Opulence. In a season that remains fixated on reduction, it's not a word we've been hearing often. Leave it to Mary Katrantzou, London's undisputed mistress of decoration, to redress that balance in a collection that overindulged the sense to the absolute zenith.
Katrantzou's conceit for A/W 2011 was simple, as is usually the case with this designer. Last season she printed rooms across her fluttery little silk frocks; this season she seized on the objects inside those rooms for her decorative motifs. Of course, Katrantzou chose no ordinary rooms, glancing at the salons of Babe Paley, Diana Vreeland and the Duchess of Windsor and filching her patterns from Chinoiserie Coromandel screens, intricately enamelled Imperial Faberge eggs and the overblown chintzy wallpaper that lends itself to chateaux and palazzos far better than a semi in Doncaster. Katrantzou was looking at luxury, good and proper, and it was as joyous to watch as it was to wear.
Her opening outfits set the tone for an overload of her sgnature hyperreal print, from the collar of her chiffon blouses to the silken heels of the cloisonne-coloured Louboutin boots, via neat knitted jacquard trousers and super-structured skirts. The latter harked back to last season's lampshade superstructures (super in every sense of the word), this time reinterpreted as voluminous Ming dynasty vases or rotund Faberge eggs jutting over the hip. There was a touch of Dior to those shapes, and mid-century couture was never far away from Katrantzou's thought process, adding a new sense of sophistication to her garments.
The graphics reached new heights, sometimes appearing like Photoshop experiments in virtual reality rather than actual garments. As if that all wasn't enough, Katrantzou chose to embellish some even further, crusting bodices with crystal and embellishing one skirt with diamante, sequins, leather and three-dimensional bejewelled roses (that one will probably retail for about as much as a Faberge egg). Too much was never enough - Katrantzou compared it to the effect of visiting Vreeland's iconic 'garden in Hell' apartment by famed decorator Bily Baldwin - and her audience left the venue shell-shocked, eye-popped and utterly overawed. At the same time, whilst teetering on sublime insanity, this collection never got out of control - and, although remaining absolutely true to Katrantzou's maximalist aesthetic, we still felt like we'd seen something shockingly, seductively new. That's the most important measure of her ever-strengthening design talent.