Mary Katranztou celebrates her 10 years in the Fashion industry with the most remarkable collection, proving how Will and Faith in your talent can pay back with enormous success. Stocked at over 250 retailers, obtaining prestigious awards such as the coveted Swiss Textiles award (2010), the British Fashion Award for Emerging Talent in Womenswear, the Red Carpet Award at the British Fashion Awards to name few, as well as becoming the recipient of the BFC x Vogue Designer Fashion Fund (2015), Katrantzou has built a distinctive career and a thriving multi-million-pound business, fusing high fashion with wit and panache, that links her right back to Elsa Schiaparelli through Franco Moschino and Christian Lacroix. Their clothes were excessive, vibrant, bold and playful. So are Katrantzou’s. When Cate Blanchett steps out in a Katrantzou dress, people don’t laugh. They gasp.
But how did this dream fashion story start?
She was born in Athens in 1983 to an interior designer mother and textile design worker father, but the story starts even earlier; her grandfather was Nikos Katrantzou, the goalkeeper of Aris Thessaloniki FC. When he retired, he began importing sports shoes and founded a chain of department stores, Katrantzou Spor, which was one of the biggest in Greece back in the time. Brought up in this environment is enough to explain the genuine creativity and business drive in her blood.
Her initial studies in Architecture at Rhode Island School of Design in America make her realise her leaning into design, so Mary decides to transfer to Central Saint Martins where she obtains a BA in Textile design and a MA in Fashion.During her studies, she develops the unique prints and aesthetics she became popular for, she completes internships for designers such as Sophia Kokosalaki, while she works as a prints creator and designer for Bill Blass.
Her graduation show in 2008, which featured trompe l’oeil prints of oversized jewellery on jersey-bonded dresses, takes the industry by a storm, immediately securing a number of prestigious stockists, notably Browns, Joyce and Colette. Her collection is nominated for the Harrods and L’ Oreal Professionnel award and Mary is dubbed “The Queen of Print” by press, a moniker that recognized the enormous influence of her work in the medium. Following this, she manages to get the NEWGEN Funding from the British Fashion Council for the 6 upcoming seasons starting from Spring /Summer 2009. And that was only the beginning…
Following her London collection, Mary Katrantzou goes to Paris and against all odds, in a period that the financial crisis was spreading across Europe, she manages to sell more dresses that she expected: “I didn’t even take my order forms with me. I was writing my orders on the back of my press releases”, Mary says to Evening Standard. She was officially in business.
Prestigious collaborations played a vital role to establish a namesake brand that can satisfy even the most demanding fashion appetites. Adidas, New York Ballet, L’Opera de Paris, Longchamp, Topshop, Moncler, Jimmy Choo and Victoria Secret are some of the most popular brands she designed unique prints or she became an inspiration for the entire collection, while her work has been exhibited at the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Another milestone in her career was when Michelle Obama steps off Air Force One in July 2014 in one of Mary’s dresses. “You do have small moments when you feel your work is appreciated by someone you appreciate,” she recalls. “And that’s a very nice moment. It’s very rewarding. You’re like, “Oh wow, that person I admire is a Mary Katrantzou woman.”” And Michele is not the only one.. Cate Blanchett, Jessica Alba, Sarah Jessica Parker, Princess Beatrice, Melania Trump, Kerry Washington … the A-list loves her. Mary visits many of her clients, from Dallas to Doha, designing bespoke wedding dresses and event looks. “They’re amazing women. I have never met someone who buys my work who I didn’t think is amazing. They lead very interesting lives,” she says. “And I feel honored that they have chosen my work.”
But what was the unique element that made her stand out as a designer and give her own signature creating the famous print designs?
Her distinctive prints are not “a cup of tea” for several fashion experts and she manages to constantly have an element of surprise in her designs. As she mentioned, on the Harrod’s official magazine, October 2018, she didn’t use any of her signature prints in her collections for a couple of years, but her Masters Professor, Louise Wilson, advised her not to let her character and inspiration go, but to try to reinvent herself. Katrantzou’s work changed the face of twenty-first century fashion, inspiring high fashion and high street designers alike. Refining her signature aesthetic, she expanded the complexity of her textile beyond print, translating her visuals to knit, digital craftsmanship, lace, and a focus on form.
Today, she is flushed with recent investment (the Chinese heiress-turned-investor Wendy Yu acquired a minority stake in October last year), with a staff of around 30 and a studio in London’s East End. “I think in a lot of fashion cities, you just don’t get the opportunity that you get in London,” she says. “First, it’s a launch pad. Then you’re part of a generation, or between generations of designers, where you feel you’ re part of a dialogue. So what you see around you, that inspires you. The creatives you befriend. I think other cities don’t have that new voice coming in that allows you to maybe look at your work again…”. “My aesthetic has been reshaped and reformed by studying in London, and living here. What I consider tasteful now has nothing to do with what I considered tasteful in Greece.”