It was a play on contradiction at Mary Katrantzou, a fact that could have been decoded from her runway; a maze of pyramid foam in Pepto-Bismol pink, equally spiky and hard edged, as it was soft and spongy. She said she was looking at the relationship between the horror vacui art movement and reactionary modernism, which translated to heritage opulence vs techy utopia – usually brought together in a single look.
It sounds like it shouldn’t work, well, clear plastic frills juxtaposed with decorative flocking and Belle Époque grandeur? But it did. Katrantzou opened the show with seamless moulded tailoring in grey felted wool partnered with flounced skirts that hugged the body tightly before kicking into full, ruffled eruptions below the knee.
Surface decoration and texture clashes got more and more innovative from flocked duffle coats with hoods stuffed with plastic frills to a damask dress crammed with sequin shards and colourful crystal embroidery. Even strips of that foamy pyramid catwalk popped up on waistbands. No doubt, it got more and more expensive too. Heaven knows the price tag of that flocked intarsia mink coat, with boiled wool back, and plastic geometric tablets appliquéd to the front.
Her ultra-sophisticated demi-couture show pieces were nothing short of spectacular, questions like, “but how do you dry clean it? Heck, how do you sit down in it?”, are irrelevant here. What women will be taking away from this are those ribbed and moulded cropped sweaters in citrusy brights, her cropped new-shape flares; with bell bottoms folded and tucked like origami, those guipure lace dresses, skirts, and decorative parkas no doubt tweaked and tamed a little for production.
Above all else, this incredible body of work showed one thing Katrantzou isn’t short on, and that’s a bubbling mind full of brilliant ideas, not least the gumption, conviction, and all-out expertise to weave them altogether into some magical kind of reality.