The Industry – Davina Catt in discussion with Mary Katrantzou

Mary Katrantzou The Industry
Mary Katrantzou, The Industry Director Courtney Blackman and Davina Catt. Photo credit: Fran Hales

Last night, London’s premium fashion members’ organisation, The Industry, met once more to listen to a very special talk between fashion journalist Davina Catt and the designer Mary Katrantzou.

I’ve always been a fan of Mary’s work, and also very inspired by how much she has achieved in six years, so I was excited to go along and find out what the woman behind the brightly printed dresses I covet so much is like. Well, as it turns out, she’s lively, bubbly and passionate and I get the feeling everyone in the audience fell a bit more in love with her over the evening.

The speed at which she was talking was testament to how much she’s experiences and achieved since starting the label which is now sold in over 300 stores around the world. There was laughter from the audience as she reflected on her very first time exhibiting at London Fashion Week with just eight dresses, one jacket and one pair of trousers which she sold to her first store for £250 each, making up the prices on the spot.

She also paid tribute to her Central Saint Martins tutor Louise Wilson, who died earlier this year of cancer, and the role she played in her career, “Without her, I wouldn’t have had the conviction to start my own label,” explained Mary.

When it comes to her designs, Mary said, “It had a much more global reach than I thought.” As a result, it has encouraged her to trust her instincts and not to worry so much about commercialising her pieces. In recent years, she’s raised eyebrows with her collections which have moved away from her signature flamboyant prints, something which she explained was because, “I felt like I didn’t have anything more interesting to add [with that particular look].” She continued to explain how each collection is a succession and the industry doesn’t often get what you’re doing until the season after a change in design direction. She joked with the audience about her designs, “I do not think of myself as a maximalist… even though that’s debatable!”

I found particular food for thought when Mary shared her thoughts on her high street collaboration with Topshop. Designers can often be looked down upon for ‘selling out’ with a high street collection but, for Mary, she did it to reclaim her designs being used on the high street. She explained that she had begun to see her ideas rolling out into high street stores and that working with Topshop enabled her to reach out to those customers with something at an accessible price point that was authentically hers. I have never considered designer partnerships with mass market stores in this way and it made me really admire Mary for having this attitude.

At the start of the evening Mary mused, “I love the uncertainty, that I don’t know where my brand will be in ten years’ time.” As a journalist, it’s going to be a real pleasure to follow and report on this unknown journey with her.

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