Behind the Seams: The Unmistakable Prints of Designer Mary Katrantzou
There’s a unique precision to the prints engineered by Mary Katrantzou. Having an architecture background has helped the London-based designer to elevate the female form to unimaginable heights. Her inventiveness with digital prints and ability to construct fantastical shapes into functional fashions has made the Greek transplant one of the most sought-after couturiers in the industry. We spoke with Mary and gained an intimate understanding of her manifesto on fashion and how to wear prints with confidence.
THE THREAD: What initially drew you to fabric manipulation and digital print design? Why did you decide to make this your niche?
Mary Katrantzou: When I was studying at [University of the Arts London] Central Saint Martins, I became interested in the way printed textiles can change the shape of a woman’s body. In the visual language, I create color, and innovation in fabrication and shape are equally important to print.
My work is about perception more than it is about print. Print can be as definitive as a cut or a drape, and it allows a woman to filter beauty found in design, in a subversive way. It has also allowed print to grow out of being just a trend. I wanted my designs to allow a woman to make a statement, almost like the way we saw a boom in art and collectors buying art to showcase their aesthetic and appreciation of filtered beauty. In the same way, a woman can wear impossible creations of design that speak more about her aesthetic, instead of just serving the function of adornment.
When it comes to Print-Dressing 101, what words of wisdom can you provide the customer who’s interested in wearing print but doesn’t know where to start in terms of cut, color and silhouette?
Mary: I think the best fashion advice is to wear print with confidence. To be comfortable in what you wear is very important, but taking risks and playing with fashion is where it transforms from necessity to fantasy. My work is about doing that with precision prints and flattering shapes. Dressing should be about having fun as well as serving a practical function, so I would urge women to experiment by either making a statement with head-to-toe print or mixing print with color-blocking! You can wear subtle hints of print; it doesn’t have to be the whole look. My customers are of all ages, shapes and sizes, and I like that my clothes liberate women to dress in a way that reveals more about their aesthetic than a dress that just serves a pragmatic function.
You’ve introduced knitwear for SS13. As you grow as a designer, what new offerings and range can we expect from you in the coming season? What are you eager to put the MK stamp on? Shoes? Perfume? Home décor?
Mary: We have begun to think more about our accessories ranges—this SS13, we created a range of buttery-soft calfskin leather clutch bags with our prints. The flat surfaces of the clutches act as great canvases for my intricate and colorful prints, so they can make a real impact with an outfit. For me, the most important factor when designing is creating something new, something innovative and something that people will appreciate for its intelligent design aesthetic as well as its function. I would also love to launch a concept in the future that merges fashion and design. As well, creating a conceptual store for the brand is something that I really aspire to do—a place that merges fashion and design. That would be amazing.
What’s the definition of eveningwear to you? Which shapes and embellishments should the modern woman be embracing?
Mary: Womenswear, in my view, should always be flattering. My prints are precision-engineered to the female form to work with curves and portray an elegance that non-printed garments have to do just through structure. While comfort and elegance is key, wearing the prints and luxurious fabrics that I use in my collections can allow a woman to dress in a way that elevates her confidence. No woman should be without that dress or outfit that she wears when she wants to feel special and different from everyone else in the room—a piece that conveys beauty, intelligence and elegance.
Eveningwear should be sophisticated and classic, with a hint of whimsical fun. People think that my work is about maximalism, but I’m actually more of a modernist. My prints are intricate and visual, so I try to keep the shapes clean and sharp.
How does the world of digital help you translate surrealism into functional, fashion art?
Mary: All my prints are constructed through digital technology. Studying architecture made me very aware of the digital construction and technicality of engineering in design, which has really informed my design direction with prints. In my design and thought process, I’m constantly building from the foundations of my initial inspiration, and I often use architectural methods of accumulating designs at phase 1; engineering my prints is very mathematical and technical, and it allows me to envision a 3D shape around the body, sculpting a second skin for a woman. Digital print allows me to experiment with print in a way that fine art and other methods could not. It opens up a huge spectrum for possibility; I can create possibility out of impossibility, surrealism out of realism and vice versa for both.
Explore the many possibilities of print-dressing and discover Mary Katrantzou’s spring ’13 collection.