Climbing up the slab steps to the glowing Temple of Poseidon-Sounio, south of the Athens Riviera, an ominous feeling hovered. Perhaps it was the slow and eerie plucking of strings, a mysterious Hellenic pre-show song that wafted through the night air. Or, maybe it was that a few hours prior, a torrential storm had raged, risking to wipe out the entire massive production altogether. But come nightfall, any fury among the gods had subsided, and the show went on. And what a show it was. For her tenth anniversary, Greek designer Mary Katrantzou, who is based in London, staged her Spring 2020 show at the cliffside 5th century BC temple with Doric columns and offering sweeping views of the Aegian sea below. She invited press and friends from around the world on the tail-end of fashion month to join her for what ultimately was a couture show to benefit a higher cause.
While the jet-setting crowd, including Noor Fares, Racil Chalhoub, and Sabine Getty, might have anticipated ready-to-wear, the looks breathed couture. Katrantzou referenced great Greek thinkers—Socrates, Aristotle, Archimedes—to bring her extravagant creations to life and with higher meaning. The first look read in drip letters, “The only true wisdom is the knowledge that you know nothing.” The quote lent from Socrates presented a humble statement on behalf of the designer. Soon afterward, Cindy Bruna emerged in a floor-length silk dress and cape embroidered with Archimedes’ constant Pi, its numbers hypnotized as they calculated into infinity. Another dress featured a Swarovski-embellished and embroidered bralet with the shape of the scales of Greek goddess Nemesis, daughter of Justice. Then, a rosemary pink tulle appeared, cut into a double-hemisphere tiered crinoline gown. This piece was only triumphed by the last look, “cartology,” a ballgown in tulle and silk chiffon entirely covered in silk petals featuring a fantasy map of reimagined countries and continents in lemon, apricot, and celeste blue petals. Accenting the gowns was high jewelry from Bulgari for dazzling effect. Here is a collection for dreamers and doers of a better world.
“It coincided with me wanting to do something in Greece that I had never done before,” said Katrantzou the night before her show at a sit-down dinner of moussaka and orzo on Lake Vouliagmeni. With her proud parents looking on, she explained that the show supports the Elpida Association of friends of children with cancer. The association was founded in 1990 by a group of women with grande dame Mrs Marianna V. Vardinoyannis as its president. “I traveled to Greece, and Elpida took me to the pediatric oncology hospital that they built. I saw all the incredible work that they have done for the past 30 years and their medical and research teams, and all the men and women that take care of these children and their families when they are not well. I was really touched. It puts certain things into perspective. I became a donor the exact same day I visited the hospital.” She dreamed to do a show at the Temple, show her guests from all over the world what Greece has to offer, and what Elpida has been doing for the past 30 years. “I cannot believe that we are actually here,” she commented, visibly elated.
For the show’s finale, children wearing Elpida tees descended the runway to stand alongside the 38 models dressed in couture. The spirit of Poseidon was present, for there was not a dry eye on the temple. For her tenth anniversary, Katrantzou created both a collection and a moment worthy of the gods. She inspired not just beauty but also hope “elpida” for the sick and sometimes hopeless with fashion. This last show following a whirlwind season points the way forward.