Right about now, there are a lot of fashion insiders slightly to moderately concerned about Mary Katrantzou’s emotional state of well being. Ms. Katrantzou is know very a very bright aesthetic, one that is full of primary colours and active pastels. Her last two collections have almost had an outer space theme to them without going so far as to license a 40-year-old movie. As with most designers, there is a specific look one expects from Mary Katrantzou.

This wasn’t it.

What we got instead was a collection so dark I briefly considered not reviewing it. The first few pieces were so dark and ethereal I thought someone must have made a mistake and delivered the wrong clothes. There was no way something this dark could be Mary Katrantzou, but it was. Once we got past the first five gowns, Mary took off on a wonderful trip that involves incredible applique, amazing brocade, and some delightful experimentation with folds and multiple asymmetry. When all was said and done, I’m not so sure but what this may be my favorite Mary Katrantzou collection ever.

Yes, this is a very dark-toned collection, to be sure, but what Mary does with it is astonishing. Let’s start with incredible patterned brocade and applique over sheer dresses with pleated school girl skirts. The applique of faux patches is busy, to be sure, but yet it’s a look from which I simply cannot peel my eyes. There is almost a sinister feeling to the darkness of some of the brocade pieces. One might question just how deep Mary had to dig to find the muse inspiring these looks, but I do hope this is the beginning of a trend.

Then, let’s talk about this pleated asymmetrical panels. We see them first elongating just a portion of hem on very short school-girl skirts. At first, I thought it was some sort of towel, as I’ve seen some servers wear. Closer inspection, though, reveals that these are very carefully pleated panels, with an extreme attention to detail. While they are interesting in this short version, they become absolutely amazing when she starts them up by the shoulder and let’s them run below the knee. That look alone is spectacular and dynamic. Then, just to out-do herself, she adds a third panel on some pieces so that the hem has three different lengths to it. This is the kind of fresh and innovative look London has been needing.

Matrantzou diverts our attention for a moment to really shiny patterned masculine style suits, which are  all very cool and sexy, but the material still plays better when worked into pieces that feature the long, pleated drape.

Toward the end of the collection, Mary goes back to applique, very large, very severe. Some remind me of a parent carrying a child in a front pack; they are just that bulky. My favorites, though, are where she utilizes a soft wire mesh for the dress with more solid designs in brass for the applique. The effect is very industrial and severe.

Whatever took Mary Katrantzou down this new path, I do hope it can stay. What she has done this season is transformational and I, for one, hope she never looks back beyond this point.

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