This writer’s first meeting with Mary Katrantzou was in the fall of 2010, only a day after the designer had nabbed the prestigious Swiss Textiles Award in Zurich for her London-based label. This past December we met again while she was in New York for a day, punch-drunk from jetlag and giddy to visit Barneys (one of the label’s U.S. stockists) the next day. “That award was a big deal,” Katrantzou recalls. For a young designer just two years out of Central Saint Martins, it was all a very big deal—and only the beginning. The 32-year-old Greek-born Katrantzou has since received several more honors, including a British Fashion Award for Emerging Talent in 2011, followed by a nomination for Designer of the Year in 2012.
Since launching her label in 2008, Katrantzou has become known for her distinct use of digital prints, originally rendered in trompe l’oeil tableaus that interplay with bodily forms and often dictate the garment’s silhouette. References have ranged from architecture and interior design to old postage stamps, perfume bottles, and more recently, religious symbols, as Katrantzou’s visual language has shifted to focus on fabric and textures. There’s a clever, mature balance of material and design in her collections. “I think it’s important to design a garment that a woman can pick out of her wardrobe for day or night—anytime,” she says. “And I think it’s equally important to be able to do these pieces that are only bought by a few women, and so they become part of her archive.” Unlike many of her contemporaries, Katrantzou didn’t get her start working at a larger fashion house, although she’s collaborated with various heavyweight fashion brands such as Topshop and Adidas on limited-edition collections. “It’s refreshing to see a lot of women taking that leap and building their own brand,” she says. “It takes a certain amount of bravery to do that.”
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