I have been a fan and follower of Josh Goot since he established his eponymous label in 2005 and I have watched his signature emerge and its strengths develop as the telltale signs of confidence and success made themselves known. But I have maintained a perception of him as a brooding and deliberate man for many years and have always seen him as something of an anomaly for an Australian designer, operating in and for his own world.
So despite always enjoying his presentations, the idea of meeting him had me unsure as to what to expect – bar that his serious, edgy and, some might say, highbrow approach to his work may reflect his personality: prickly, pretentious and slightly unapproachable. I need not have worried. He came with a calm, casual and affable manner completely belying this notion and, if anything, adding another dimension to his work.
We met at Captains of Industry, the men’s jack-of-all-trades hideout. As he walked in with his publicist, I felt my suspicions becoming a nervous reality. But his keen interest in the location – its ‘Melbourne-ness’ – and his doe-eyed enthusiasm settled any awkwardness. We quickly relaxed into conversation.
Goot is quick, intelligent and without fanfare. In an industry that promotes the flamboyant and fantastic, he plays against type, but only so far – because, almost always, at the heart of any brand lies a cool, calm and collected individual with an autocratic hold on affairs. Goot is this guy; he is the dictator of his land and knows that total control will always yield the best results.
He is welcoming and easy, friendly and giving. To meet him without prior knowledge, you’d be hard-pressed to guess his vocation or his dedication to its laborious processes. He reminisces about his first time entering the L'Oreal Melbourne Fashion Festival (LMFF) Young Designer of the Year; his sopping wet collection seemed a certainty of failure but he won. He discusses his ‘000s take on modernity, on sportswear and comfortable luxury, on the unique edge needed to be the deserved winner of the coveted award.
By the time Goot showed in New York in 2007, the seeds had been planted for what we see today. This show was serious, a coming of age; it was the turning point for a local designer gone international. Watching his carefully selected slim, slick waifs sans jewellery, adornment or superfluous detail, it was clear the signature had been signed. “The city was a perfect match,” says Goot.
Goot showed several collections in New York before packing for London in ‘09. Here, his graphics and use of colour tapped into the curve, the pre-trend zeitgeist, and his best work found its footing in these London Fashion Weeks. With solid reviews and a reputation as part of the international new wave of young designers now secured, Goot is finally back in Australia with his autumn/winter ’10 collection (working to the Northern Hemisphere schedule) that resembles the culmination of his work abroad.
His latest collection fits somewhere between the silhouette of Judy Jetson and a Rorschach ink blot. The perfect symmetry of the print-work is an art in itself; the process and production barely a secret, but so complex and involved it remains the realm of the devoted and gluttons for punishment alike.
Images of lightning reminiscent of nebulae and cosmic explosions are manipulated on screen to form the Rorshach-like symmetry, though instead of ink-blot black the prints are day-glo bright. And the use of black or white silk base cloth provides a positive and negative effect on the space left behind. It’s a very impressive result.
But it doesn’t stop there. On the beautifully tailored jackets the symmetry is challenged by the centre back seam that forms the fold of the print. The result is a complex puzzle with the jacket laid out as part of the cloth, every piece and size breakdown spread perfectly. It is the Josh Goot way, and if you have trouble understanding simply take a look at one of these jackets and marvel.
Goot’s work is extremely body conscious, as if the creatively termed body-con movement exists almost for his own benefit. The likes of Herve Leger and Azzedine Alaia are famous purveyors of the movement, yet Goot’s is a softer, Australian take. He is very conscious of his market, but also understands that this is a narrow path.
“How do you maintain these brand values but expand your market?” he asks, rhetorically, aware that the future success of the label lies in broadening its appeal without losing its inherent qualities. That said, despite the body-con nature of his clothing it’s not just tight or small – although Goot freely admits that it’s for those who (arguably) take good care of themselves. It is designed to flatter and emphasise the female form; it is cut and constructed to make the most of your assets.
Expanding his market is no easy task for Goot. Picking up Belinda Seper, a long-term supporter and stockist, and becoming a new member of the David Jones fashion family will help spread the word, but knowing the story and the lengths he goes to he’ll make it happen. You can tell there is a wholehearted belief in what he does, in the process and the result. It’s there in his eyes, in his explanations and his body language. When you do something you love and enjoy, the hard times and set backs become mere obstacles to the ultimate result.
Goot and I met up again later that evening at the Belinda GPO store launch of his A/W ‘10 collection. Comfortably introducing the pieces and their inspiration to the guests, he was humble but not shy. We shared a drink and ended the day… two men discussing floral prints for the next season. But if history has taught me anything, any softness or notions of English country gardens are out of the question. This is Josh Goot after all, and his is nothing if not a double take on expectations. I expect defiance.