She’s been called ‘princess of prints’, and the ‘queen of hyperrealist chic’ but Greek born designer Mary Katrantzou, who is in the middle of preparing her third NEWGEN show has got her eye on bigger projects than just the digitally printed dresses that made her name - like perfume and prizes AND she’s already started to put them into action!
Grazia Daily: Hello Mary – How are you? How are the preparations going?
Mary Katrantzou: I’m very well, I’ve just got back from one of my suppliers – the print deadline was today! It’s the fabric to be printed for the S/S ’11 collection [to be shown at LFW a few weeks from now]
GD: So you’ve made it! I though designers always miss their deadlines!
MK: Well, yeah. The original deadline was last week, so we didn’t make that. They are going on holiday tomorrow so today was like, the ‘it’s now or never deadline’ ha ha ha. Also we’re going to have to move studio soon so we are looking for new premises, but I haven’t found anything I like yet.
GD: Why do you want to move from here?
MK: Well, the reason we have this studio is because it was part of an initiative for young designers – the CFE [Centre for Fashion Enterprise]. But now our two years are up, so its time to go. Tim Soar is across the hall and Heikki Salonen was upstairs. This studio used to belong to Erdem!
GD: So can we talk a bit about your design background and how you got into womenswear . . .
MK: Well I studied textile design for interiors. Then I became more interested in fashion, and using my prints to make simple shift dresses. After studying Fashion at Central Saint Martins, at BA and MA, I learned to start making the cut of the clothes as important as the print.
GD: So now, four seasons in, how do you start designing a collection? Does the imagery for the print come first, or does the pattern for the clothes come first?
MK: [Smiles] Well, of course the image still comes to me first! But the pattern is as important too – the two have to work together. It's just one print for each garment, not like a [repeated] pattern I can just cut into wherever I like. And from a commercial point of view – you don’t just do dresses on their own. Buyers let you know that the customer wants to see a dress, a jacket, trousers; all together on the rail. So that’s what we’ve started to do a little bit with the last collection - branch out a bit.
GD: And then eventually you’ll have handbags, fragrance, diffusion lines and everything!
MK: [Laughs] well, yeah – that’s the dream. In fact! We are doing a perfume at the moment. It’s part of Six Scents, produced by Givaudan in Paris. They get guest designers to give them their inspiration for a scent, then they produce a limited edition perfume with your name on it and then sell them and give the proceeds to a different charity each year.
GD: That sounds like a cool project! And what about other collaborations and projects?
MK: Well you know I had my line in Topshop a while back. What we’d like do next would be to add a Cruise collection – or another thing I would like to do is a really beautiful T-shirt range. You know, some people like my prints but aren’t the type to wear an all-over printed dress. So a T-shirt or a scarf – but it would have to be really, really beautifully made though. It would be one way for people to just wear a flash of the print without feeling like they stand out too much. But we had some prototype T-shirts done at one factory and they were just horrible! So that still needs more development.
Other projects – We are up for a couple of awards! We are in the running for the Dorchester Hotel Fashion Award (judges include Giles Deacon and Daphne Guinness) and the Swiss Textiles Award. That one is really exciting because you can’t put yourself forward for it, you have to be nominated and also because the prize is £100, 000 – and its very prestigious! Previous people to win it were Alexander Wang and before that, Rodarte.
GD: Can you give us any clues or hints about the new collection? The one that’s at the printers now?
MK: We had one very strong theme for all the pieces and then after a certain amount of time spent working on it I just decided I hated it and came into work one morning and told everyone- 'NOPE we are going to scratch that and start again'. So now we have several different themes going on. I am really happy with it though. I have to say, it’s quite simplified, quite minimal, for me. I mean, it’s not a minimalist collection; it’s just quite simple by the usual Mary Katrantzou standards!
GD: You’ve got your first ever stand-alone show at Fashion Week this week! Congratulations!
MK: I know! I’ve divorced my husband! [Mark Fast, with whom she’d been showing back to back for the last few seasons] It’s exciting for us. I feel it’s a really big step actually.
GD: What do you make of all the news coverage about plus-sized fashion at the moment?
MK: I think some of the models look great – I mean Crystal Renn looks fantastic. I was very close to all of the publicity during the collections because I shared a show with Mark Fast [who became so well known for using plus sized models for his catwalk shows] I’m all for it. You know, I used to have journalists always come backstage and ask me ‘Why don’t you use plus-sized models – Mark does!’ If, for your collections you can afford the very best [models], then do it. As for stocking larger sizes of my clothes, we already go up to a 14, so I think we could go up to a 16. The problem is not always the designers, it’s the shops where you’re stocked, and there’s always a question about the demand for really high end products in those sizes. In principle I am up for it. As far as going larger than a 16 – I don’t think my style of dresses are really going to look right on that kind of figure. The solution would be do to a separate range.
GD: Like the T-shirts?
MK: Yes, for example I could do the range of T-shirts, or a beautiful kaftan, or something like that. I think there would definitely be a way to make my prints work on a larger woman but I just think that what we make at the moment – little structured dresses and jackets and suits – who is going to want to wear that, and buy that in a plus size?
GD: Thanks for spending time with us today – we’ll let you get back to work. Have you got to work every hour God sends at the moment or do have evenings off?
MK: We’re still working normal hours at the moment. Besides the building shuts at 9pm. Tell you what though – two weeks before the collection they keep it open 24 hours a day and THAT is the crazy time. If you came here then that’s when you’d see us with wild eyes and people curled up under the rails trying to snatch a bit of sleep!
Thank you very much Mary, GOOD LUCK! And see you at Fashion Week!
- Naomi Attwood