Americana is not a new theme in fashion, but it is one that has certainly seized hold of the runways for Fall/Winter 2016. In London, Mary Katrantzou’s collection was entitled ‘Americana and Young Love’ – a tribute found in appliquéd leathers and optimistic rainbow hues. She was inspired by cinema for the season, namely Romeo + Juliet by Baz Luhrmann and Wild at Heart. These movies were not literally conveyed, but their spirit was, in the vibrancy of Katrantzou’s color palette and nostalgia for youthful passions.
A quaint country girl opened the show, her head wrapped in a colorful babushka. Below she wore a printed jacket that had been finished with a colorful scene made from leather appliqués and a polka-dotted pencil skirt. More adventurous looks unfolded, like blouses made from a mix of leopard print, vertical ticking stripes, and appliqués shaped like flames, arrows, and stars. These appliqués were found on nearly every look, creeping down the side of tailored trousers, along the shoulders of leather jackets, patchworked atop slim-cut coats, and unfolding over the entire surface of soporific frocks. It was a dizzying, colorful display, one that was made even more pronounced by the fact that she paired such prismatic shapes and colors with dull, neutral checkered prints. Katrantzou also managed to find a perfect method for showcasing looks that were instantly recognizable as “Western” or Americana without making them into chintzy or cheesy reproductions. Her sheer butterfly dresses, Fortuny pleated skirts, and rainbow fur coats were among some of her best pieces, but the whole collection proved her strength as both a colorist and a print-maker.
There is an unfortunate aspect to the collection that bears quick discussion, as many of the looks resembled the leather appliquéd work of Miu Miu’s Spring/Summer 2011 collection. Some of Katrantzou’s versions were way too on-the-nose to be chalked up to coincidence. Pablo Picasso once said, “Good artists copy. Great artists steal,” and there is a lot of borrowing that goes on in the fashion world. However, what Picasso meant was that some artists really understand on an intrinsic level what makes something great, and then they build upon it with their own creative elements to transform it into something even more marvelous than before. No one is leveling any negative claims against Katrantzou, but the similarities between her and Miu Miu’s work cannot be denied. However, it bears pointing out that Miu Miu was not the first to employ colorful appliquéd leathers; in fact, it is a method that is central to much of Westernwear, particularly found on handmade cowboy boots. So, in a sense, as fashion cycles and reinvents, past designs will naturally get folded in. It would only have been a crime had Katrantzou not thoroughly made the technique her own – and made it marvelous to boot.