In recent years, the drumbeat of London fashion has been, "Get the business right." The inspirational waywardness the city was once internationally recognized for took a backseat. But what is inescapable after the shows for Spring 2011 is that London's most successful fashion voices are again its most idiosyncratic.
Marios Schwab is one of them. He's currently helming Halston in New York, but today he added another enigmatic chapter to his own story. "And you need to tell a story," he insisted after the show.
Schwab's outré combination of lingerie, bikers, and occult symbology was actually quite logical. His father engineered women's undergarments when Marios was growing up in Athens, so he's been absorbing the terrain of the female body by osmosis since childhood. In an effort to convey a woman's many facets with this collection, he wanted the clothes to reflect femininity and toughness. Lingerie and lady bikers—what could be more graphic than that? And bikers love tattoos, which embody the idea of personal history, a Schwab fascination. Where his own bent came in was the particular kind of tattoo: pentagrams, crosses, pyramids, the all-seeing eye—surely the first time the Freemasons have been captured in couture.
Did it work? Not quite. If the proper lady has been a dominant presence in fashion so far this season, her inverse, the bad girl, has been almost equally evident, and Schwab's models, with their black-rimmed eyes and shag cuts, their droopy slipdresses and biker heels, looked like real female trouble. A pink teddy with black leather pants? Yeah, that felt about right. Schwab can be an extraordinarily precise designer, and he delivered leather pieces (some provocatively harnessed) that were more Philo than floozy. But the problem was those slips. The designer deconstructed and draped them to give them more fluidity and visual interest, but there was something dangerously cheap—or cheaply dangerous—about the result.