Mary Katrtantzou set the bar high for her spring 2020 show — a little too high, some would say.
Just like she managed to make the impossible possible when it came to securing her dream show venue – the historic Temple of Poseidon in Athens – the Greek-born designer delivered a standout couture collection that was bursting with emotion, ideas and elevated construction techniques.
It was admirable that she was able to execute everything at such scale, on a tight budget and with a small team at her north London atelier. Her talent, conviction – and many a sleepless night – certainly paid off.
The collection consisted of 36 looks, each exploring a different couture technique and conceptualizing a philosophical idea birthed in Greece at the same time as the temple of Poseidon was built, in 440 B.C.
The first model – in a sequinned and fringed column gown with a quote from Socrates embroidered on it – made her way down the runway against the ancient ruins, sending a frisson through the crowd. The dim lighting and eerie music added to the electricity in the space.
What followed was an explosion of creativity, with Katrantzou paying homage to her country’s history – and writing a new chapter of her own.
Each look was filled with clever, subtle references to Greece: The layers on a fringed maxi dress, cut with geometrical precision, alluded to the Pythagorean theorem; a chainmail gown had mathematical equations printed on it; while a tulle number featured intricate ruffles in the shape of atoms.
”For me, this was a conscious decision taken because of the special nature of the location. This is a homecoming and a love letter to Greece, so we wanted to create something that can stand in front of the temple,” said Katrantzou, who plans to sell this collection through private orders only.
“It was an interesting challenge to take these conceptual ideas that Greek philosophers had back in the fifth century and think about them in terms of silhouette and technique and a woman’s body. It’s an ambitious task, but at the same time we feel so honored and responsible, we’re really giving it our all.”
Wow moments came in the form of a larger-than-life tulle and feather dress with the different layers designed to pulsate like the waves of the Greek seas and the finale gown with a map print done in 3-D floral appliqués.
Despite the levels of intricacy and complication, Katrantzou managed to channel a sense of ease and effortlessness with lots of linear, column-shaped silhouettes; flat Grecian sandals paired with each look; and a small number of monochrome pieces that showcased the Bulgari jewels.
Those monochrome pieces were testament to how far Katrantzou can flex her muscle beyond the signature prints she first became known for.
Even without the fanfare of a destination show and a standout location, this collection could have held its own – and the emotional impact would have been similar. With the unique backdrop, though, and the charitable cause of the event – held in association with local organization Elpida – it was transformed into a moment of national pride that modern Greece, which is only now beginning to recover from a decade-long financial crisis, hasn’t experienced in years.