Who would launch a new collection amidst all this: stores shut, customers reeling back spending, everyone cooped up at home worrying what the future might hold? The middle of a global health crisis might be the ideal time to go full throttle on a new venture, but Mary Katrantzou won’t be deterred. If her prints didn’t tell you already, Katrantzou is an optimist, looking for the silver lining in a scary situation. But she’s a pragmatist too. Today, she announces the debut of a seasonless collection, dubbed Mary Mare, that serves as a lower-priced, good vibes companion to her delectable runway creations.
As she speaks about her new line, Katrantzou describes it as a fix for many of luxury fashion’s ongoing problems. In being seasonless, it avoids the vicious markdown cycle that hurts retailers and designers alike. Because physical retail is closed and some buyers have canceled orders—Katrantzou presented this collection several months ago—she is foraying into direct-to-consumer e-commerce for the first time. And by launching this new line 10 years into her business, she has had the time to do it right, using almost 100% natural fibers (swimsuits come with a speck of Lycra) and extending her size range up to a US 20.
“A lot has happened since we designed Mary Mare,” Katrantzou says over the phone from her home in London. “But in a way, I feel it’s a solution to the problems that we’re facing now. All the conversations that I’ve been part of, at least, are very inspiring and celebrate fashion as a visionary industry that has to evolve and has to react and reflect the times.”
The line transforms Katrantzou’s signatures into easy, wearable pieces with a summertime edge. There are seashell print tees, tiered ruffle skirts with an all-over coral pattern, and pareos in Katranzou’s famous postage stamp print. “We started designing it straight after our 10 year anniversary, so the themes that are part of the first Mary Mare collection are things explored in our anniversary collection,” the designer says, singling out graphic prints as being of crucial importance to the collection. “After 10 years in fashion, you understand the identity of your brand, and you want the next 10 years to represent more.”
When asked what she hopes for the future, Katrantzou says plainly, “That we survive this.” But with an agile business strategy that has eschewed the relentless-seeming fashion cycle, she is well-situated to make it through the pressures Covid-19 has put on the industry. Her most recent fashion show was in October 2019, totally off-calendar and held at the Temple of Poseidon in Sounio, Greece. For that show, she produced one-of-a-kind demi-couture pieces that have been sold as made-to-measure to clients.
Thinking about her off-calendar show and the stresses the coronavirus has put on the fashion industry, Katrantzou says, “I think I feel more open to change. We had already put a lot of thought into what we want our brand to be for the next 10 years—and that means keeping a very open mind in what you’re designing, and what is the demand and what is the desire out there.”
She’s well aware that right now might not seem like the time to be celebrating a holiday-themed collection—“We’re like, is it even relevant?”—but hopes that by launching, people will get a glimpse behind-the-scenes of the fashion industry. “In another way, I think doing this now is showing that we still are here, working from home, trying, and supporting all our partners. We’re giving ourselves the time to see what changes are coming.”
She continues, “I think as an independent designer—and I’m just talking about myself and not trying to speak for others, I think you feel that you’re maybe too small to make a difference—but I think what’s happening now is allowing our industry as a whole to make changes that should have happened already.”