Greek-born, London-based designer Mary Katrantzou made history this week when she became the first to stage a catwalk show at the Temple of Poseidon, just outside Athens in Greece.
Many brands have tried and failed to showcase inside the ancient Greek monument, but only Katrantzou could get Greece’s Central Archaeological Council (KAS) and Ministry of Culture to agree for her to showcase her ‘Wisdom Begins in Wonder’ spring/summer 2020 collection with a ticketed event to support children’s charity Elpida of which she is patron.
When Katrantzou dropped off the London Fashion Week schedule many were left wondering why, as her brightly coloured prints have been the jewel of the schedule for many seasons, but seeing her couture-level craftsmanship with dresses embroidered with beaded constellations of the night sky, swirls of feathers and dramatic 3D florals against the breathtaking backdrop of the UNESCO World Heritage Site you understand why.
Katrantzou states in the show notes that this is a collection to celebrate Greek heritage, history and culture, as well as being a “show in the present, celebrating a past, for a charity which gives hope for the future for thousands of children”.
The collection takes its “cue not from the aesthetics or dress of Ancient Greece but from it ideology, from the achievements of civilisation as a whole,” added Katrantzou, including mathematics, languages, literature, art, and philosophy.
The result of this Ancient Greek inspiration was 38 totally unique dresses made using couture-standard techniques, which the Athens-born designer states references Athens’ Golden Age, with beautiful elaborate and bold silhouettes, from straight columns to ballgowns and even some that looked like floating orbs, all embellished in feathers, beads and Swarovski crystals.
Each outfit was also executed in a single hue, inspired by the Ancient Greek belief in the pure power of colour, and led to pieces in Aegean blue, Tyrian purple, and the white and black of marble, which as a whole collection together is a “prismatic, refracted spectrum - a spectrum of both colour and inspiration,” added Katrantzou.
Highlights included a hand-beaded fringe dress worn with a floor-length cape, bearing a philosophical quote from the work of Aristotle, while a ‘Courbe’ gown was shown in verdant green with hyperreal engineered print embellished with sequins and bugle beads, and a floor-length hooded cape and trapèze gown in custom-woven antiqued gold sunbeam jacquard featured hand-embroidered Zodiac symbols, constellations and heavenly bodies in beads and crystal.
Other key styles included crystal-plissé georgette column gowns, a double-waterfall gown embroidered with silk organza petals and hand-cut flowers, and a midnight-blue silk A-line halter neck gown, veiled in glittered flock and tulle embroidered with intersecting astrological charts in tarnished silver.
The crown jewels of the collection had to be the three map-inspired gowns, from the ‘geography’ cocoon cape and column skirt in celeste blue, embellished with silk petals and printed and beaded with the cartography of Hellenistic maps to the ‘double-hemisphere’ tiered rosemary pink tulle crinoline gown, fully bead and sequin embroidered with contents and longitudinal markings, and the ‘hemisphere’ Empire-line crinoline ball gown in tulle and silk chiffon, entirely covered in silk petals featuring a ‘fantasy’ map of reimagined countries and continents in rosemary, lemon, apricot and celeste blue petals.
Images: courtesy of Mary Katrantzou, by photographer Jason Lloyd Evans