Mary Katrantzou wanted to prolong fashion’s reversion to childhood-centric fashion at her Spring 2018 show at London Fashion Week in September. In a stripped back venue on the Charing Cross Road—doubling as the Topshop Show Space—the Greek-born designer’s “idealised infancy” enlivened the bleak warehouse space it was presented it, with its restless colour, bulbous silhouettes and an homage to the “signifiers and symbols of youth.” The return to a childlike state has been permeating the fashion industry at large for over a year. It arrived in the final stages of the US presidential election campaign and lasted through President Donald J Trump’s first year in office. As demonstrated by Ms. Katrantzou’s insistence of innocence, the world has yet to adjust to the new world order. With rising tensions between the US and North Korea, the finalisation of Brexit negotiations, impeachments and corruption scandals, the turbulent political climate has led to this.
Ms. Katrantzou channelled infancy differently to other designers. Many have focused on memories, of their mothers, aunts and grandmothers, or on the women of the time. In contrast to this, Ms. Katrantzou explored the world of childhood. Childhood art forms such as Hama beads transmogrified into gingham skirts, or playthings such as Lego being used to fabricate skirts—in the case of the Lego, it creates a beautiful patchwork design. Furthermore, the use of paint-by-number flowers further extrapolates the childhood reference pool.
One noticed a coffee-bean brown cropped jacket and hobble skirt with a vinyl hemline featured yellow polka dots; it resembled the work of Yayoi Kusama—a look which conveniently preceded the concurrent retrospectives of the Japanese artist, ‘Infinity Nets’ and ‘Festival of Life’, at the Chelsea and Upper East Side outposts of the David Zwirner Gallery in New York. Kusama has reportedly been fascinated by polka dots since she was ten-years-old.
There were many things at play here, as is often the case in one of Ms. Katrantzou’s multifaceted shows. One picked up on self-referencing—the boldly bright bucolic pursuits of her 2011 collections and the revisiting of the structural elements of Fall 2014 (the season in which she refocused, pinpointing tone and surface decoration as leitmotifs). Then she was a purveyor of a structure party dress. Here silhouettes were loose, reminiscent of a child’s drawing of clothing, with swollen shapes and flouncy fabrics. Moreover, Some of the collection were redolent of Miuccia Prada’s unmistakable work. Ms. Katrantzou has long been a fan of the Italian and often is the case where there is noticeable whiffs of her work at either Prada or Miu Miu. Similarly, the proportions were evocative of Cristobal Balenciaga’s extravagant ballgowns in the 1950s, a decade which Ms. Katrantzou, and Mrs. Prada, has extreme fondness for.
Although the colours took some adjusting to—especially at the 9am show time—and the silhouettes were a distinctive departure from seasons past, one got the impression that reverting to the childlike state signalled Ms. Katrantzou’s yearning for something more fun. Fashion can be frivolous, and in this instance, she exploited that in the same way film studios commercialise their outputs. These clothes, these accessories, will be desired in the same way the latest Lego release. Child’s play.