I can't claim to have come up with the succinct phrasing of the title. Alex Fury of SHOWstudio, who works closely with Mary Katrantzou, wrote the press release for her S/S 12 show and ended with the following…
"The result? Man meets machine meets Mother Earth. An army of petal, metal and print. True flower power."
The thoroughly worldwide viral reveal of her Topshop collaboration (officially my most retweeted post) last week proves just how far Katrantzou has come in gaining a universal recognisability and covetability. Whudda thunk that a egg-shaped structured skirt printed with a chinoiserie print a few years ago would have floated everyone's boat? There's something very bolshy and uncompromising about that sort of impractical vision that makes numerical facts such as Katrantzou selling eighteen ornate $15,000 dresses from her A/W 11-12 collection all the more delightful.
For S/S 12, she doesn't disappoint on the demi-couture front but what I found more interesting is how she has tackled the simpler stuff, the pieces that won't be grabbing ADR-esque headlines but seem more grounded. After all, Mary Katrantzou's version of 'dressed down' is still going to be utterly outworldly. When the opening passage of satin dresses came trooping out by the delectable bed of blooms and a site-specific metal installation, the print story was somewhat clear – the natural and the industrial forging ahead in a weird partnership that has crumpled metal and blown-up prints of scales, feathers and reefs mingling together. I was slightly scared that there might be a feeling of "More of the same?", a pitfall that cynical people would think Katrantzou might fall into. During the show, I was willing it all to step it up a notch after the first few dresses that did their usual devastatingly beautiful thing with pleated chiffon side-trains and assymetric cuts…
Then came more of that knitwear which I've regularly been stroking whenever I'm in Dover Street Market. The introduction of it in her last A/W 11-12 collection was definitely a breakthrough which still sounds very silly to type but when her prints combine with intricate intarsia and jacquard knits, there's something far more explosive about the bursts of florals. The Magneto metal scrunching prints have a field day on the sheeny shiny satin which seems to revel in such reflective subject matter but the bursts of florals in all directions and colours work magnificently on the knitwear.
There's a slubby jumper here that is about as dressed down as Katrantzou goes. No doubt, the more casual part of her collection will have expanded for sales purposes and yet for me it's a welcome surprise to see such a mundane item get Katrantzou-ified for the catwalk and adds a depth to the collection that goes beyond pow-wow dresses.
When the first instance of mylar bonded either to tulle or chiffon came creeping in, the iridescent sheen in the dresses that counteracts with the matte knitted sections is the sort of innovation that had me pumping my fist at the show. I think I was saying something like "Oh my god, oh my god, oh my GAWWWD!", similar to my reaction to seeing my first flurry of Northern Lights in Iceland earlier this year. The texture of this metallicised plastic sheeting added an unexpected lightness to the dresses as well as creating an out-of-control play on light as the flowers depicted on this surface seemed to dance across the body.
Last season it was the yellow Mary Katrantzou biker jacket strewn with chinoiserie wallpaper florals that I luckily got to try on for the Telegraph magazine shoot but can't really lay claim too seeing as Sarah Mower wears it so well. This season, perhaps it's this biker jacket jacquard knit and metallic yarn sleeves that will hopefully grace my back…
This was my favourite appearance of the mylar fabric where the print almost looks like it's been printed on oil cloth, the sort used for table cloths except here it's light as a feather and looks delicate with the sheer chiffon sleeves.
After the passage of mylar, I thought Katrantzou and suitably raised her game but then she hit me with this. A tri-band field of flowers to mirror her set and to create a graphic starkness to her prints that I've never seen before. Her trompe l'oeil techniques have often concentrated on objects that encase and curve around the body which is down to her skilled print placement. Here a field of flowers looks deceptively simple until you see the bands of each colour have also been strategically placed. The tailoring is also pared back and refined, notching up another new development for Katrantzou. For those that absolutely cannot get onboard an egg-shaped skirt or an asymetric cocktail dress, then surely a trouser suit where the print has been impeccably positioned will be just the ticket. It's the head-to-toe outfit that I think the gaggle of streetstyle photographers will be itching to shoot when the next round of shows come.
When the supershort puffballs came out, I thought their knickers were supposed to be intentionally on show, ripping up the puff ball prom dress rulebook and cheekily showing some err…well… cheek. Apparently that wasn't hte case but no matter, these will be for the special demi-couture order book that Katrantzou is building up.
The final dress is the one time where 'everything but the kitchen sink' approach actually works and makes a point about the overriding themes of the collection. That metal with petal can be a potent combination without doing battle with each other despite their jarring qualities. That tin cans, steel drums and car parts can be beautiful in a way that is less obvious that the flower beds at the bottom of the Pacific Ocean or fields of torrid florals. That the two need to co-exist today and there shoudl be harmony between them. These are fanciful thoughts on my part but it's great to see that Katrantzou looks beyond the mere aesthetics of jewels, perfume bottles and ornate rooms to say something powerful. All the while, turning out clothes that impress in the highest order.
All backstage photography by Morgan O'Donovan