Whether taking inspiration from medieval dissection manuals and Victorian proto-feminist tracts to hobbling models in floor length gowns with intriguing scissored slits or blowing up crystals to create 3D prints; Marios Schwab is one of London’s most cerebral designers. Every collection he does seems born out of meticulous research and intellectual inquiry and yet the results are anything but academic. With elements of bondage and fetishism ever-present in his work, Schwab delineates the contours of the female body with a rigor that makes for sexy, subtly revealing and powerful clothes.
His extraordinarily precise methods came to the fore with his A/W11 collection which was inspired by something as humble as his passion for exquisite craftsmanship. So he sent out supple leather dresses in a strict hourglass silhouette, punched out in an intricate brogue-like pattern with strands of Swarovski Crystal Pearls tracing lines around the body but then softened his hard edge with sinuous draped dresses.
Dazed Digital: When did you start working with Swarovski Elements and what does it add to your work?
Marios Schwab: I started working with them from seven seasons ago. What attracted me was the actual product – that it is very traditional. There’s a classic element that makes me want to challenge it. So it became an obsession – to take stereotypical elements of shine and embroidery and translate it in a modern way.
DD: You have blown up crystals to make 3D prints in the past. How did you explore the endless possibilities of using Swarovski Elements in the A/W11 collection?
Marios Schwab: I was interested in looking at expansion – looking a print that can do more than just being a print, but something that gives depth and has a 3D element. I wanted the element of something moving and in transition – that was something interesting to me. In a way it was a scientific way of looking at fabric.
DD: You used to want to be a ballet dancer as a kid – is this where your fascination with the body comes from?
Marios Schwab: Not really. What’s important in fashion is the way the body moves and it’s not necessarily from my love of ballet. My mother was a topographer and my father was an engineer in a bra factory and it’s interesting to fit all these things together to represent the body.
DD: You’re known as a very cerebral designer. What comes first for you when designing a collection – the concept or the actual fashions?
Marios Schwab: Both – they merge together. It’s an accidental process. I like taking things that surround me and challenge myself to turn them into fashion. Equally I like looking at fashion and thinking what does my woman want to wear. Eventually they both blend together in very interesting ways.
DD: The use of leather and form-fitting shapes made some critics think of Claude Montana – was he an inspiration for you?
Marios Schwab: No I never look at the work of another designer. I don’t like to look at many references. I might take an emotion and play with it. But what you mention – the leather, the form fitting shapes, the proportions of the body – that’s been done by other designers too like Mugler and Alaia. I do what I do – those shapes have been part of the Marios Schwab aesthetic from day one.
DD: The collection seemed restrained and minimal compared to some of your past work. Was it to draw attention to the craftsmanship on display?
Marios Schwab: “Nothing in excess” was a saying I started with the A/W11 collection. I wanted to look at craftsmanship and how you can frame it. Sometimes we are too occupied with over-decoration and too much. Whereas craftsmanship just has to be limited so you can learn to appreciate the details.