Trompe l'oeil has always been a watchword(s) with Mary Katrantzou - in seasons past, she's lifted her inspiration from faceted scent bottles and the molten swirls of Murano glass, digitally twisted said imagescapes, and printed the results across bestselling silk frocks. For Autumn/Winter 2010 she concentrated her considerable talents on eighteenth-century portraiture, and translating this to the body of a twenty-first century woman. That's a difficult call for a designer still in her infancy, but Katrantzou's invigorating, mesmerising collection managed to achieve a rare feat. Slicing up hyperreal imagery of frocks, furniture, fur and furbellows from said oil paintings, Katranzou collaged them together so that, say, the detail of a rococo architrave or eschelle bows from a 1760 court mantua were meshed together, complimented by an arabesque of pearls lifted from a baroque sautoir. Military medallions and ribon sashes snaked across firm shift dresses, and foliate designs reminiscent of Watteau and Fragonard were swagged across hourglass cocktail frocks.
Granted, Katrantzou is a princess of prints here in London, hence how adept she is at creating such imagery. Likewise, with the immediately recognisable digitised print being a hot and commercial fashion commodity, why would she do anything different, especially in the current fashion climate? The important thing with this collection is just that - Katrantzou did do something different, and hence her designs made a gigantic leap onwards. The truly exciting thing about this show was just how far Katrantzou was willing to push her aesthetic, and also how refined the results looked. The prints weren't the only story. This time they has sharply-cut frock-coats in felted wool to contend with, narrow trousers, and touches of fluidity in ruffles of chiffon and lace - the latter two were stunning when combined on a blue-toned ruffled fronted frock with abstract lace sleeve. The jewellery is also worthy of mention. In fact, it is worthy of effusive hyperbole - massive, hulking slabs of gilt ormolu combined with silver and faceted gems, it's destined for red carpets, video shoots, and shop floors, but it won't stay there for long.
With two designers (Fast and Katrantzou) showing back-to-back in the same venue (this season they even shared the same shoemaker, Christian Louboutin) it's inevitable that comparisons will be made, and a competition perhaps inferred. This season, with a collection that delivered on all of her former promise and then some, Katrantzou was indisputably the victor.