To say that Marios Schwab is obsessed with the female body is well, rather obvious by now. From his very first collection to the one we saw last night he's been sculpting it with corsetry, mapping its contours with intricate seams, dissecting it, tattooing it and of lately, embellishing it with Swarovski crystals - a move that's turned him into a rather unexpected hit on the red carpet. He also happens to be a very considerate, intelligent and emotive designer, which is why saying that this collection didn't exactly hit the mark is rather painful to admit.
Schwab sways from the cerebral to the poetic and he is great in doing both. This season he worked in collaboration with Tunisian artist Nja Mahdaoui on the calligrams, the art of script, that decorated the short velvet dresses. Long capes added protection and the models wore Gladiatorial ballerinas, a hybrid shoe by Ancient Greek Sandals. The palette was moody and dark, influenced by the Flemish painter Petrus Chistus but it was lifted now and then, a white sweatshirt with black seams over a skirt, its slit revealing a layer of black lace underneath. A clear plastic raincoat embellished with Schwab and Mahdaoui's scribbles was particularly striking, with a white ruffled high collar adding texture. The busts on some dressed were patent and small starfish cut-outs on the elbows were a clever 'Schwabian' touch.
Perhaps it was coming to this straight from Richard Nicoll's bright and modern show or maybe the dark venue and gloomy palette did not mix well but parts of it felt heavy and, dare I say, old. The slashed sleeves were fluid, yes, and the crystal embroidery was beautiful - a metallic lace dress with cape sleeves was stunning but others lacked energy. A maroon sheer gown with a crinoline skirt trimmed with velvet and the dream of a gown that closed the show, sheer and light as a feather yet heaving with embellishment, left me yearning for more - more poetry and more drama and more flights of fancy. Marios Schwab could let some light in or, at the very least, try a new venue.