London-based Greek designer Mary Katrantzou might have just created one of the most wondrous moments in fashion history: Instead of hosting her Spring/Summer 2020 fashion show in London, Paris, Milan or New York like everybody else, she staged hers at the Ancient Greek temple of Poseidon — a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the major monuments of the Golden Age of Athens.
Built in 444–440 BC, the ruins of the temple of Poseidon continue to stand on a rocky clifftop 60 metres above the Aegean sea today. The site has served as a supreme source of inspiration for human civilisation — from mathematics to languages, literature, art and philosophy — since its construction, and this marks the very first time government permission has been granted for a private event to take place at the treasured heritage site.
“I wanted to use ideas that were birthed here, in the 5th century before Christ when the temple was built,” Katrantzou explained, to Vogue, how the ancient temple has inspired her collection. Through the use of couture-like techniques, the designer conceptualised ideologies — such as trigonometry to physics, biology, theology and philosophy — born two-and-a-half thousand years ago, exploring and showing the world how they remain relevant in the modern world.
Seeing the 15 remaining white marble Doric columns as a gateway to history, the 36-year-old designer dedicated her latest collection to honour the cultural heritage and achievements of her country, but the show was about more than just clothes: the event was also hosted in support of the local charity for children with cancer, Elpida Association, which is marking its 30th anniversary. As the designer described in her show notes, it was a “show in the present, celebrating a past, for a charity which gives hope for the future for thousands of children”.
Attendants made donations to Elpida as ‘payment’ for tickets to the show, and help also came from those who share her Grecian roots, including Ancient Greek Sandals who supplied handmade sandals, Oscar-winning Greek composer Vangelis who created the music for the show, and Bulgari who flew in precious fine jewels to complement the collection (Turns out, its founder Sotirio Voulgaris was born in the mountains of Greece before moving to Rome).
Titled ‘Wisdom begins in Wonder’, every piece in the collection was created as a tribute to a Greek ideology, and the show was opened by a model dressed in a monochrome column gown named ‘Socrates’, featuring a quote by the Greek philosopher realised in hand-applied fringes and bead embroideries: “The only true wisdom is in knowing you know nothing.” The gown was followed by another beautiful halter neck floor-length named ‘Pythagorean’, covered in cascading fringe cut in shapes resembling right angles.
There was also a beautiful high-neck gown in midnight blue named ‘Luna’, adorned with celestial bodies and star charts in shimmering Swarovski crystals. Larger-than-life tulle and feather dresses were popular favourites, including the map on the ‘Cartology’ gown embellished with 3-D floral appliqués. Other highlights included a ‘Courbe’ gown named ‘Innovation’, which appeared in verdant green with a hyperreal engineered print embellished with sequins and bugle beads.
Paying tribute to Greek mythology — a large part of Grecian culture — we particularly adored this fortuny-plissé cut-out column dress with ‘Amphora’ sleeves as well as a Swarovski crystals-embroidered bralet in the bodice, with a shape that resembles the scales of the Greek Goddess Nemesis, the daughter of Justice.
The show was concluded with an emotional moment, where models were joined by young cancer survivors, who have all benefitted from Elpida. “It wasn’t enough to do a slogan T-shirt, my team and I wanted to do better; to really push the envelope in terms of innovation and design,” said Katrantzou.
With such an epic location, awe-inspiring theme and charitable cause, Mary Katrantzou has definitely set a new bar for fashion designers today, pioneering a new way of thinking not only about the clothes, but also how to use creativity and influence to achieve a bigger and brighter picture; to celebrate and really connect the world.
Scroll down to see highlighted pieces from Mary Katrantzou’s SS20 collection.