Mary Katrantzou on Her Swiss Textiles Win and Designing a Fragrance

Although Mary Katrantzou was one of the six designers chosen to collaborate on a scent for the newest round of limited-edition fragrances by Six Scents, we really didn't expect her to actually be present at the launch party last Friday night. It was only the night before when the Greek-born, American-trained, and now London-based designer had been in Zurich where she snatched up the Swiss Textiles Award, a prestigious honor given to an emerging designer in the the fashion industry, supplemented by €100,000 in prize money.

Katrantzou, whose fellow nominees included Jason Wu, Adam Kimmel, Juun J and Damir Doma, was presented with the award by last year's winner, Alexander Wang, which only added to our estimation that she'd be whooping up her glory in Europe somewhere (or at the very least, sleeping off the long and exhausting week). The minute we spied her, smiling and laughing and looking not the least bit fatigued, we had to ask a few questions—if anything to make sure it was really her.

We're surprised you're here. The Swiss Textile Awards were only last night!
Yeah, but isn't it amazing? I feel it's like one big world and you go from one to another.

Congratulations. Have you had a chance for it to even register yet?

It hasn't properly sunk in, but I think about it all the time. Like on the plane, I had nine long hours to think about it. I really played back the event because you know, I didn't really expect it. So I tried to understand what happened It's really great.

Did you get anything like a plaque or trophy?

You get a big plexi-cube that's layered into off-cut textiles. Very fitting to the name of the prize and also very interesting how they did it. It's very cool to be able to take that.

Have you thought about what you're going to do with the 100,000 euros?
I have thought about it before, because you talk to the judges. I think it's very important for them to know what it means for me because sales have grown so much for me so quickly and you need to be able to have the financial support to sustain that. Having a team and growing your team in a way that helps the commercial side and also for us the technical side is really important—like having a production manager. This is the stage where I can't do every part of the business myself. Business, production, the creative—you have to have some entrepreneurial skills, but you have to have a team that's strong enough to take you to the next level. For me, it's for the team that's already in place, and maybe bringing another person in. I think because it's very international, it's multi-leveled and it's the perfect time for me to grow.

We loved your spring collection and all of the trompe l'oeil accents. You named the perfume trompe l'oeil too. Why?
When I first started the perfume, I was doing all these details that were very trompe l'oeil and hyperreal, and it also has a very French kind sound to it, which I think is very nice for a perfume that has a kind of a sensual scent.

Your fragrance is inspired by traveling. How do you translate an experience into a scent?

I think for me, because it was a very long list of places I'd been, that Shymala [Maisondieu], the perfumer had picked up from my questionnaire. She picked up on the idea that I had gone from Greece to American studies, then on to London, and in my experiences she got a sense of the different influences that they had. And she felt, as I was describing all this, it would match someone who would wear the dresses that I design.

Had it occurred to you to do your own perfume before this project?
When I designed my first collection, I always thought that I'd want to put out a perfume every season because it's always design inspired—the actual design discipline. I would have loved to have explored creating the bottle. I don't think this [Six Scents] is necessarily about that because they have their own marketing and their own branding. But what it gives you is an amazing opportunity to create something that you couldn't be at the stage to create. People can then link up to your work and almost like, test drive it. A scent, for the future, for whenever. If you decide to do your own, I think it's a great step, and it's good that it's collective.

I think because it's done so professionally—you give control to the perfumer, who looks at you and how you design. It's amazing to me to go and get somebody else's perspective on what I wrote about my childhood and my line—how they translate that into a scent.

How long are you in New York for?

I'm here til Monday. I was here the week before for the British Fashion council for a press thing, so it's been amazing to be in and out like that.

And where do you go after?
Then I go back to London and start on the season. That's it.

Anything other plans while you're here?
I definitely want to visit Barney's. They carry my collection—I'd love to meet the sales team there. I didn't get a chance to do it last week because I had to fly out so early. Definitely that, and just explore New York. I haven't been here since I was studying like 10 years ago, so it's amazing thing to be back and get to see Manhattan.


Contact Us