You could while away the minutes till Mary's show started today by playing Count the Katrantzou in her audience: All ages, all shapes, all sizes were wearing clothes from past collections. That spells success, but it also highlighted the challenge Mary Katrantzou faces with each new season. The niche she has carved for herself narrows as the novelty of her extraordinary work with prints fades. It's a terrible truth in fashion that the gasp of wonder is inevitably replaced by the shrug of familiarity. There were plenty of those as the audience streamed out today, which was a shame because Katrantzou had, on the whole, done herself proud with a collection based on…ahem…shoes. Well, they are fashion's favorite fetish, and as the show notes pointed out, they've always been a fairy-tale favorite, too—glass slippers, red shoes, tokens of magic and mystery.
Katrantzou offered shoes three ways: the laces, eyelets, and perforations of polished brogues blown up to make lush abstracts; the high-tech artifice of sport shoes molding the body instead of the foot; the sugary embellishment of a delicate evening slipper spun into rococo fantasias. The placement of the prints was, as usual, immaculate. The way huge shoelaces curved around a thigh, for instance, or the rubberized sole of a sneaker arched around a torso had an erotic charge. The shapes Katrantzou chose to highlight these effects were perfectly appropriate, too. One innovation was a pliant micro-pleated cocoon suspended from a strap across the chest—an item packed with high-performance bounce.
So far, so focused. But then came the evening looks: baby dolls exaggerated with ruffles, florals exaggerated with embroidery, everything choking on decoration. Katrantzou has been working with the legendary Maison Lesage in Paris. It's clearly an opportunity that has thrilled her to the bone, but it's maybe been too much of a good thing. There was even something slightly sinister about the overwrought edge. Perhaps that was her deliberate nod to the eldritch power of the shoe, the receptacle of so much human desire, elevated and base. Because it was clear from the Katrantzou-clad clan today that desire is something Mary knows what to do with.