Thursday, February 14, 2008

London Fashion Week: The Beautiful Damage of Marios Schwab

Although they might not recognize today's colloquialism, the Egyptians pioneered what is now known as "body con" dressing. "Body con" is a very ancient borrowing that was buried with the Pharoahs and which the Bandage dress resurrected.

A year ago, fashion critics nudged Marios Schwab to move away from "body con" design. Body con was beginning to look dated, they said, even though they had said it in 2006 and had probably said it as far back as the Ptolemaic dynasty. Schwab responded by creating exoskeletal dresses for Spring 2008. Wrapping the body in its own frame was a way to momentarily sidestep an outmoded fashion tradition while clarifying that Schwab's extracurricular erudition would continue to play a large role in his evolution as a designer.

Both body con and that somewhat esoteric academic interest have returned for fall in what might be termed a collection of perception. This time around, it was clear that design and erudition are inseparable. The runway may be an unusual place to ponder what is sometimes found in a textbook of deviant psychology, but that's his genius. Anatomical hobby and kink, it turns out, are fine bedfellows. In Schwab's hands, the correspondence between the two is seamless and even rational. What Schwab causes is beautiful damage. You might want to think twice before meeting him in a dark alley, perhaps doubly when you realize that fatigue and concentration give Schwab the under-eye circles of Beetlejuice.

Schwab exhibited a museum of minor affliction with dresses that had been neatly vandalized and dissected (another fascination), bringing to mind not just surgery but autopsy. These ideas were morphologically articulated with the precision of a coroner. Although the distribution of the pattern varied from dress to dress, each garment was sliced in the vicinity of the colon. In one instance, the slashes made the petals of an abstract flower; in others they were burst outwards in order to show their contents.

Trespassing on Schwab's hobby took up one-third of the collection.

The other two-thirds of the collection included body con so extreme that one could see the grape that two models shared for lunch. Among this group were two well-advised pea coats and dresses with large rectangles cut from the bottom half through which one could study the physiology of immobility.

In all instances, the models were almost reduced to inaction by the tight circumference of the hems. Confinement, not dissection, was the idea upon which Schwab predicated the collection. These were hobble skirts with fetish in their pinch.

Schwab has turned in a thrillingly voyeuristic study that demands courage and a liking for risk. He's set apart by a frisson of danger, and right now there is room to maneuver. So long as his work doesn't appear to have been commissioned by the Black Dahlia murderer, it looks as if Schwab has the rare glory of being not just a creator but an inventor.


riz said...

(Awesome that we posted about this at the same time...)

Awwww, you didn't like it?? :(
I will read your review more carefully tomorrow AM. You know it's the first thing on my agenda after coffee ;)

Suzanna Mars said...

Not sure how you inferred a dislike, because I used the word "genius" and ended with "glory" and "inventor." I always like seeing the seams of someone's fascinations (Braganza, for another) and how they translate into design. Not everyone is as articulate in this regard as Schwab.

What I thought was curious about reactions to this was that it is so easily made wearable for street, and all the focus was on the immobility.

Kane is the one that did nothing for me! I think I'm the lone holdout on that collection.

Having terrible computer connection issues and haven't seen your post; will check out if I can stay online for longer than two minutes!

Anonymous said...

Oh look, a man dress with sequined ovaries.

susie_bubble said...

Thank you for this marvellous review on a collection that at first stumped me but then slowly began to stun me...

Miss Woo said...

Your connection between the Egyptions, body con and Schwab is the best post I read today!

Miss Woo said...

Your connection between the Egyptions, body con and Schwab is the best post I read today!

Imelda Matt said...

The juxtaposition of the Tom Gallant floral prints and the soul-squeezing cut of the dresses totally inspired. There was something Claude Montana in Schwab’s collection and I can’t put my finger on it…SM any thoughts?

enc said...

I like the narrow shapes and the embellishments.

Schwab's vision gives body-con a second look and life, and invites the viewer to do the same.

I like that I have to study the detail the clothes, because this takes me away from the obvious consciousness of the wearer's body, and onto something else; a detail, an expanse of skin, a shot of color.

Suzanna Mars said...

Imelda M., there is a similarity in materials (jersey and then heavier leather) and also that same quality of binding that appeared in certain of Montana's designs (both men's and women's.

Aesthetically they shared a take-no-prisoners attitude; perhaps this is best described as having been feral. Stalking the urban jungle kind of thing.

riz said...

Ha! I think I must have been high/delerious when I glanced at your post last night...Great you liked it.

Re: Kane - I think Kane continues to morph in interesting ways. First it was body-con, then working class denim, and now pailletes?? It wasn't great. He continues to defy categorization, in the way that someone like Pugh fails to - But again, I don't know what work this is doing, if any.(PS, I think for me Pugh has by far turned out to be the biggest fashion disappointment for me...)

Suzanna Mars said...

And what do you think I'm writing about just now, dear Riz? I wonder if you are as well; we seem to be on the same wavelength this week.

I'm not sure we need to know what something is doing or where it is going, because sometimes explorations (or finding a "voice") is the most interesting part, even if it involves paillettes. To me, the paillettes were a distraction from shapes that I otherwise liked. I know they are the decoration of the moment, but they remind me horribly of Manhattan in the '60s--very Baby Jane Holzer doing the Frug. Peppermint Lounge and all that.

I always have to react to something (a great downfall, BTW) and that collection didn't spark anything. Schwab's did, immediately.

diamondcanopy said...

This is an amazing review. I wasn't sure about this collection and i guess it was because i didn't quite get it...but now i can see it in a different light!

CuteMess said...

I'm going to be all Body Con in my ballet class that starts Monday night.