There's a lot of love around for Mary Katrantzou. As guests took their seats for her show, having gone through another round of waiting for and squeezing into yet more lifts ('I hate all these elevators' a fed-up editor was overheard complaining) you could feel they expected to see something great. Has there been a Katrantzou collection that has not been exciting? The answer is simply no – what a silly question. So, when after having waited for a little while, the lovely voice of Alex de Betak, the show's producer, broke the silence to announce that the show was running another 10 minutes late that love was put to the test. A little but tested nonetheless. In a sardine-packed London schedule full of talent, time is precious.
Anything for Mary though. Last season her Proustian madeleine was a post stamp and the offspring of that wild ride were plentiful in the audience today. This time, it was a bench in a tree-lined park looking out at a bridge or rather, a turn-of-the-century, black and white, photograph of it - man's view of nature rather than lush nature herself. Her show notes introduced the idea that this might be a more restrained collection. Katrantzou the…*shudder*…reductionist? Heavens forbid. The referencing of photographers like Edward Steichen, Clarence White and Alfred Stieglitz showed that she is brave. It takes a lot of to restrain yourself from going further and adding more when you’re as talented, imaginative and technology-adept as Katrantzou clearly is. The opening look of an alarmingly sober black cape and skirt certainly alluded to a shift away from seasons past. The sequence of shadowy black and white dresses that followed however was atmospheric and sweetly nostalgic. A man walking in a park, the branches of a tree spreading across the neckline and sleeves, a bridge structure running along the hips – Katrantzou knows exactly how to place print and pattern on the body, turning it into a canvas, at times today near-literally. Whether the woman wears the dress or the other way round is a valid question. Colour was slowly introduced back, first as the blue of the water under a bridge and then as painterly swipes of blossom.
The trick is to question what you see – is that jersey dress or is it actually knitted and is that black high-neck sweater a separate or part of the photographic skirt underneath it? These clothes warrant a closer look if their technical wizardly is to be properly appreciated. A boxy jumper and pencil skirt were intricately sequinned, jacquards and brocades shimmered and black leather, an interesting addition that felt new and promising for collections to come, came embossed, most strikingly in a below-the-knee dress with billowy sleeves. Towards the end the mood seemed to change, the palette turned dusky and we were back to the shadows – layers of fluttering chiffon with the earlier scenes being obscured by the night’s darkness. This was a collection worth waiting for. The sense of awe that usually accompanies guests exiting a Katrantzou show seemed absent but then again, everyone was in a rush to catch the first lift back down.