The kaleidoscopic Mary Katrantzou jolted her audience and disconcerted many by showing a fall 2013 collection of black-and-white digital collages of wintry trees and iron bridges. But while she was designing all that, she had something else up her sleeve too: her debut resort line, in which, she laughed, gesturing around her new showroom, “The winter collection blossomed!” Yes, hyper-colored florals and impossible landscapes are all back in place in the Katrantzou universe, and that is going to make her many followers very happy.
And Mary is making sure she knows exactly who those followers are, often on face-to-face terms. An enthusiastic traveler, she’s been all over America and to Brazil doing trunk shows recently, and has had her eyes opened and creativity encouraged by the women and places she’s seen. “Dallas!” she cries. “I had no idea about the age range of people who buy my things both mothers in their forties and their fifteen-year-old daughters; girls in their thirties, like me, up to women in their sixties. I’m understanding it all much more now. I realized I can go younger, if I want to.” So, this collection spans shorts, jumpsuits, and a charming tunic-dress with a chiffon cape for the young and leggy, and goes all the way up to a matching structured, embroidered tailored top and pencil skirt which might look perfectly appropriate on, say, a diplomat at an embassy reception.
It was rounding off her Americas trip in Brazil that gave Katrantzou the blast of sunshiney sights that contributed to some of the surreal patterns that swirl and merge to create flattering optical effects. Prints of tower blocks, repeated and regimented, swirl out on a dress with a gloriously full skirt the top stories diminishing to vanishing point at the waist. Other elements are English roses blooming on geometric trellises, chinoiserie lakes and sunsets, Victorian shopping arcades and Japanese cherry blossom in an intense shade of magenta. What’s evident in these pictures is Katrantzou’s exceptional signature an aesthetic that looks like a marriage of computer games and eighteenth-century interior decoration. Get her to describe even one of them, and you’re in for a trip: “So here is a Chinese fisherman,” she said, holding up a tunic. “He’s on a lagoon that blends with a desert overlooked by a really modern building. A bit sinister and weird!” A woman could enjoy hours of small talk at parties explaining that one.
There are also more flattering, easy to wear shapes in Katrantzou’s resort. What she describes as the “imposing silhouettes” of last winter’s runway show have softened into “exploring volume in a less extravagant, lighter, younger way.” They are often most effective in movement the swirling circle skirts, the flutter of capes. The blurred double images on the underlayer and overlayer on a violet and yellow strapless dress give the illusion that the image is almost vibrating in 3-D as the wearer walks.
That all this color and ingenuity should be bursting inside a gray industrial edifice in North London is a testament to Katrantzou’s Mediterranean eye, her intelligence, and business acumen. Just how well her clothes sell is reflected in the fact that she’s steadily taking over the building and is currently recruiting sixteen more members of her staff. Some of the jobs are in operations and logistics (she is starting e-commerce next season) but, the designer shrugs, “I’m looking for five people to work in print. There’s always more to do in print at Mary Katrantzou!”
Selections by ANDREA JANKE Finest Accessories
Photos: Courtesy of Mary Katrantzou (via VOGUE)
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