It’s going to happen. I will be the mother who puts tiny Vans on her not-yet-mobile infant because sure, it might be totally pointless but they’re just so darn cute. I will dress them in the most precious little outfits, and put clips in their barely-there hair. It will be splendid and they will love it. But on the off-chance they don’t, what’s a mother to do? Perhaps craft together a lion coat, complete with a furry mane hood. That’s exactly what Molly Goodall did when her little one wasn’t so hip to the idea of a hat or hood. And guess what? Kids and parents loved it, and Little Goodall hit the scene. Molly also offers her extraordinary coats in adult sizes so we can all have a little fun. As far as I’m concerned, playful bunny ears are probably the best way to have a fantastical day.
NAME Molly Goodall
LOCATION McKinney, Texas
EDUCATIONAL BACKGROUND BFA in Fashion Design, Parsons School of Design (now known as “Parsons the New School for Design”), Class of ’97 – my senior thesis was on childrenswear
COMPANY Little Goodall
Tell me a little bit about your (completely adorable) company & how you first got started. After my son was born I felt the need for a new creative outlet. Sewing for him was something I could accomplish in a relatively short amount of time, and put away quickly or come back to as his baby schedule allowed. When he began to suffer from ear infections, the pediatrician made me aware of the importance of him having his ears covered when he played outdoors in cooler weather, yet I could not convince my son to wear a hat or hood, he would pull it off the second I put it on! There is no reasoning with an 18 month old, so I was in need of a creative solution. I thought if I made him a coat that felt more like a fun costume he might like wearing the hood – so I designed and made the first Fantastic Felt Lion Coat. It worked, people commented whenever he wore it, and a business was born!
I am so impressed with the inventiveness of your collection. Where do you find your inspiration? Has it at all changed since launching? I have always been a lover of children’s books and children’s book illustrations, and much of my inspiration comes from them, as well as love of nature. It also comes from the fabric – if I find a felt or a wool in a great color, I have to find a way to use it. As my son grows older he continues to inspire me, the robot coat I introduced to the line this year was a direct request from him. This fall several new styles are the produce of some really great trims I was able to source.
Take me through your typical workday. What does a day in the life of Molly Goodall look like? My day starts when we get up around seven. My husband is already up, so I make breakfast for my son and myself, pack his lunch, and we play games or draw for a bit until it is time for me to take him to school. After I drop him off I usually go to the barn for about two hours and ride (we lease a wonderful Arabian horse from a friend), and then get back to the studio. Then I’m either working on new styles, managing production, or packing and shipping orders. Several times a week I head to the cutting room or sewing rooms in Dallas which do my production, or to the embroidery shop or pattern grading and marking shop. I am lucky to have a group of really talented craftspeople nearby, I consider them all to be parts of my team! In the afternoon I pick my son up from school, and we will go to the library or the park, or he may have a riding lesson. In the evening my husband picks up whatever shipping I need dropped off while I make dinner, then we eat and our day comes to a close.
Tell me about the design process. What goes into drafting a pattern? What do you look for when selecting your fabrics? Designs all start with a fabric choice and a sketch. I use a lot of woolfelt which comes in a wide range of colors, I love it’s feel and sculptural quality. If I can find good wool wovens I will use them as well, and for summer I like linens and cottons. The most important thing is that the fabric is available in a wide range of colors, because then I have a good palette to choose from. Once the sketch is complete I will talk with the patternmaker, referencing any existing patterns we have already made and give her measurements for specific lengths and widths. She will draft the base, then I will add details (ears, tail, appliques), and we make a first sample and try it on the child dress form. Adjustments are made at that point, and when I am happy with the result the hard pattern goes to the grader who grades it into the different sizes based on the scale we developed. Originally I did all the pattern drafting and grading myself which was so time consuming that I did not have time to design anything new. Now I love working with the pattern maker, pattern grader, and pattern marker and the resulting finished garments are better than ever.
Little Goodall undoubtedly has a bright future. Where would you like to see yourself & your company in five years? Well, we are moving to a new custom studio space in 2015 which will give us an actual stockroom (right now our guest bedroom and living room are filled with garment racks) and more room for my interns. My book, Wild Things to Sew and Wear will be out this month on St. Martin’s Press in the US and Frances Lincoln Ltd. in the UK, so I hope to continue to inspire people to sew in the future with more patterns as well as video tutorials. As far as the line goes I plan on continuing to develop new styles and techniques, but maintain the small batch construction to keep the product special and of the highest quality possible.
Has there been a particular moment where you felt most accomplished and validated in your career? I just returned from NY Now, the big New York gift show at the Javits Center. Little Goodall was one of 24 brands selected by Etsy to represent their wholesale division. It was the first time I have done any sort of show, and the reactions to the line were overwhelmingly wonderful. I had people stop by to show me their cell phone photos of their children wearing Little Goodall, people who said we had been on their pinterest pages for years saved for children they did not yet have, and people who were just delighted with the clothing. Since so much of what I do is online from the comfort of my little studio, it was definitely the most validating moment of my career!
Although rewarding, being an entrepreneur is absolutely hard work. What has been your sure-fire way to regroup after a long day, week or month? Sometimes you have to know when to call it a day! If I am feeling overwhelmed or uninspired, I have to do something different – go to a museum, to the lake, to the barn, for a hike. Build something with my son. Go away for a long weekend! Before I know it I am excited to get back to work and far more productive than if I had just continued to work. One become less efficient and makes more mistakes when tired. I have also learned that if some part of a design is not working or falling into place then I need to give it space and come back to it. Sometimes this means months or years between initial concept and finished product, but it is always worth the wait. It’s part of being true to one’s style and aesthetic. I don’t want to put something out there until I love it.
I absolutely love the Honey Bunny coat! What a wonderful idea to make your designs available in larger sizes. Have you found that mothers are interested in coordinating with their children or that ladies simply want to add a little flair (and undeniable fun) during the colder months? You know, I had no idea that people would want the coats in adult sizes. When the first requests began coming via email it was definitely unexpected! I started doing them as custom orders, and now when a new style debuts if I have enough requests I will have the pattern drafted in adult sizes. I love the spirit of it – if a coat with bunny ears can brighten a little one’s day, why not an adult? They are certainly going to garner smiles on the street! And the signature of Little Goodall is that of classic coat shapes with a twist, so from the front you may just appear to be wearing a nice double breasted coat, until you walk by and the ears are hanging down in back. It’s what I laughingly call “tongue-in-chic” humor. It takes a certain type of woman to carry it off, but she knows who she is!
What have been the most 1) gratifying and 2) challenging parts about working for yourself? These are usually one in the same. Every healthy small business goes through constant growing pains, and it is challenging that I have to solve all the problems myself (from how are we going to make this tail to what shipping software will work best). When they are solved, however, I feel gratified that I was able to meet each challenge. The challenges get bigger, and the solutions more complex, but it’s like building a castle – one brick on top of another, and before you know it, you’re head is in the clouds!
Guilty pleasure? Business travel – since I am a work at home Mom, it’s wonderful to get out on my own for the occasional business trip.
Favorite animated movie? Would you believe I hate animated movies? I love illustration but I don’t like animation or cartoons at all. But I am a huge, HUGE Wes Anderson fan however, so does The Fantastic Mr. Fox count?
Last book you read? Delicious! by Ruth Reichl
Favorite smell? Rain (which begs the question, why do I live in Texas?)
Cake or pie? Both! But mostly bread pudding!