Flower power. Despite the sixties bent to the spring 2012 season that's not a phrase we've been hearing often. But we've come to expect the unexpected from Mary Katrantzou, and this season she was feeling flowers. Indeed, they were something of a leitmotif, her models marching out around an installation of three thousand chrysanthemums in saturated shade of saffron-yellow, red, magenta and white that later took a leap off the catwalk and onto the clothes.
Katrantzou's conceit this time was man against nature - 'petal versus metal' was her neat summary. Witness her opening numbers, prints derived from the shiny steel chassis of crushed automobiles glinting under sun. Fitting the prints, the shapes were sleek and minimal, although fluttery trains gave the concept of something natural breaking through the artifice. That was just a taste of thing to come: fish, frogs, birds and thousands of flowers whirled around the body, structured dresses folded around the legs like a corolla if petals and trains dropping in back to reveal yet more blooms. In a season of bleached-out pastels, Katrantzou's palette was eye-popping and jaw-dropping, chartreuse, mauve, tangerine and teal glowing from a single print. And, as is this designer's inimitable strength, there were lots and lots of prints.
This season Katrantzou pushed herself yet again to create something fresh and new. Not only in the textile patterns - ironically, new and exciting prints are now an expectation rather than a hope from Karrantzou's febrile mind - but in the shapes and fabrications. Her floral-drenched suiting, colour-blocked in scarlet, turquoise and shocking-pink, was an idea so simple and striking you wondered why no designer had seized on its visual impact before. Angular fusions of Mylar, printed tulle and knit gave a fresh voice to the metallics we've been seeing everywhere. And while we're on the subject, those intarsia knits were truly something else - so detailed, intricate and visually inventive it was easy to overlook that they were knitted at all. Trompe l'oeil is another Katrantzou signature, after all. This time her visual trickery was pushed to the zenith.
After a few seasons filching her prints from haute couture interiors, maybe Katrantzou went a little stir-crazy. Certainly no-one has ever looked at nature before with quite this eye, silhouettes pumped up, colour almost psychedelic in intensity. When a designer can render the common-or-garden floral as something wonderous, mind-boggling and utterly unique, you know you're witnessing an exceptional fashion talent. This season, Katrantzou's creativity came to full bloom, and it was a true feast for the eyes.