Last season, Mary Katrantzou's tour de force of interior-exterior decoration put "the room on the woman." So she said. This collection was more about "the woman in the room." Stated the designer backstage today, "It's more fluid, more real." But the "more fluid" her "more real" got, the more you were left in the same jaw-dropped state of irreality that her Spring show had induced. That was mostly because Katrantzou imagined the woman as a connoisseur, surrounded by objects of beauty like Fabergé eggs, Meissen porcelain, cloisonné enamel, and Ming vases. And all of them were reproduced in hyper-vivid prints. The koi in one print were all but swimming before your eyes.
To match the luxurious collectibles that inspired these prints, Katrantzou borrowed silhouettes from the haute couture wardrobes of their imagined owners. (The names of legendary style icons like Diana Vreeland, Babe Paley, and the Duchess of Windsor were bandied around, though there was a bucket skirt shape that could have been in Armani's last Couture collection.) But, to be honest, the artificiality of these shapes scarcely felt like a remove from Spring's lamp shades.
Anyway, it's a no-brainer that a flat, wide pannier or peplum makes a perfect screen for Katrantzou's projections. Things got more interesting when the designer softened her silhouette. "It's hellishly difficult to put a placement print on a bias-cut dress," she sighed backstage. Even to those of us uninitiated in the art of printmaking, the challenge presents itself as something like nailing water to the floor. Remarkably, the designer mastered the bias, and a whole lot of other soft options besides, from a Lurex-shot Orientalist knit sheath to daisy-strewn panne velvet to a billowing purple infanta gown.
The softness was a plus for any woman who would rather wear her Katrantzou than hang it on the wall. But one day, it will belong there too, on the wall of a museum, in an exhibition dedicated to the absorbing aesthetic excess of our era. "I want to push print to the limit," said Katrantzou, at the same time as she encouraged us to think there mightn't be one.