If the shoe fits…

If the shoe fits…

It was a little saddening to read the reviews to Mary Katrantzou's S/S 14 shoe shoes shoes collection.  It didn't seem so long ago that I had asked the young graduate from Central Saint Martins to borrow one of her dresses from her MA collection to wear around Paris because I was so fixated by her way with digital printed trompe l'oeil.  From then on it was a fast and upwards ascent that saw her business grow dramatically and her collections grow in acclaim.  She was the digital print golden girl who could do no wrong.  This season there were pleas to "Turn off that computer" from both Suzy Menkes and Sarah MowerTim Blanks noted the "shrug of familiarity" from the show going audience.  The general consensus seemed to be that because Katrantzou has spawned countless copyists, her digital print work needed to be taken to another level or that she needed to innovate.  No critic could put their finger on what this "game-changing innovation" should be but that they all found something lacking was abundantly clear. 

I technically didn't see the show as I shot backstage instead.  Good thing then that the theme was so transparent that I didn't need to go grab a press release.  Shoes, shoes, shoes.  Or better yet, "Shoes.  Oh my god.  Shoes." as sung by Liam Kyle Sullivan's character Kelly.  Mannish brogues, sporty trainers and evening slippers – printed, warped, wrapped, moulded, embroidered around the body.  In the context of a S/S 14season  that was so surface-driven, it seemed appropriate to singularly hone in on an object that taps into a fetishistic desire on the part of women.  Surface for surface's sake, when supremely well executed as it was at Katrantzou's show surely can't be faulted.  For a designer who has enlarged objects like perfume bottles and necklaces and magnified ornate views of rooms and typewriters, zooming in on the shoe and tricking out the unexpected from what could so easily have been a banal theme was completely in step *ahem* with what Katrantzou does so well.

And so we come back to this search for newness.  This is where I feel reviewer and general consumer opinion diverges.  "I actually blame the young stars," says Cathy Horyn in her roundup of LFW.  "They are not being as innovative as they need to be. It‚Äôs that simple. You can fool the fashion press with a gimmick or a cool bit of styling, but you can‚Äôt fool ordinary people."  My question is, do the public constantly seek cutting-edge innovation?  Are they looking from season to season as consumers at whether what they wear is pushing new frontiers?  As I observe, generally speaking, digital prints on the level that Katrantzou produces does still have wow factor where the public are concerned.  Digital print is in essence an infinitive technique that keeps giving precisely because the subject matter of the print can be limitless.  Sure, we might be feeling the ennui of the churned-out floral/geometric dig prints when thrown in by lesser designers or chucked out on the high street but I do think Katrantzou is a soaring exception where even something as plainly obvious as a shoe gets given a treatment that does feel special and fresh to "ordinary people".  Her copyists do exactly what the name says – copy, and badly I might add.  I know gauging Insta/Twitter responses isn't exactly a rock solid benchmark but one of my most-liked photos of LFW just happened to depict one of Katrantzou's Lesage-collaborated evening creations.  Could this be a case of expecting too much from a designer who has by any standards, overachieved in a short period of time?  Is it not simply enough to continue to bed down what she does and build her brand with what is still a very strong aesthetic USP?  


























Leave a comment
  1. Fredrique Peloy

    2013-10-10 at 12:16 AM

    I think your comments are fair but I do think you may be partisan and isn’t it tricky when you and for example Alex Fury are circling around one designer. How do you remain objective ? – it must be very tricky for you to criticise when of course you wouldn’t want to upset Alex or Mary. The question is Susie – would you honestly critique Mary’s work knowing how may satellite friends you would upset in the process – and is it worth you upsetting Mary – or any designer – or much easier to sit on the fence ?

  2. Steff

    2013-10-10 at 12:34 AM

    My sentiments about your sentiments are akin to Fredrique’s above. I’ve loved Mary’s work until this collection, and, while I didn’t know the general consensus matched mine, I also thought that something was lacking in this collection. Not because her digital innovations are now old and overdone, but because I don’t think that her adeptness at digital prints means she should make digital prints of everything and anything. I simply didn’t like the shoe prints, and so I wished she hadn’t done them. A couple of the pieces worked, but others just looked plain strange. Maybe the other critics didn’t want to come out and say that and interpreted/communicated their dislike as boredom with digital prints. So my question is, why isn’t it okay to just say you don’t like a collection because you just don’t like it?

  3. Joy

    2013-10-10 at 1:17 AM

    all the dresses looks so so good.

  4. stylegodis

    2013-10-10 at 1:44 AM

    Loooove OMG!!

  5. Lucinda

    2013-10-10 at 1:54 AM

    You’ve started an interesting discussion. Mary has certainly made digital prints her signature and is choosing to evolve rather than rework each season. A handful of other designers tread this path and it’s valid though may never widen in audience appeal. You either adore Mary or you don’t. I see no reason why she should stray away from her raison d’√™tre and I like your thought of digital printing as a technique rather than trend.
    Still, constructive criticism encouraging refinement is valid. I thought for the non-attendee, Tim Blanks review was well observed – he applauded the subject matter, assessed the shapes, questioned the embellishment, considered the label’s next steps.

  6. FashionSnag

    2013-10-10 at 4:03 AM

    Beautiful pieces!

  7. Denisa

    2013-10-10 at 7:57 AM

    Very nice, interesting collection. Great day.

  8. Deborah Hilliam

    2013-10-10 at 8:22 AM

    I understand where the criticism has come from and I think that your point about high street copies and particularly some of the very cheap imitations is well made and makes it very difficult for an innovator like Mary to keep ahead of the game, it also makes the type of customer who can afford to buy her designs wary – will ‘people’ look at the product and wonder if this is a cheap imitation? I’m fascinated by her work and think she has moved forward over the last couple of seasons and whilst the current collection – particularly the shoe prints isn’t my cup of tea I think it’s an original idea and something well away from the floral/natural world prints she has used most recently. One of the things I love about Mary’s work has actually been the shapes and sculpture she uses to create a backdrop for her print work and I would love to see her develop these further, I would stil love to own the lampshade dress!

  9. Sabrina

    2013-10-10 at 8:50 AM

    I didn’t realize she got much critique for that collection – I loved it! The shoe prints aren’t something I would personally wear, but that doesn’t mean I didn’t like them at all (it’s just that I will always be more of a florals person when it comes to prints).
    And I don’t see why there were ‘shrugs of…’ whatever in the audience – as you said, digital print is infinite. What does the audience expect from designers anyway? How are they supposed to come up with something never seen before every single season? ‘Normal’ people are never going to keep up anyway, they usually need time to accept something new in fashion. Especially when it comes to eye-catching things like Mary Katrantzou’s designs, they haven’t really arrived on the streets yet and I’m not sure if they ever really will.

  10. Yasminehussain.wordpress.com

    2013-10-10 at 10:46 AM

    love all the jewel dresses. Beautiful shots! x

  11. Chiamaka Abasilim

    2013-10-10 at 11:15 AM

    I think they are all beautiful pieces.

  12. anna

    2013-10-10 at 2:11 PM

    Can take my eyes off :X the dresses are purlly fantastic !

  13. Nina

    2013-10-10 at 4:05 PM

    As you mention above, I don’t think everyday consumers are going to notice “lack of innovation”, they’re not going to go to such depths of analysis and therefore I should think her empire will continue to grow. The clothes look beautiful. It must be a real shame to designers when their unique ideas are copied which then forces them to take new directions to promote further growth.

  14. EloisePlease!

    2013-10-10 at 4:09 PM

    Just so damn good.
    idc about all that not wearable stuff. Fashion is about a fantasy world! since when has it been about accessibility?? never. thats what a fanatsy is and why it is a fantasy. Its not in our reach.

  15. susie_bubble

    2013-10-10 at 5:12 PM

    I would freely admit partisan-ism but here I was making a valid point about this constant search for “newness” before a designer has even been given time to bed down what they do? It’s a critic’s prerogative but not necessarily the consumer’s. That was my point.
    I personally quite liked the collection because I’m a fan of Mary’s aesthetic. That could well be interpreted as partisan by default of my generally liking her aesthetic. Same can be said for Alex. If I really didn’t like it, I a) wouldn’t have bothered editing a ton of pics to go up on the blog and b) said anything at all (my normal “critique” strategy) Sitting on the fence would have been not blogging at all.
    Instead, I’m using Mary as an example of journalists perhaps expecting too much from young designers.

  16. susie_bubble

    2013-10-10 at 5:15 PM

    Well, as I replied to Frederique, I genuinely did like it. It wasn’t my favourite Mary Katrantzou collection of all time but as per “duff” Chris Kane collections, they’re not really “duff” at all. They’re just not as great in comparison to some of the mega great ones she’s done. If the critics were masking their dislike with a veil of boredom, then I suppose it’s not exactly in their remit to say they didn’t like it on a persona aesthetic level. They’re not expressing personal opinion but a levelled one that speaks on behalf of a publication.

  17. susie_bubble

    2013-10-10 at 5:16 PM

    Tim does always rule in that regard – he rarely lashes out at any designers.

  18. milex

    2013-10-10 at 10:04 PM

    that’s my kind of thing.

  19. Anna

    2013-10-10 at 10:07 PM

    I love the boxy shapes of the latter dresses

  20. Hecterons

    2013-10-10 at 11:38 PM

    Red roses red roses everywhere

  21. Kelly

    2013-10-11 at 3:13 AM

    Wow! such a beautiful dresses! I found you on Pinterest and I found interesting themes to customize our Pinterest page! Try it now! It’s FREE! Here’s the link: http://www.getcolorware.com/#how-it-works

  22. Kathleen

    2013-10-11 at 3:59 AM

    I tend to agree with the consensus that this was a meh collection despite being a huge fan and really wanting to love it. It felt soulless and disjointed, particularly some of the overly froufy baby doll dresses at the end, they didn’t work for me especially alongside the oversized shoe prints. The shoe prints were interesting in concept, but versions will no doubt be all over the high street shortly.
    In terms of stepping back from the computer, if she does this it will make it a lot harder for the copyists. I am a textile designer and can tell you it’s pretty easy to blow up images of a shoe and digitally manipulate it in photoshop into an engineered placement… Because so many high volume suppliers have been knocking off her stuff for so long, they are pretty adept at the whole engineered placement for mass production thing.
    This is not necessarily fair to Mary as she obviously had the idea in the first place and has not asked to be copied, but its fairly inevitable this will happen.
    Having invested in a piece from her SS11 collection, it makes me sad that I don’t want to wear it anymore, due to the proliferation of terrible knockoffs which have really cheapened her work and make it look so dated – it’s soiled the label for me. I genuinely hope she can find a new direction to showcase her amazing talent.

  23. allison

    2013-10-11 at 1:42 PM

    Wao here is outstanding variety of skirts,i love it.

  24. Jane Febray

    2013-10-11 at 2:28 PM

    post-summer hangover? 😉
    besides, I love those colors!

Leave a Comment