Monday, 24 June 2013

Mary Katrantzou's Base of Black and White F/W '13/14

It seemed Mary Katrantzou deliberately threw herself at everything that doesn’t come naturally to her this season: dourness of color, reduction of print, absence of trompe l’oeil wit. Most of all, she appeared to be out to tackle conceptual cutting (with a big nineties C) experimentation in abstract shape that never sits well with her usual modus operandi of surface decoration and storytelling.

Well, you could see where Mary was coming from. Backstage, she articulated her need to step outside her comfort zone. “I wanted to step back from color and print and contemplate shapes and silhouettes. It was important for me to take that time,”she said. It was the first season we draped on the stand in a very complex way.”

You can sympathize with her dilemma. The sudden withdrawal almost a panicked rush from all that is bright and playful was endemic on the New York runways. Katrantzou has been a leader in color and print since she burst onto the scene in London in 2009, and being a hyperintelligent young woman, is one of the first to mentally internalize the desire for change. The trouble is that in doing so, she, among many others, ran into the danger of pushing faithful followers out of their comfort zones, too. Yes, there’s a need to switch things up in fashion. But the current severity of the designer-response begs the big question: Do we want to deny ourselves the joy of clothes?

Actually, Katrantzou hasn’t abandoned print altogether she just stripped back her multicolored pixel-popping palette to a base of black and white, inspired, she said, by looking at turn-of-the-twentieth-century photographs by Edward Steichen, Clarence White, and Alfred Stieglitz. So yes, you could catch fragmentary images of trees and iron bridges and blurry skies wound around her asymmetric cuts and bell-shaped skirts and displayed on severe, flat-as-a-board, off-the-shoulder structures.

Some of her experimentation in shape read for anyone who can recall that far back as straying into the territory mapped out by Alexander McQueen or Hussein Chalayan in the mid-nineties. That, and a touch of geisha-influenced wrapping and folding. What it meant was that the delightful harmony between theme and playful silhouette she has made her own became disrupted.

There are two saving graces here. One is that Katrantzou has developed an extensive line of commercial options that she sells alongside her runway collection so there will be simpler, wearable shirts, dresses, jackets, and knits on offer in her showroom. The other is, whether or not her efforts to stretch herself this season were successful they do demonstrate her courage and daring. Young designers all good designers, actually need to be able to take risks. Perhaps this season will prove to be a creative stepping stone to something stronger next time. Katrantzou, after all, has only been in business five years, and despite the fact that she has built up a global clientele, it’s healthy that she still wants to push herself to learn.


Selections by ANDREA JANKE Finest Accessories 

Photo credit/Source: VOGUE
Runway: Photography by Marcus Tondo / InDigitalteam / GoRunway
Details: Photography by Gianni Pucci / InDigitalTeam / GoRunway

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