Mary McFadden pleated dress and throw, photographed by Pierre Schermann for Women’s Wear Daily, New York, 1977.
While Mary McFadden will probably always be remembered principally for her pleated dresses à la Fortuny, she has not only made outfits for Grecian maidens, but has also brought global artistry to the comfort of easy sportswear. Hand-painted skirts, dresses and jackets are informed by McFadden’s acute awareness of international design traditions, with a special leaning towards Southeast Asia and Africa. Textile scholarship and crafts luxury are, however, mediated by McFadden’s unerring sense for modern comfort and poise. Inspired by decorative traditions and her pleasure in textiles, McFadden has rendered both Klimt and the Book of Kells in sumptuous coates, seized details from Portuguese tiles and understood the rich batiks of Southeast Asia. She straddles the art-to-wear movement and the pragmatic fashion industry. Likewise her clothing strikes an urbane formality for daywear and a wearable ease for evenings. In an epoch when colour is cautious, McFadden is a sumptuous world traveller.