Meeting the crown princess of prints

2:19 am | Friday, April 20th, 2012

MARY pushes design limits, working with prints on leather with cascading ruffled chiffon in front for FW2012. PHOTOS FROM THE BAG HAG DIARIES

My love affair with Mary Katrantzou’s prints began in 2010 during the Luisa Via Roma store’s 10th online anniversary party in Florence, Italy.

One of the few dresses I had originally picked out for my style lab shoot was by Mary Katrantzou, as I was so drawn to her jewelry prints. In 2011, I wore the commercial version of her runway “lampshade” dress to the Louis Vuitton reopening party. It was interesting, because everyone who had seen the dress was second-guessing which designer made it—a lot assumed it was by Alexander McQueen. It was, in fact, by that same very talented designer whose work I fell in love with for the first time in Florence the year before.

The 28-year-old Greek-born, London-based designer Mary Katrantzou was an architecture student at Rhode Island School of Design in the US but later moved to Central Saint Martins in London to complete her BA in Textile Design. She later transferred her passion for prints from interior design to womenswear.

GARDEN-THEME dress with embroidery

After her graduation, she worked with Greek designer Sophia Kokosalaki before she applied for her Fashion MA. And in 2008, hers was the collection (which consisted of jewelry prints) that opened for Central Saint Martins’ graduating show.

She was subsequently awarded the New Generation sponsorship (from the British Fashion Council), allowing for her collection to be on display at the exhibition space in Somerset House. She only had nine shift dresses at the time, but they were quickly snapped up by major specialty retailers like Colette, Browns and 10 Corso Como.

Her first show for London Fashion Week came after that season, and soon thereafter, Vogue Nippon’s Anna dello Russo was seen wearing her lampshade dress to Paris Fashion Week.

Mary is now one of the brightest young stars of London Fashion Week, and in November 2011, she bagged the British Fashion Awards-Emerging Talent Award. For Spring 2012, she collaborated with Longchamp on prints for their classic le pliage bags as well as an open tote in two sizes, and also collaborated with Topshop for a capsule collection that included the lampshade dress, which famously sold out in a few hours, both in-store and online.

Fast and furious

DIFFERENT silhouettes for the AW2012 collection

Things have been moving fast and furious for Mary, and when I met her this season in Paris, I was  amused to find that she remains quite surprised at all the attention she and her work have been getting.

Humble and very levelheaded, Mary apologized for not having been able to meet me sooner during my last trip to London, as I had arrived at an inopportune time—less than a week before London Fashion Week.

She gave me a very warm hug and said in a bubbly manner, “Finally, we meet!” The showroom was constantly filled with major retailer-buyers, but Mary found the time to chat me up, personally showing me her Fall-Winter 2012 collection, and in between, talking about what has been going on with her work, her growing team, and her travels.

We talked briefly about her collaboration with Longchamp, about which she said, “They’re a great company to work and collaborate with. They gave me a free hand in what I wanted to design and do.” The discussion then turned to the very sold-out Topshop capsule collection. I told her I’d have slept overnight on the pavement just to get a dress, had I been in London at that time.

MIND-BLOWING details on her pencil dress—made with real pencils!

Alas I wasn’t, and I didn’t even get the chance to buy a dress online because of the time difference. I told her I had failed in that quest, to which she said laughingly, “It’s funny because even we couldn’t get our hands on them—we had even seriously considered going through eBay to get some of our own pieces!”

London Fashion Week came two weeks before our meeting,  and her collection was very well-received by the fashion cognoscenti. Rave reviews poured in—about her prints, of course, and new silhouettes: cascading swirls of chiffon on digital printed leather and twill dresses, “mixed-media” techniques (using pencils, of all things, which they had apparently bought at some discount office warehouse in London) that push form and design limits, and a collaboration for the intricate embroidery on bejeweled dresses (which probably weighed at least 10 kg) by Ecole Lesage of Paris, a first!

Genius and artist

When I saw the runway pieces up close, I was in awe. Stunned. I could not even find words beyond “fantastic” and “amazing” to articulately describe how I felt about the collection. I was not just looking at the dresses made by an incredible designer; I was looking at the work of a brilliant design genius and artist.

PRINTS up close

Mary asked me to freely try on some of the runway samples. While I was fully excited but half-willing to do it, I was also secretly embarrassed to even pursue the thought of trying on something from those runway racks. Hips like mine had no place in model sample sizes, although I eventually managed to wriggle into one of her beautiful grass-green, manicured garden-theme dresses, with the help of two “dressers”—no easy feat, I must add.

To have seen most of Mary’s collection up close and to have spent a considerable amount of time with the designer and her equally wonderful team left me looking forward to more seasons of her mind-blowing, wearable works of art.

Ingrid Chua-Go is the blogger behind www.thebaghagdiaries.com. Follow her on www.twitter.com/thebaghag

Tags: fashion , Lifestyle , Mary Katrantzou

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