It is rare that Marios Schwab lays all his cards on the table. He is the master of the off-beat reference and unexpected twist, working themes as varied as pornography, fretworked William Morris prints and the internal workings of the human body into delicate dresses that give only the vaguest hint of the deep thought processes that lie beneath.
Schwab's S/S 2011 collection was something of a revelation then. He cited tattoos, biker clothing, grunge and mysticism as his key themes. And that was exactly what we got: Courtney Love Kinderwhore negligees, hefty calfskin jackets and dresses, pentangles formed from criss-crossing spaghetti straps, and tattoo prints scrawled across jersey dresses. However, by keeping the message relatively simple, Schwab managed to entrance by the way he played with these elements. He fused the hard and soft in calfskin dresses edged with a lingerie border of lace, or by integrating harsh S&M leather harnesses into his fragile lace-edged camisole dresses. To further tug those loose, flowing crepe de chine frocks in line with his trademark body-con aesthetic, Schwab remade them in tough grosgrain, openwork lace marching around the complex seams or sliced out as applique details on the bodice, echoing those tattoo motifs. There was a loose Navajo influence, and those pentangles soon began to resemble dreamcatchers, especially against Schwab's palette of bleached desert sand, earth brown, black and a deep rich turquoise.
Some may argue this offering was a touch simple-minded for Schwab, acknowledged as London fashion's great conceptualist. But it felt as if Schwab was perhaps speaking in layman's terms, adroitly outlining a complex idea that needed simple, straightforward language to be understood. And to be simple and straightforward, this was the most adept and interesting riff on next spring's emerging feel for hard soft we have seen yet. More importantly, it also felt like a brave new direction for Schwab. It will no doubt be fascinating to see where it takes us in the future.