CULTURE

Hidden constructions revealed

Imagine you’re in a black room. Now go to the window and look outside. Do you see a bed of flowers right in front of you? You will, provided you’re wearing one of Marios Schwab’s fresh new garments, part of his latest collection for spring/summer 2007, shown during London Fashion Week last month. Living in a world of antitheses – from fabric to cut – Schwab takes a close and curvy look at the body. «In my story, there’s this red rose which just fades and fades. It becomes a little pale, but it remains beautiful. It’s something which gets older, but remains sleek,» he said. Hailed by The Face as the next bright young thing, the half-Greek, half-Austrian, London-based Schwab belongs to a tiny and select group of designers the fashion industry is watching closely. Family ties His own feeling for clothes has a little bit to do with his parents. His Austrian father, a production manager for Europe’s leading Triumph International underwear and lingerie brand offered him a view of the technical side, while his mother became an inspiration through her beauty and personal style. «I could be as creative as I wanted; my parents were very open-minded,» said Schwab. «My Austrian heritage perhaps has to do with me being focused. I’m a control freak, very anal in the way that fabrics need to be treated. I’m always determined to finish an idea and I do have a particular passion for craftsmanship. «My Greek side, on the other hand, has to do with an aesthetic of women, the way I see fashion, my environment, the white and black. The colors. The textures. I don’t like to represent something raw. I like it when there’s something mystical and that has to do with Greek mentality.» «In my mind I see a woman who is very Greek. She has curly hair and black eyebrows. She is romantic, but she also has an intellectual side.» And she is about to be clad in a contradiction of sexy and avant-garde, where a penchant for extreme opposites includes mixing harsh elements with softer ones. In the spring-summer 2007 collection, Schwab’s signature vision turned into sharp corners and geometric shapes revealing a hidden construction. And it was, mostly, all about the dress. «Dresses are very much what people want to see from me right now. Young designers sell dresses, not coats,» said Schwab, whose designs have so far been picked up by Kate Moss, Hilary Duff and Kylie Minogue, among others. In the collection, Schwab worked meticulously on the idea of 3-D, by restructuring curves and making them graphic, ultimately manipulating them by just a few millimeters. On the catwalk a girl looks like she’s wearing a simple black dress. On closer inspection, she reveals concealed corners. An internationalist Born in Athens in 1977, Schwab grew up in the neighborhood of Vyronas before moving to Salzburg at the age of 15. In Austria, he attended a specialized high school, where courses included tailoring, pattern cutting and textile development. Then it was time for Berlin and the ESMOD International fashion college. His next destination was London, where the aspiring designer incorporated the team of fashion duo Clements Ribeiro. Soon, however, he was following a friend’s sound advice by enrolling at Central Saint Martins. With an MA in hand, Schwab then collaborated with menswear designer Kim Jones in the development of a womenswear line. The spring/summer 2007 collection was Schwab’s first solo presentation, following two smaller-scale shows with the Topshop-sponsored Fashion East group in previous seasons. It was also the result of hard labor in the studio, where the designer assures his production. Is London kind to its fresh talent? «London has been my favorite city. It’s a very difficult city, you have to work very, very hard,» said Schwab, though he could not imagine showing his work in any other place. «I love the creative side, but when you first start developing the business side you feel alienated and shocked by how much you have to do and how little time you have for actual creativity,» he said. «It’s hard to grow, but you have to stay positive.» Being positive is the way to go for the designer, who, so far, has done well on the commercial level with collections currently available at Browns and the Shop at Bluebird in London, Maria Luisa in Paris, Opening Ceremony in New York as well as various outlets in Japan. Meanwhile, in his spare time, Schwab turns into a teacher as a part-time lecturer in fashion design, styling and promotion at Middlesex University. «My history in fashion has to do with respecting fabrics, the tradition of making,» said Schwab. «I love people who understand the clothes and they can sell them the way I conceive them.» Like his fellow up-and-coming designers, Schwab is working hard on developing his friendships. On the one hand are the buyers, while on the other is the hungry fashion press – where reviews can make or break a name. For now, Schwab will continue playing the fashion game in London, focusing his gifts and efforts in developing his brand, while Greece will remain a great place for reflection and developing ideas. «Although I dislike fashion in that you have to work with money and be quite materialistic, I love doing it because I see a garment as a timeless piece to be passed from woman to woman,» said the designer. «Clothes are the first encounter with someone’s personality. It has this kind of power.»