To celebrate a decade in fashion, London-based Greek designer Mary Katrantzou’s SS ‘19 collection showcase harked back to everything that defines the designer today. A collection of collections, many called it. Best known for her signature prints, Katrantzou had models walk down the runway in her most iconic pieces, like gowns and dresses that featured perfume bottles inspired by Shalimar by Guerlain and Pleasures by Estée Lauder. There were also prints of currency, alluding to the Lehman Brothers crash, which inspired her 2013 collection. Katrantzou even brought back her famed Fabergé egg gown from her 2011 collection.
The show perfectly captured who Katrantzou is. With a bold, creative vocabulary that spans and is inspired by the designs of interior decorator Billy Baldwin (who designed famed fashion editor Diana Vreeland’s apartment), the Bauhaus movement, Olivetti typewriters, novelist William Morris, and rare artefacts dating back to the Minoan civilization, Katrantzou has managed to create an oeuvre unlike anyone else’s today.
The Central Saint Martins graduate has cracked the formula for success – prints akin to works of art and cuts that flatter everyone. Her vision stands at an intersection of art and fashion and has led to the creation of some timeless, covetable pieces. For her Fall ’19 line, she played with the theme of ‘Earth, Wind, Rain and Fire’, and out came ombre double-breasted winter coats, and beaded, ruffled, and feathered multi-coloured dresses. In 2010, her Victorian lampshade skirts became an instant rage, followed by dresses bearing interior-exterior prints in 2011. Sportswear-inspired eveningwear was the theme for her SS ’14 show, while handmade watercolour floral prints was reimagined on bubble skirts as a part of her SS ’18 collection.
It’s been more than a decade since Katrantzou first burst upon the fashion scene, and what began as a collection of a few dresses has now transformed into a globally appreciated brand. From Naomie Harris, Rihanna, and Lupita Nyong’o to Kerry Washington, Poppy Delevingne, and Alexa Chung, the brand has a global fan following. Today, she stocks out of Harrods, Selfridges, Harvey Nichols, and Browns, and collaborations with brands like Victoria’s Secret, Longchamp, Adidas, and Topshop, have only added to her repertoire.
She spoke to Lifestyle Asia on her journey so far and how India inspires her.
Trompe-l’oeil has become your signature; you have transformed it into a unique art form. What inspired you?
I wanted to create a visual language that is image-led that allows me to challenge the boundaries of imagination and fashion.
How difficult is it to stay relevant in the dynamic fashion market of today?
I think being constantly curious, exploring your DNA, and standing by authenticity is what keeps a brand relevant. For me, it’s about pushing forward while remaining true to yourself.
What goes behind making a Mary Katrantzou collection?
The process is quite dynamic. The image is a very important part of the narrative and the inspiration is where I start from. I get to obsess about one thing I love each season. It could be a design discipline, an art form, a period in time, or just filtered beauty. We learn everything there is to learn about a subject matter before it evolves into a collection. The process is quite democratic and my entire team gets to be a part of it.
Is there a woman you design for? How would you define your muse?
My muse is the woman who feels connected to my designs. She is confident, feminine, and stands out. She appreciates art and design, and her style is bold but timeless.
Prints can be tricky territory – what’s your advice for women who want to expand their horizon?
They shouldn’t be afraid to experiment with pattern. Our prints are mapped around the body, and the designs are precision engineered in order to highlight the female figure. For those who are not yet ready to go full print, our micro prints or placed embellishments are the best way to start experimenting.
What prompted you to explore fashion and art?
Growing up with an interior designer mother was absolutely definitive in the way my overall aesthetic was formed. That’s the reason I also chose to follow architecture as a career in the beginning. I think my family has been the only inspiration for making me what I am today as a designer, and they also played a big role in building my business.
What prompted you to gravitate towards fashion?
With my roots firmly in architecture, I transferred into textile design for interiors. My fascination with prints and engineering it around a body led me to want to do my Masters in Fashion and apply my designs to empower women. Discovering all the possibilities fashion offers, the freedom to create made me fall in love with it in a way I never imagined.
The one thing you would like to change about fashion today?
Fashion has evolved so much and women get to experiment with different clothes whilst defining their own style. What I would change is the perception that fashion is just fabric to dress the body. For me, fashion is one of the strongest means of expression.
How do you fit India in your mood board? What aspects of Indian culture and art inspire you?
We do most of our embroideries in India, and I’m always so inspired by the exquisite craftsmanship. It’s my dream to visit India and I know I will fall in love with the incredible colours, the patterns and the people of India.