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Mary Katrantzou is positive: every snake can become a butterfly

Economically powerful brands like Bulgari can provide crafting resources that usually are not available: nowadays, this should be the premise for every brand collaboration

Through the eyes of… Bulgari series

Designer Mary Katrantzou and jeweler Bulgari have things in common; for one, their shared Greek heritage. The latter was created in 1884 by Greek silversmith Sotirios Voulgaris, who had migrated to Rome in search of a better future; a century later Katrantzou was born in Athens, later moving to London to study fashion. Both are decadent in their aesthetic and favored by flamboyant figures. The news of Katrantzou collaborating with Bulgari as the next designer for their Through the Eyes of… series should then come as no surprise. Katrantzou was raised with «a deep appreciation of Bulgari. Bulgari is a brand that is loved in Greece».

Mary Katrantzou and Bulgari partnership

Katrantzou’s first professional encounter with Bulgari was for her spring 2020 show, a homecoming at the Temple of Poseidon in Athens. They «became a partner on all levels for that show, loaning their jewelry and supporting me and the charity Elpida (a Greek children’s cancer charity)». It turned into a collaboration exploring the metamorphosis of Serpenti, the design first created in the 1940s. Katrantzou was able to travel to Rome and Florence to meet the teams and study the archival designs in person just in time before the coronavirus travel ban. The actual design process and development happened during lockdown. They didn’t realize at the time the implications of the pandemic and just how applicable the capsule’s theme would become: «metamorphosis. Serpenti as a symbol for transformation and rebirth. It’s a message of optimism». Her priority was «amplifying the presence of Serpenti in their accessories and strengthening this dialogue between Bulgari departments». 

Serpenti and metamorphosis

«Those three elements became clear as a triptych, thinking of the idea of highlighting the snakehead, body, and skin, as it transforms into the spiral of butterflies». First came the minaudiere: an extreme close-up on the snakehead, it took inspiration from 1960’s Serpenti watches down to the opening mechanism triggered by pressing the snake’s tongue. Then came the puffy bag remixed with a Serpenti handle, showing off the snake’s movement. «I’m not able to explore that workmanship in such detail in my own collections because the scale is so different». As soon as the idea of Serpenti as a symbol for metamorphosis came into her mind, butterflies followed. Partly because of the similarities of the transformations within each creature’s lifespan, partly because of the contrasting archetypes they represent. 

Bvlgari Mary Katrantzou Snake Butterfly Naples
The snake symbol of the goddess Athena, epigraph to the tomb of Leopardi, Naples

Mary Katrantzou’s butterfly

Butterflies have been a leitmotif in many of Katrantzou’s designs. To Katrantzou, butterflies represent an aspect of femininity: the «vulnerable, ethereal» kind that is associated with the archetypical femme. Butterflies, although graceful in a way that seems effortless, have to experience being a larva first; the notions that spring to mind are of hope, re-invention, and trusting the process of coming into one’s authentic self. The other side of the coin, is the snake. Fully formed upon cracking the walls of its egg, it will grow larger and shed skins, but its shape is defined and final from the beginning. Katrantzou emerged as a designer the moment she opened the 2008 Central Saint Martins graduate show with her eponymous collection and catapulted her career led by pure instincts, launching her namesake brand right after completing her degree. «I didn’t understand what it meant. I entered naively, but because I didn’t know any better, it was for the best. When you know too much, and when you’ve seen how difficult it is to build something of your own. I might have felt deterred, but I had the strength of my conviction». She found the support from the British Fashion Council and from the boutiques that offered to buy her master’s collection.

Trompe l’oeil in fashion and accessories

Her background as a child of an interior designer mother and textile engineer father shone through her designs most conspicuously for her spring 2011 collection Ceci n’est pas une chambre, which showcased bits and pieces of images from old issues of Architectural Digest and World of Interiors digitally printed onto fabric. Her fondness for «the idea of challenging perception» via busy prints and trompe l’oeil motifs came from her appreciation of other disciplines. As a fan of Elsa Schiaparelli, Katrantzou explains her fascination with trompe l’oeil as means to «create through the world of print a visual world or a visual language that would be new and reimagining it as applied design, almost as if an architect build that around a female figure». Serpenti is her first attempt at designing accessories.

Bulgari, Katrantzou and Vodianova

Katrantzou also designed a sartorial collection maintaining the theme of metamorphosis, though the release date is unknown for now. Katrantzou was also invited to reimagine Bulgari’s Omnia fragrances, working closely with master perfumer Alberto Marias. The perfume’s launch is scheduled for May. «I wanted to look at the shape of the Omnia perfume bottle and reimagine it as a vase that holds a floral bouquet, an explosion of colors different to our capsule with Serpenti, but still in tune with this idea of challenging the perception». For the face of her version of Serpenti, Katrantzou turned to model and activist Natalia Vodianova – and through Vodianova, Bulgari also partnered with the model’s foundation The Naked Heart: «We have as part of our collaboration a moment where we can all effect positive change, where we can all contribute through design».

Bulgari through the eyes of Mary Katrantzou

Mary Katrantzou is a Greek fashion designer who is based in London. She graduated in 2008 from Central Saint Martins and her graduating show mapped out her signature style. It was themed around trompe l’oeil prints of oversized jewellery featured on jersey-bonded dresses.

Bulgari is an Italian jewelry house founded in 1884 by Greek Sotiros Voulgaris. Introduced in the 1940’s the Serpenti collection is one of the icons of the Maison. After launching in 2020 the capsule collection of Serpenti, through the eyes of… with Tokyo based brand Ambush, the brand has launched its new collaboration with designer Mary Katrantzou in March 2021.

Karolina Liczbinska

The writer does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article.

check and buy on Prototipo Store
item collections in limited edition
crafted according to our editorial search

Hemp / made in Italy
Lampoon is working to restore Hemp production in Italy
as hemp is the one and only natural vegetal fiber sourceable in the country
for more info, please email us

check and buy on Prototipo Store
item collections in limited edition
crafted according to our editorial search

Hemp / made in Italy
Lampoon is working to restore
Hemp production in Italy
as hemp is the one and only
natural vegetal fiber sourceable in the country
for more info, please email us at [email protected]

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