Cowshed’s first designer collaboration has put Mary Katrantzou’s kaleidoscopic prints on special Cowshed bottles, washbags and pyjamas. She talks to Laura Craik about her inspiration, her relationship with Soho House and how she stays cool during Fashion Week
Collaborations are everywhere, but when Mary Katrantzou embarks on one, you can be sure it will have more integrity than most. When she teamed up with Disney earlier this year, fashion critics wondered quite how the designer’s highly distinctive, avant garde style could possibly mesh with, er, the studio that brought us Princess Jasmine. They needn’t have worried: Katrantzou’s current autumn/winter collection is stunning, without a frou-frou pink princess in sight. Instead, she reproduced direct screenshots from the 1940s film Fantasia, a smart choice for a designer known for her fantastical prints. Now on sale at Net-a-Porter, one of the resulting silk organza gowns can be yours… if you happen to have a four-figure sum lying around.
Or you could make a beeline for Cowshed and snap up a bottle of handwash instead. For Katrantzou’s legion of fans, her latest collaboration – brokered by Cowshed’s head of communications Delara Nikkhah – will be a welcome opportunity to bag a pair of silk pyjamas that are considerably more affordable than a Fantasia gown. The PJs are part of a limited-edition capsule collection that includes a make-up bag, a washbag and special bottles for Knackered Cow, Dirty Cow and Cow Pat.
“Soho House has always been a home away from home for me and Cowshed’s ethos of honest, natural products, with no animal testing, resonates with my own approach to beauty,” says Katrantzou. “The range we created combines their nourishing ingredients with our signature patterns to create a fusion of fashion and beauty.”
Born in Athens, Katrantzou moved briefly to the US in 2003 to study architecture at Rhode Island University, before transferring to Central St Martin’s in London, where she completed her fashion training. Her 2008 graduation show of stunning trompe l’oeil prints set the bar high, and she has been raising it ever since. Her clothes may not be for shrinking violets, but they appeal to strong women who are unafraid to make a statement, and she has established a loyal clientele, with more than 200 stockists worldwide.
She describes her typical customer as “a woman who comes from a diversity of backgrounds, but shares an appreciation of design and art, as well as fashion. I hope that my work empowers women to embrace fashion as a means of expressing themselves and defining their own taste and aesthetic, while feeling confident in all the roles they occupy each day.”
Of all the prodigiously talented, print-focused designers to come out of London Fashion Week, Katrantzou’s work is arguably the most distinctive. It’s partly why she enjoys so much popularity on the red carpet – fans include Rihanna, Solange and Alexa Chung – wear one of her dresses and you are guaranteed to get noticed.
As with her dresses, so too with her Cowshed bottles: these ain’t no municipally packaged E45 creams, but will take pride of place on any bathroom shelf. “I love that people can take home a part of the warmth of the Soho House experience with this range,” she says. “It was about keeping the designs graphic, but adding warmth and colour with a metallic silver and gold element to make them stand out from the graphic monochromes of the original bottles,” she adds of the design process. “Playing with the signature, while keeping the botanical element, we created a rainbow floral print to inject colour in cool shades of blue and green and warm shades of orange and fuchsia.”
With pyjamas currently a very popular daytime look, no doubt Katrantzou’s Cowshed iterations will soon be spotted on the street. “The pyjama has become a signature style for us, and a key silhouette over the past few collections. I think it’s their versatility – they can be casually chic, dressed up or down, worn at home or packed for your travels.”
Does Katrantzou have a favourite Cowshed product? “I’m usually a Knackered Cow,” she laughs. “I love the calming lavender and eucalyptus, which help me unwind, so we made sure to include those in our capsule range.” Few could blame her for being knackered: we speak shortly before her show at London Fashion Week, when she is putting the finishing touches to her spring/summer 2018 collection. “I’m excited but stressed by all the looming deadlines,” she admits. “But I’ve learned to live with stress, and I try to harness it creatively. It pushes me outside my comfort zone to create something new.”
Nor will there be much rest once LFW has drawn to a close: as well as launching her first women’s shoe collection in September, she is also launching a new jewellery collection with Atelier Swarovski. It’s challenging but rewarding to apply her aesthetic to each new format, she says. “It allows us to reach out to a wider audience, and the Cowshed project is no exception.”
Will she be drawn on a favourite Soho House? “Soho Farmhouse. It’s the perfect idyllic country escape, but within easy reach. Although I love the integrity throughout all the Houses, as diverse as they are geographically. I love that it all started here in the UK, and that its artist-friendly community has created a unique atmosphere that always feels welcoming.” Now all she needs is more time to enjoy it.
See Mary’s designs at Cowshedonline.com