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Wednesday, 22 February 2012

London Fashion Week, Fall 2012: Mary Katrantzou.

Digital prints have been on the rise for a while now, but Katrantzou is still queen. She's been on the radar for less than four years, but youth and the fact that she runs her own label give her liberty to pursue her strengths. And what that means at the moment is that she's producing entire shows of unique digital-print clothes season after season. Thanks to a combination of critical accolades and publicity for her new Topshop line, Fall 2012 was her true breakthrough London Fashion Week show.
pics from
Mary Katrantzou shot to the top of my favourite-designers list as soon as I saw her Fall 2011 collection last year. She deserves her good reviews for a multitude of reasons, but most importantly to me, she's creating clothes that are drastically different not only from the current fashion zeitgeist but from anything I've seen before. She's the sort of expert that creates itself -- an artist who has been developing her own visual brand for years, waiting quietly for the rest of the world to catch up. I have no doubt that there are other, lesser-known designers who don't have London Fashion Week slots who have explored prints in equally innovative ways, but Mary K is the only designer in mainstream fashion whom I'd describe as a true master of the art.

In previous seasons, Katrantzou's prints have taken inspiration from various sources. This time last year it was porcelein art and Ming vases; a show full of delicately painted koi swimming around ornate fish-ponds of dresses, and imagery taken directly from decorative tiles and wallpapers. Six months ago the prints took on a far more abstract theme, and this week she's gone in yet another direction: everyday household objects. Take a look at the white dress above. What's that design around the waist? Spoons. The magic of Mary Katrantzou is that through an almost mathematical repetition of shapes within each design, pictures can lose their meaning and just become another part of the pattern. Her clothes are fun, but -- unlike a spoon-themed print in the hands of many other designers -- they're not a joke.
One of the major developments this season was that instead of having each outfit be a mish-mash of different colours like the images from which they were originally inspired, the collection as a whole was divided into sections by colour. A smart decision, because while Katrantzou has been getting excellent reviews for several seasons now, people are more likely to wear clothes that hit one or two points on the colour-wheel rather than, you know, all of them.
Typwriter dress!

Katrantzou's designs aren't all print, though. Her go-to silhouette is already quite easy to identify: neat sleeves, sharp shoulders, and usually either a peplum or some extra layering at the hips. In order to showcase the prints correctly the fabric on the majority of the dresses is unusually rigid and there are far more flat planes than one usually finds in this type of outfit. The end result is that the restrictions necessitated by Katrantzou's primary concern, the print designs, have caused a recognisable Katrantzou silhouette to emerge.
Within the strong colour divisions, each colour was represented by a different object. Earlier on we saw the red typewriter dress and the white spoon dress, but green was themed around something even more banal: grass. The gown pictured below combined images of hedge-mazes with green jewels at the hips, oversized jewels being an ongoing motif in Katrantzou's designs.
This yellow and pink dress blows my mind a little. It looks great and all -- very frothy-Hawaiian-cocktail, very Capitol City from The Hunger Games -- but God is in the details. See the swirl pattern on the body of the skirt? That pattern is made of pencils. Not pictures of pencils -- actual pencils with the erasers still attached at the end. I don't have any close-up pictures here, but there's a video of the show at the end of this post and this dress is 3.55 minutes in -- take a look. It's a really exquisite example of Katrantzou's desire to take mundane objects and make them into something unrecognisably glamourous and fantastical.



  2. The transition of colour in the collection is really well done. You definitely get a sense of cohesion and evolution.

    I love these prints but some of the skirts are clearly only meant for standing and strutting - you couldn't sit down without crushing the frills, folds, and peplums!

  3. this is such a common problem! i really like short skirts, but the majority of the miniskirts i see on the catwalks are either WAY too short or the currently-fashionable peplums make it impossible to sit down properly. of course, some of this may be an illusion caused by the disproportionately long and slim legs found on most catwalk models...


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