Essay: Dress by Marios Schwab
As a teenager Marios Schwab was the only boy at what he himself terms 'a hardcore sewing school for hausfraus' in Salzburg. It's the kind of experience that marks a designer for life, and certainly the razor-sharp tailoring and hand-finished details throughout Schwab's career owe a debt to the skills learned in those formative years.
For Autumn/Winter 2010, however, Schwab quoted more explicitly than ever from his experiences as a teenager. His work has always reflected his upbringing - his father was Austrian,. his mother Greek, and there is a combination of the respective austerity and sensuality of those two cultures throughout his work. If he channeled the drapery of his Greek heritage for his debut at Halston this season, for his own Marios Schwab label he looked back to his time in Salzburg, using not only the hardcore dressmaking learned there, but also drawing on the attire of his female fellow pupils.
This garment is based on traditional Teutonic costume - the dirndl. All the elements are there, the tightly-fitted bodice laced tautly over the waist, skirt belling over the hips and breasts cupped by the cut of the firm fabric. This garment is silk, but Schwab used classic Loden wool throughout the show in yet another link with his heritage.
Speaking of the heritage of Marios Schwab, this garment is a return not only to his cultural roots, but his design roots also, reflecting both his teenage classmates, but also his early career. Schwab is credited with reinventing the idea of 'Body Con', seizing on early nineties notions of 'result wear' and reinvigorating them for a new generation of women. However, that's not to say there is anything nostalgic about Schwab's output - this garment is resolutely modern and distinctly contemporary.
It's fascinating to see how Schwab manages to imbue a garment often seen as frumpy and folksy with new sex appeal. Sometimes this is quite blatant - the show seized inspiration from the sadomasochistic novel The Story of O, and dirndl here meets dominatrix. The criss-cross corset lacing is pulled open, sutures provocatively binding soft fabric against the body, the skirt hemline slices across the upper thigh instead of below the knee, and the décolletage undulates organically around the breasts, framing rather than restraining the body. Schwab's father worked in an underwear factory - thus the corsetry elements, industrial eyelets used as decoration in a sublime and subtle piece of underwear as outerwear.
Plucked so evidently from Schwab's past, what does this dress say about Autumn/Winter 2010? Quite a lot. It speaks of a severity of line, a strictness, a precision that resonates with women today. There is also a believability to this dress, an easy desirability. In short, it feels like the most modern way for a woman to dress, without sacrificing an ounce of femininity or sex appeal. Isn't that exactly what fashion should be about?