Meet Mary Katrantzou: The Designer Behind Taylor Swift's Alphabet-Soup Romper

Mary Katrantzou Q&A
Photo: Imaxtree (5)

Meet fashion's current mistress of maximalism, the designer whose arabesque prints and exuberant embellishments are like catnip to stars who want to be noticed. Mary Katrantzou (pictured, below) explains the advantages of dressing adventurously, and why she herself wears only black.

Describe Mary Katrantzou in three words."I'm honest, I'm demanding, and I'm positive."

Where do you think your interest in such over-the-top prints came from?"I was very naive starting out. I just did what I felt was right. My very first designs at London Fashion Week were printed perfume bottles. I never even considered whether women would wear them—I just thought it was an interesting idea to turn a bottle on its head and create an hourglass silhouette. It hasn't been done before, so I began with that. And I felt I had to put every idea I had into the collection because otherwise someone else might do it."

Mary Katrantzou Q&A

Why do you think it took off so quickly?"It was a bang-on when the recession started, and most colorful things usually take flight in times of gloom and doom. This was happy. Also, all the advancements in technology created a sort of jolt as to what you do with digital prints."

Some of your ideas have sounded strange, like skirts that look like lamp shades. Were you ever worried?"That was a risk, but it was the collection when I first started translating prints into silhouettes in a fairly brave way. It's a fine line between being a novel idea or a gimmick. Thankfully, it was on the right side of the spectrum.

Your fall designs are actually collages of Scout patches, cookie cutters, and restroom signs (above, at top). Was there a lightbulb moment?"It was originally about utilitarian uniforms devoid of anything graphic. My stylist sat me down and said, 'What does this have to do with Mary Katrantzou?' Through that conversation of intent came those symbols that everyone around the world recognizes. If there were no language, theoretically, you could speak through those images. Print is a visual language, and so are symbols."

Is there a symbol that would represent you?"An overexcited one."

Was there a hidden message in Taylor Swift's alphabet-soup romper at the MTV Video Music Awards (below)?"The calligraphic letters that float across the lace are actually inspired by turn-of-the-century schoolbooks, which felt appropriate because her songs have such a strong sense of narrative. She wore it with such confidence, and she had the best legs that night!"

Mary Katrantzou Q&A
Gregg DeGuire/WireImage

But I notice you always wear black. Why is that?"I may be a maximalist in my work, but in form I'm more of a purist. For me, black is now more of a uniform. I grew up wearing color. My mom set out matching outfits for me, like a tartan dress with tartan shoes. So at some point it was a rebellion, and now that I work with a lot of color, print, and pattern, I tend to be quite minimal in my other choices in life. My flat is that way too. It's almost a cleansing of the palate."

PHOTOS: Celebrities in Mary Katrantzou, On and Off the Red Carpet

For more features like this, pick up the November issue, available on newsstands now and for digital download.

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