Bene Fêtes

Jay Godfrey's Designs Are Not Your Grandmother's Gowns

The designer spills on his inspiration, why solid colors make sense and why he loves Houston women.

By Sarah Rufca Nielsen August 22, 2016

Chita craft  susan oehl  jay godfrey  mia gradney pjxl05

Designer Jay Godfrey (second from right) with Women of Wardrobe Summer Soiree chairs Chita Craft, Susan Oehl and Mia Gradney in his designs.

Image: Daniel Ortiz

Jay Godfrey is a New Yorker, full stop. His fashion line is based in New York, he lives in Manhattan and he boldly talks about his commitment to designing for the modern New York woman. But he loves Houston women, too.

"I love coming to Houston," says Godfrey, who caught up with Houstonia last week just before his collection was the centerpiece of the Women of Wardrobe Summer Soiree at Tootsies, benefitting Dress for Success Houston. "The Houston woman, she loves color—that I know—she has a lot of events to go to, which is great for my collection, and she loves to dress. It's kind of the opposite of California where everyone is super casual. People love to dress in Houston, which is wonderful." 

The Pre-Fall and Fall 2016 collections seen on the runway and on event chairs Chita Craft, Mia Gradney and Susan Oehl were strong on asymmetric style, with cascading ruffles, lace panels and voluminous sleeves adding a bit of femininity to Godfrey's signature minimalist look. Though he says it's no accident that his pieces have elements that are on-trend (he's a particular fan of the one-shoulder, ruffle-neckline dress) it's all in service of a cohesive, long-term vision.

"When I was just starting out, I candidly made a lot of mistakes trying to be too many things to too many people. I started looking at other design disciplines other than fashion, whether it be fine art, architecture, even music, and in doing that I started to realize those who become known and respected from an artistic point of view usually are known for one thing."

"The Rolling Stones are known for one particular style of rock 'n' roll (and I'm certainly not comparing myself to them). Frank Lloyd Wright is known for a specific type of architecture. You know a Picasso when you see one. So, what felt right for me was using a clean, solid palette, and then we embellish in other ways, whether it be trims or cool zippers or interesting grommets," says Godfrey. 

"I think there's plenty of amazing designers out there who do formal in a way that's very grown-up. We do it in a very youthful way, in a very sexy way, and arguably in a very clean and minimalist way. Although I used to work for Oscar de la Renta, I'm not looking to have that customer. I'm looking to appeal to the young, modern woman with a very clean, architectural sensibility."

The color palette for the collection, which Godfrey says his design team expends a lot of effort curating, is led by fiery red, cobalt blue, blush pink and plenty of black and white, each hue interpreted in a plethora of ways to fit into the modern woman's life, whether it's a weekend-ready romper, a work-appropriate silk blouse or dresses for cocktail parties and galas.

Godfrey specifically took inspiration for this collection from the monochrome slash paintings by Italian artist Lucio Fontana that he discovered at Art Basel. 

"There was something subtly sensual about it, and something beautifully clean about it. It really formed the departure for fall, so you can see it manifest itself in different ways—it could be a cutout, it could be in the form of color, and even accents of gold," Godfrey says. 

This was Godfrey's second time as the presenting designer for the Women of Wardrobe event, and he says that in addition to supporting a great cause, he really finds the experience valuable.

"It's one thing to interact with retailers—and I'm fortunate enough to have some amazing ones like Tootsies—but I like meeting the end consumer," he says. "I love hearing what women want. It's the ultimate question."

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