A fusion of the Bauhaus with the ostentation of high Victoriana - a paradox, with its root in truth. Mary Katrantzou’s Autumn/Winter 2018 collection explores an intermingling of two different breeds of aesthetic, using their components to discover a new hybrid. The roots of Modernism lie, conversely, in the Victorian age, when practitioners such as William Morris began to approach aesthetics with an all-encompassing ideology that the Bauhaus would dub ‘Gesamtkunstwerk’ - a total work of art. Here, all arts, fine and applied, would eventually be brought together.
Originally studying textiles for interiors, Mary Katrantzou has always applied the same principle to her fashion design, blurring boundaries between decorative mediums and drawing inspiration from objects, interiors and art, as well as fashion. For Autumn Winter 2018, these different disciplines combine again - alongside specific inspiration from two seemingly antithetical aesthetics, of Bauhaus modernism and the ostentation of the Victorian period. Ornament is crime, versus ornament is everything.
In both cases, inspiration is drawn not only from the respective fashions of the eras, but from the entire sphere of the decorative arts. Bauhaus furniture and architecture inspires sharp, reductionist lines and slender geometric silhouettes, while poster lithographs for the Bauhaus Exhibition in Weimar inspires a range of graphic treatments. Conversely, the Victorian era’s excesses in dress and design are translated to the body, with swagged curtains translated to trompe l’oeil sequinned drapery and Victorian lampshades becoming structured, cinch-waist jackets with crinoline hips.
Intricate fabric techniques, embroideries and tapestries expound the deification of craft and technique intrinsic to both. The reductionist lines of Bauhaus art and design are translated to jacquard and intarsia knits, while the 1800s inspire Persian carpet motifs executed in heat-curled sequins, and an Aubusson-inspired tapestry. Silhouettes draw on the linear Twenties alongside curvaceous, tight-waisted nineteenth-century shapes, with corset lines and subtle hip emphasis underlining the hourglass shapes. Cross-breeding the extravagance of Victoriana with the utility of the Bauhaus, trouser suits are created in wallpaper-inspired damasks in Stately Home shades of periwinkle, rosé, gilt and sterling; damasks and specially-woven jacquards also become parkas and anoraks created in collaboration with outerwear specialists Moose Knuckles Canada, lending the utilitarian a hint of luxury.
In the opposite, Katrantzou discovers something apposite, initially by juxtaposing the paradoxical, then by discovering their shared traits. The graphic tiles of an 1880s hallway, translated into intarsia leather, fils coupé or faux fur, can pretend to be Bauhaus; sleek, sharp lines are discovered in the florid decorative forms of lampshades. The technique of Pointillism, devised in 1886 by Georges Seurat and Paul Signac, inspires a series of draped dresses in velvet micro-dots or bead embroidery - the painting technique is analogous to the four-colour CMYK printing process, another unexpected link found between the two styles. Embroidered dresses literally juxtapose the styles, collaging Bauhaus graphics atop Arts and Crafts motifs, or embellishing carpet-inspired prints with sharp spikes and angular Swarovski crystal, like skyscraper conductors, echoed in Modernist jewellery.
The whole finds beauty in the attraction of opposites, an uncompromising rewriting of aesthetic codes and form language.