Mary Katrantzou FW2014/15 collection inspiration can be found everywhere: the symbolic exchange of a stop sign, the meaning of colour, heraldic insignia, the symbolic charge of a rose, uniforms, uniformity. Each has an immediate visual impact, a language of their own that suggests an idea, a belief, an action. The root of the word symbolism is Greek - symbolon, meaning token or watchword. But the idea of "symbol" is the truth inside that token, the meaning hidden below the surface. A symbol is a visual image representing an idea, a deeper indicator of a universal truth. Symbolic exchange is the oldest of all languages. It has always been evoked through adornment - wearing your heart on your sleeve, an immediate indicator of nationality, political allegiance, profession, religion, sex and sexuality. The language of clothes.
Mary Katrantzou has used print and form in the past to create her own distinctive language. For this collection, she plays with the language of symbols, with the visual values of culture, abstracting them from their origins and reinventing them as a connecting line of a new aesthetic language. Signs and symbols, uniform or unique, emblematic of an idea.
The starting point came from uniforms: scouts, city-boy pinstripes, mechanics, bakers and butchers, construction workers. The similarities between company representatives in uniform; the identity of the company - and, indeed, the wearer - focus on the symbols embroidered onto the garments. The symbols are what differentiates them.
These elements are juxtaposed and remixed through a lexicon of luxury, their symbolic devices forming the basis for intricate laces, embroideries, appliqué and brocades worked onto the shapes. They are representative, still, of their individual parts and professions but they are given an added symbolic value.
Lines are sleek and lean, often elongated and ground-skimming. Pleats animate fabric, garments layered to give depth to each look. Just as a symbol can be immediately read by the eye, these garments are an exercise in textile innovation, each one having an immediate visual impact and then a deeper, subtler meaning, only unravelled when the specially engineered brocades, laces and intricately worked surfaces are examined up close.
Rather than cleaving into their distinct parts, Mary Katrantzou cross-pollinates her signs and symbols. Chain-mail butchers aprons are reinterpreted as a metallic dress under slick suiting or adorned with metallic cookie-cutter jewels; fragile lace patterned with road-signs and tool box interiors, and bespoke military-inspired appliqués are used as decorative devices.
The meaning is not lost, but the symbols are given an additional meaning, a new aesthetic impact. Sometimes, the collaging forms new symbols. Tokenistic gods, pagan silhouettes reminiscent of samurai warriors are created from collections of signs and symbols, themselves forming new emblems that signify Mary Katrantzou.
Indeed, the free exchange of symbols throughout derives an additional meaning, to denote the wearer as a member of the Katrantzou tribe.