Craft is what fashion is built on - it's an artisan rather than art form, after all. Don't let lots of flashy pyrotechnics overshadow the fundamental question of whether a designer bodged their seams or not. Marios Schwab has never had anything to worry about in that department - trained in a hardcore Salzburg sewing school as a teenager, he has an enviable technical knowledge and a wicked way with an overlocker. No lumpy welts or overpressed hems on the Schwab runway.
Schwab's best collections tend to be when he strips everything back and lets the frocks do the talking - for Autumn/Winter 2011, they're talking with a distinctly seductive voice. Schwab's got sex on the brain - he called it 'topography of the body' but it's really about body-con, the silhouette he arguably does better than anyone else. There will always be a call for this kind of fashion, designed to define and refine the female form rather that deform it. But Schwab's skill is in fusing that with a conceptual conceit. His body-con has always got a brain behind it. Unlike other short-'n'-taut frock-mongers, that's what makes him interesting season after season.
This time, the concept was the craft - Schwab dived back into the handwork that defines his garments, chopping up fabric and intricately piecing it back together in myriad forms. Seams were the emphasis, sometimes reinforced with leather, sometimes raised up like scars and inset with pearls. These were echoed by complex leather-working, holes punched through skin like a man's brogue (except far more feminine). Saddlery as a theme? Maybe that's where the harnesses came from, trussing neat starchy white shirts and a few anatomically emphatic puffer jackets. Very rigid, very sharp, and very very sexy.
Those inflate-deflate silhouettes, that strapping and wrapping and all that body-consciousness are ideas that Schwab has explored before - indeed, his curvaceous cut is the foundation not only his garments but of his reputation. Nevertheless, a more blatant rerun of Schwab's greatest hits felt timely, and welcome. Oddly enough, it also felt refreshing for a designer as continually forward-thinking as Schwab to reach back into his archive and dust off a few choice gems. It also underlined his continuing, and continual, obsession with the female form divine. There will always be a potency in that - and a potential customer for it.