Keeping up with Katrantzou

The designer on her past, present and future in fashion


As Mary Katrantzou enters a new phase of expansion in her business – and her second season at Liberty – the trompe l’oeil and Fabergé statements of the past are giving way to more abstract aims of empowering her audience with colour, symbolism and cultural archetypes: see cowboys and princesses for Autumn/Winter 2016. To look back through the Katrantzou archive is to take a trip through eight years of inspiration and innovation:

“My signature now is more about the women I’m dressing; it’s about women who want to stand out in their clothes, feel empowered in what they’re wearing and project something that relates to their affinities with design, art and culture.”

Each collection evolves organically in the Katrantzou atelier, with moodboards being replaced and reworked as the season unfolds, a process that begins with the very fabric of the garments: “Craftsmanship is a huge pillar of the brand, a lot of people buy into the embellishment and innovation. We always push the mills we work with to do things in a different way.”

This approach is allowing the designer to bring a rarely-seen level of control to her work, something that’s very much developed over time:

“At graduation stage you’re so insecure, and the only ambition you have is to do well within your course and be as good as your contemporaries. Fashion [courses] are very competitive, and I think they’re a real snapshot of the industry.”

It was Katrantzou’s graduate collection that shot her to fame, but taking a step back and making the most of her time as a fledgling designer is part of what she credits for her longevity today: “It’s difficult to see change when you’re in it, but the pace of the industry is very different now. When you start out you have the flexibility and time to figure out your DNA, then before you know it you’re on four collections a year.”

With this growth comes the need for new skills which may be at odds with a creative background:

“If you feel that drive to do something independent you have to pursue it.”

“You’re kind of forced to develop a business side, you don’t have the means to build a team when you first start so you need to do your own production, your PR, and learn what cash flow is. You have to be ready to grab any opportunity – I had amazing support from the British Fashion Council and the stores I was being bought by, it really helped me build a team and build a brand.” Though Katrantzou’s rise to the fashion stratosphere appears the stuff of dreams to a design graduate, it hasn’t been without its challenges: “I’ve had so many moments of doubt - I don’t think it’s possible for a creative not to doubt, because you’re putting something out in the world that’s inviting a reaction.” This is perhaps part of what makes her so relatable as a designer; her openness about her journey has spoken to an entire generation of fashion fans despite her collections being (arguably) some of the most fantastical out there.

Growing this group of fans is now very much Katrantzou’s priority, and she’s recently brought new team members on board specifically to achieve the same results she’s enjoying now, but on a larger scale. Whether looking at opportunities outside ready-to-wear, collaborations or simply the future of the brand, it will always come back to the person filling the garment for this designer:

“The exciting thing for me is taking a vision and being able to apply it in a way that’s influencing women (or men!) in their lives. Feeling like we’re adding to the future of fashion is exciting – having someone wear your clothes and project their confidence in them is really, really inspiring.”

Discover Mary Katrantzou ready-to-wear in-store on 2

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