One of my favorite things to do is to attend a beautifully curated fashion exhibition. The "Mary, Queen of Prints" show, currently on view at Dallas Contemporary, did not disappoint. If you are in the Dallas area between now and March 18th, I highly recommend a visit. Allow at least an hour, if not two, to thoroughly explore the exhibition of over 180 dresses and accessories.
London-based fashion designer Mary Katrantzou was born in 1983 in Athens, Greece. She briefly studied Architecture at Rhode Island School of Design, then transferred to Central Saint Martins, where she earned a BA in Textile Design and an MA in Fashion. Mary Katrantzou debuted her first ready-to-wear collection in Spring/Summer 2009. Since then, she has received many prestigious awards including the 2011 British Fashion Award for Emerging Talent and the 2015 BFC/Vogue Designer Fashion Fund. She has also collaborated with global brands including Adidas, Longchamp, Topshop, Moncler and Swarovski.
"Mary, Queen of Prints" is the first solo exhibition of Mary Katrantzou's work. It was curated by Dallas Contemporary Executive Director Peter Doroshenko and Deputy Director Justine Ludwig. As you enter the space, there is a long white wall of accessories - shoes, jewelry, and minaudières. These smaller pieces are a nice introduction to some of the core elements of Mary Katrantzou's design aesthetic: bold colors, sophisticated digital prints, and innovative use of materials and techniques.
As much as I adore accessories, my favorite part of the exhibition was definitely the dressed mannequins, arranged by color rather than seasonal collection or chronology. Brightly hued pedestals elevated the mannequins and identified the color stories: pink, yellow, green, purple, metallic, blue, orange/red, black/white and multi.
Mary Katrantzou is probably best known for her sophisticated digital prints. She says, "Print can be as definitive as a cut or a drape and allows a woman to filter beauty found in design, in a subversive way... Digital print allows me to experiment with print in a way that fine art and other methods could not. It opens up a huge spectrum for possibility; I can create possibility out of impossibility, surrealism out of realism and both vice versa.”
The prints are often thematic, such as the red "Typewriter" dress above (AW12). They are whimsical and enchanting, especially in the innovative techniques and interpretation of the body and balance. The juxtaposition of colors and textures are unexpected, even daring, but Katrantzou manages to always convey a tasteful elegance and femininity.
I adore her printed metal mesh dresses, which remind me of the beautiful Art Deco bags made by Whiting & Davis.
Detail of printed metal mesh fabric
Similar effect with printed Swarovski crystals
I was very impressed by the intricate beadwork applied to printed fabrics. One of my favorites was the "Paint by Numbers" gown which was heavily embroidered in vivid colors, but with some areas left "bare" in black and white with numbered spaces.
Detail of embellishments on printed floral gown
Here are a few more examples of the couture quality beadwork:
Pretty fantastic and inspiring, right? The exhibition closes on March 18, 2018. Information on Dallas Contemporary and exhibition hours can be found on their website.