LFW diary: Mary Katrantzou’s garden of delights, Marios Schwab’s pearls and perforations

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Mary Katrantzou shot by Tim Whitby/Getty Images

Mary, Mary, quite contrary, how does your garden grow? With silver bells and golden fish and pretty maids all in a row. Oh, and lotus flowers and Ming vases and tea-room wallpaper and… all this print which is more than I have words for. It left me faint.

Fall ’11 is only Mary Katrantzou’s sixth show, and I remember her first, when she was back-to-back with Mark Fast and nobody knew either of them. She’d just began doing perfume-bottle prints and their hyperrealness startled me. Then she picked up whole rooms and swirled them into wearable objet d’arts. Now she’s in the garden: more specifically, she says, Diana Vreeland‘s apartment, or “garden of hell.” If this is hell, I’m quite happy to be headed there.

She opened with structured forms, a last season’s lampshade skirts. Under these, and all through the show, she layered tapestry-like knits. There were sweaters under strapless, curvilinear sheaths and leggings under skirts. Katrantzou is a dreamer, but she’s building a real business here: those knits will sell to girls (like me) who only wish they could wear (or afford) the Faberge-egg dresses, the silk cocoon coats or the magnificent hoop skirts that drew the show to a close. I was surprised when, in the finale, we didn’t all stand.

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Marios Schwab shot by Antonio de Moraes Barros Filho/Getty Images

Afterward I had to readjust my eyes to solid colours, but I did like Marios Schwab‘s leather frocks and wool separates. They were foodie hues: tomato, red wine, black and green olive, carbohydrate beige. The leathers came trimmed in perforation, and with their apron shapes, weren’t far off last fall’s Swiss Miss collection. He did wool and jersey with leather straps and buckles⎯kinda Altuzarra⎯along pockets or in place of harnesses, as on one dreamy Grecian gown (a reminder that he also designs⎯or rather, drapes⎯for Halston.) I loved his fresh use of pearls. They studded armholes or dotted his raw, extruded seams⎯a clever way to flaunt construction.

Mary, Marios and most London designers thrill me because they do what they do, without seeming to look at everybody else. It’s not that they are oblivious to trends⎯Katrantzou did her version of the Chinoiserie thing, after all, and Schwab’s colours were very Fall ’11⎯but that they are able to transcend them. I was just in New York, where there’s a redundancy of trendiness among contemporary designers, so many of whom seem to have idolized Helmut Lang in exactly the same way at the same time. Had I not seen Rodarte last, I’d have left pretty depressed. But London, with its many-splendoured ways of rebelling against the grey, reminds me why I care about fashion at all.