Marios Schwab loves a femme fatale. After all, his artfully-engineered, intricately seamed and boned creations are hardly garb for shrinking violets. She's always been something of a silent muse then, so for spring/summer 2012 Schwab figured it was about time to move her centre-stage.
He name-dropped The Lady From Shanghai and a roll-call of forties pin-ups as reference points, but the collection itself stayed mercifully free from vintage, as is to be expected from the man who reinvented result-wear for the post-post feminist generation. Schwab's femme fatale is wrapped in layers of mesh, reworked as guipure lace grids intricately tracing the geography of the female form in strict, sinuous little dresses. That perforation ran throughout, a means to reveal and yet conceal the skin beneath, the effect of slatted blinds or cross-hatched net like those of Iberian fishermen casting a shadow across the body.
Schwab called his collection 'Chiaroscuro', and the best evocation of that came through layered mesh dresses, darted about the body like vintage lingerie. Overlaying powdery, cosmetic shades of lilac bruise, dirtied aquamarine and blush with film after film of black stretch tulle gave an optical effect, the fleeting appearance of point d'esprit or moire appearing and vanishing before your eyes with the movement of the body. Schwab described it as a mirage, and played out across fluid skirts and simple tops, it was mesmerising. He's always been obsessed by the body itself affecting his garments - in the past it's been through reflective fabrics or thermochromatic dyes, but this was the most compelling visual representation of that yet.
Knowing the inspirations behind the collection, it was almost inevitable that one would play 'Spot the Siren' chez Schwab. The pencil-skirted cocktail frocks with a popped shoulder were dead-ringers for Joan Crawford's turn in Mildred Pierce, a fluttery, grid-patterned white summerdress recalled Gene Tierney in Leave Her To Heaven - or even the blustery starlet icon of Monroe's Seven Year Itch. To see Schwab riffing on retro was striking in itself, never mind the Sicilian widow lace head-wraps or oversized straw sun-hat that took us back to the Riviera circa 1952 - but by and large the collection avoided falling into the trap of Mad Men costuming. When Schwab sent out a trite taffeta trench-coat, he trussed it with a harness: a simple act that made it look utterly contemporary. The silhouette throughout, however, was pure Golden Age of Hollywood. We're talking curvaceous - bombastic even - pushing out the breasts, hugging the waist and flaring at the hip. That's an everlasting icon of feminine allure, the female form divine. And that's probably why Schwab's repeated reiteration of its very definite charms had such enduring sex appeal.