Picture it: Marios Schwab, age fifteen, the only boy at a Salzburg school that taught, in his own words, 'hardcore hausfrau sewing skills'. That kind of experience marks a fledgling fashion designer for life - indeed, you can see the traces of those 'hardcore' skills in every one of Schwab's painstakingly worked and worked-out collections - albeit sometimes masked by his complex intellectual explorations. This season felt as if Schwab had stopped thinking. Or at least, stopped over-thinking. For Autumn/Winter 2010 Marios Schwab went with his gut, stripping back to basics and intuitively creating an intelligent, considered collection women will instinctively want to wear.
At a time when fashion designers the world over are reexamining exactly what their brands should represent, Schwab very wisely looked back to his roots, not only through the sewing technique of his formative schooling, but the lines of traditional Austrian costume. His collections have always explored the dichotomy between a cold, Northern European rigidity and a Mediterranean corporeality and sensuality - hence, when Marios Schwab does a dirndl, we're not talking Von Trapp. Schwab's rigorous modernism is undoubtedly aligned to the current taste for minimalism - clean, bold lines, cut with a surgical sharpness he is more than equipped to create. He sliced his collection out of loden cloth, sculpting the felted wool into sensuous, curvaceous silhouettes that slice into and around the body. His dirndls were chopped across the thigh, his organic dÃƒÂ©colletÃƒÂ© scooped low to frame the breasts, sometimes rendered as lederhosen harnesses framing chest and back, while peacoats in melton wool were cropped away high, contorted into undulating shapes across the chest to echo the body beneath. Sounds tricksy and costumey? These were the most original and sensual proposals of the brace/trace taste for harnesses and bondage we've seen all season. Speaking of bondage, those hardcore hausfraus surfaced in sadomasochistic detailing - shiny metallic applications of utilitarian hooks, eyes and rings popped up around necklines and across both belts and waistlines of those firm dresses. Sometimes, those hooks were utilised as just that, forming anchors for braid to be wound through and lace down the waist with a corselet detailing. It sounds unwearable, but it was a mark of Schwab's innate taste and skill that, from their first exit, it was difficult to imagine a woman who wouldn't want to lace herself down into his taut frocks, so convincing was his vision.
It also counteracted, to a degree, ideas of Marios Schwab as a go-to cocktail dress label, as there was many an intriguing option for day. Zippered biker jackets and coats were rendered in tufted wool, bound down with hardware-strung belts, those dirndl dresses suddenly placed in a different context when worn over a neat silken blouse, while a shirt-dress braced in geometric ruffles looked fresh and effortless. That too is telling - these were clothes to empower, not encumber. His body-consciousness has always been about a genuine consciousness of the body rather than just a second-skin dress, and despite the severity of Schwab's graphic silhouette nothing in this finely-wrought collection looked stiff, self-conscious or uncomfortable. At the end, when Schwab came out to take his bow, for some reason he kept walking and walking until it became a lap of victory. Maybe, once more, he was going with his gut: after this glorious, victorious collection, it was beyond well-deserved.