Behold: the Coutts Bank building! A giant piece of prime real estate on London's Strand, about half the size of Charing Cross Station, reserved for the very special elite and their very special bank accounts. This is where Mary Katrantzou decided to host her AW19 show — one focussed on the Ionian elements. You know: earth, wind, fire, water.
There was an irony to the setting, although perhaps not intentional, in that these elements which were once thought to have formed the basis for all human life, the thing that unites all peoples, were explored within the walls of a place reserved for those who bounce around the one percent. Fashion often feels inappropriate in its inaccessibility, but this felt like an accidental celebration of that. Upon exiting the space, London’s homelessness crisis seemed never more apparent. And yet we must talk about the clothes.
And the clothes were good. A far departure from Katrantzou’s SS19 collection — which celebrated a decade of the brand — it seemed the Greek designer stepped away from complex, clever prints, techniques and constructions, and made a collection steeped in emotion, in feeling, and full-on feathers.
Air was captured in the big, floaty volumes where marabou feathers — in everything from ombre pastels to earth tones — shrouded the body like vibrating clouds. Katrantzou invoked fire and earth in colour: deep oranges, burnt reds, evergreens and browns. Water was represented in cascades of organza concertinaed around the neck and the body. It was elemental, it’s where we came from, and at moments — despite the setting and the fact a dress probably costs my yearly salary — it really felt that way.
Silhouettes jumped between floaty and sharp, light and languid, and prints looked like scorched earth. Whole landscapes found their way onto dresses in full sequins or foils, combining Katrantzou’s new direction with her signature skill for brilliant print.
It’s perfect for any season, actually — go for big, powdery silhouettes, but nip it in at the waist. Work with earth tones — whether deep brown, plum or pastel pink. Any colour you can find in nature will instantly ground the wardrobe, even if it is covered in marabou stork feathers. There’s something so glorious in knowing that Katrantzou must have watched at least one episode of Drag Race — because the boas and ‘bou were pure main stage eleganza.
Far from political, Katrantzou is a brand for women by women. And in her deep delve into the elements, what she found was that woman is all: she’s free and forceful like air, hot and sharp like fire, unstoppable like water, and full of life like the earth. It’s just a shame that to be all those things you have to have a Coutts card, darling.