LONDON, September 19, 2010
ByFor her first stand-alone show, Mary Katrantzou came up with a conceit so dazzling, so artful, but so elementary that it made you wonder why no one else had attempted it. She'd been looking at the highly stylized seventies photography of Helmut Newton and Guy Bourdin when it occurred to her that the interiors in the pictures were just as important as the models. "With this collection, I wanted to put the room on the woman, rather than the woman in the room," Katrantzou said after the show. You could say Hussein Chalayan attempted something similar ten years ago, but his pieces were elements of a conceptual performance, while Katrantzou's were desirable clothes to be worn. The fact that they were also surreal masterpieces of the digital printer's craft only made them more seductive.
Katrantzou said she worked in three dimensions for the first time while designing her prints, and there was an almost hallucinatory depth to the images she lifted from old issues of Architectural Digest and World of Interiors, once they were laid over her precisely fitted silhouettes. One memorable example: a dress whose top half featured a swimming pool in an L.A. house, while below was a view of the city by night from a balcony that, one imagined, was part of the same dwelling. Another: a polished dining-table cut away as a skirt, with a perspective of the room behind rising up the bodice. But these descriptions can scarcely convey the exquisite symmetry of the printing that, at various points within the collection, created patterns it was almost possible to read as abstract art.
It didn't stop there. Katrantzou added trompe l'oeil interior details to the clothes. A pelmet created a portrait neckline above a print of a window frame; swaths of chiffon fluttered like curtains; mini-crinis echoed lampshades with dangling pendants of crystal. Wall sconces were reconfigured as necklaces (but they were too literally heavy for the airiness of the clothes they accompanied). After the show, Italian style icon Anna Dello Russo was in raptures. Now there's a woman who'll be wearing a room in Milan next week.