Mary Katrantzou doesn’t rest on her laurels. She made a name for herself with eye-watering kaleidoscopic prints, continued to fascinate us with 3D embellishments, surprised us when she stripped it all back to a muted palette of gray and monochrome last fall -- and this season she has pushed forward once again. Gone were the searingly bright colors and fluoro-fabulous flounces, and in their place was a serene luxury that left us breathless.
You could see an almost pious devotion to her craft, from the moment the opening look appeared in all its floor-grazing, pleated lightness, a lustrous scroll of embroidery running down the front and setting the tone for the entire show. Richer and richer the dresses became: Appliqué on top of lace, embroidery on top of appliqué, guipure on velvet, chainmail on silk...a succession of techniques so extravagantly labored that it was exhausting to even think about.
And, unsurprisingly, exhausting to create: "There are 750,000 stitches in one of those lace dresses," Katrantzou told us backstage after the show. "We worked with a Swiss mill to create it and from start to finish it took 20 days to make -- actually we are lucky it even arrived in time for the show." She continued, "It felt very new to me because that craftsmanship – even though it existed in previous collections – wasn’t our main focus before. Because we had pared back the silhouette we could concentrate completely on the intricacies of each look." Last fall, Katrantzou’s stripped-back show drew mixed reviews from fashion press, but it seems now that by pulling back and focusing on silhouette, she was able to pave the way for a collection where shape and surface were perfectly balanced. But as always with Katrantzou, there’s more than meets the eye. A closer look showed the lavish embroideries to be made up of quirky symbols: road signs, smiley faces, sale announcements and family emblems. "Originally the collection was going to be all about uniforms: construction workers, boy scouts, city-boys in pinstripes –- but I got more and more interested in the symbols associated with these than the uniforms themselves, and that became the focus –- drawing these symbols together and working with them to make them into something beautiful."