that the models he was expecting dieted themselves in order to fit into his clothes – I could have slapped him. Anyway, I didn’t get the gig which on reflection was probably a dodged bullet. But I did end up walking in that fashion week for Caitlin Price and found the experience of actually walking on the catwalk an amazing one.
When Alice Goddard asked me to walk at this year’s Fashion Week in her sister Molly Goddard’s show I was of course very excited, but also hesitant as I thought my modelling was behind me. However, my mind was made up when I saw a picture of Rihanna wearing one of Molly’s dresses at the woman’s march in New York. Her clothes are bold, vibrant and fiercely feminine, and I thought to myself that maybe Molly would emulate her sister’s approach and it could be something extremely positive!
I went to my fitting at her studio in London where I found the atmosphere of the Fashion Week build up contagiously exciting and energetic. Tulle dresses were being embroidered on gorgeous sewing machines and Molly’s designs and inspirations were pinned up on almost every empty surface area available. Alice was helping to style her sister’s show and immediately showed me the outfits that she had picked for me and asked my opinion. I obviously loved them all because Molly is exceptionally talented and again I felt the sense that I was being included and my opinion and interest respected.
The show took place at the Switch House extension of the Tate Modern and Molly had thrown her fervent imagination at the brutalist vaults turning the space into a dining room rather than a conventional runway. The scene was a just-finished dinner party – with long tables down the center and upholstered chairs out of place for the models to lounge on during the catwalk; we ate the bread and cheese and drank the wine from the table. Molly wanted the setting to reflect a family home where all generations, friends and family come together. And she combined this friendly and relatable everyday scene with her intricately embroidered dresses which are so vibrant and varied themselves that they might be, as Molly says, “a living thing, changing daily.”
After befriending the other models I soon learnt that none of us were regular models but all people who Molly knew personally and invited there: interns, designers, friends, acquaintances as well as women she had previously worked with. This meant that the show was incredibly personal; not only for Molly but to all of us who were walking and those watching too. There was a great sense backstage that we were all doing this for Molly and wanted to make her proud. The fact that we were a carefully selected group of her friends and colleagues also meant that we were all different shapes, sizes, races and we each had an individual style that Alice made the most of in her styling. We are all extremely normal, but in the fashion industry, that made us stand out. As Vogue put it: “The new generation is fast putting old style catwalk parades using standard looking models out of fashion. Molly’s business is focused as much on friendship and how girls enjoy themselves as it is on her tulle party dresses.”
Although I don’t agree that there is a ‘standard looking model’ because all those I met were exceptionally unique, models will be made to look ‘standard’ as long as casting directors insist on casting a show of girls who all look alike. I thank Molly and Alice for having me in the show that Elle referred to as “the most genuinely diverse collection of models that I have seen this season.” I want to focus on this word “genuine” because that is exactly what my experience working with Alice, Molly and my agency has been and what will hopefully continue to inspire and transform the industry.
Emma Corrin is a second-year student reading Education, Drama & English at St. John’s College.
[Photo credits: Molly Goddard]