Hail Mary

Wednesday 22 February 2012

Designers · Featured

Photography by Anna Bauer

The instantly recognisable digi-print charidee t-shirts Mary Katrantzou designed for Topshop-sponsored BFC NEWGEN have been outselling rivals “by miles”, according to salesgirls at the Topshop Venue.

The big question prior to Mary K’s presentation (above) was: how could she possibly better her last collection? How could she push forward the zeitgeist moment she herself began?

Even Anna Wintour couldn’t wait to find out, and snuck backstage for a pre-show talk. “Look! Bathtub knobs!” announced Katrantzou to the most important woman in fashion, mentioning, as an aside, her work with French atelier Lesage. Yes, the Chanel-owned embroidery house that works solely with couturiers. (“No, Anna, as far as I’m aware they hadn’t worked with anyone from London before.”) Wintour wasn’t the only one impressed.

Choosing mundane objects – a chess piece, typewriter keys, spoons,  – as a starting point, Katrantzou explored their colours and shapes, which influenced her designs.

“It’s a deeper collection than we’ve ever done before,” explained the designer, whose prints, although still spectacular, melted seamlessly into their designated silhouettes: hourglass; peplum jacket; bustle skirt; babydoll cocktail frock.

In this latter story, panniers on skirts and strong-shouldered peplum jackets in silky wool twill gave a feel of 18th-century French court life: strict, opulent and rule-breaking, all at the same time.

The collaboration of Lesage’s nimble-fingered experts with this particular ideas woman was explosive. One pencil skirt was created from pencils swirled into a formation culminating in a mass of pink rubber tops.

But would a print created to look like a hedge with embroidery and Swarovski-crystal embellishment mean they’d met their match? “They were intrigued,” says Katrantzou, “especially when they found themselves ‘shaving’ the hedge.”

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