Fashion favourite and UK Lingerie Awards judge Marios Schwab talks to Sarah Blackman about how the female form has influenced both his womenswear and lingerie collections.
Marios Schwab grew up surrounded by undergarments. His father, Klaus, was a lingerie engineer for none other than premium brand Triumph and he became fascinated by the technology and “romanticism” behind his craft.
It seems surprising then that the Greco-Austrian designer waited until 2012 – seven years after launching his London-based fashion label – to create his own lingerie range, a life-long dream of Schwab’s.
But he wanted to hold out for the perfect time when he could dedicate himself to the world of intimates, and that time came when retail giant ASOS approached him with the idea for a designer support initiative.
“Designing and manufacturing lingerie takes a lot of time; [it requires] different machinery and it’s a whole other job by itself,” explains Schwab.
“I wanted to do it right and to wait for the moment when I could have the spare time to overlook the lingerie business, and it seemed like a great time for ASOS to approach me when they did. Caren Downie, who was head of the project back then, said ‘we have a perfect idea for you, what do you think?’ And I was really impressed,” he says.
Schwab launched his debut lingerie collection, Kallisti, exclusively for ASOS.com last January, and is currently manufacturing his second range of garments as part of the collaboration.
Kallisti translates as “for the fairest”, and is a phrase said to have been inscribed on the golden Apple of Discord thrown by Eris, the Greek goddess of chaos, at a wedding party to judge who was the most beautiful – the winner being Aphrodite.
Indeed, beauty, femininity and female empowerment have heavily influenced Schwab’s design aesthetic.
From a young age, he has been drawn to the expression and movement of the body. His Greek mother, Niki, was a topographer, and she inspired him to look at garments in a graphic sense, in terms of what you place and where you place it.
As a result, Schwab’s dresses, worn by the likes of Jessica Alba and Bond girl Naomie Harris, feature elements of transparency, netting and lace, combined with cut-away details that serve to accentuate the female form.
When it came to designing clothes, it was always a starting point for Schwab to use the body as a concept, but lingerie was a big inspiration too.
“Undergarments were always at home and so it was something I grew up with,” says Schwab. “My dad was a big influence and every Friday he would pick me up from school and take me to the [Triumph] factories. It was really interesting to see all this machinery, from grading up to machinery that would make the shaping of the cups.”
“Everything was so interesting because it kind of felt very alien to think that these were the machines that would create such beautiful, miniscule pieces and the idea of technology, but also of the romanticism of the undergarments was super, super interesting for a boy of that age, I guess.”
Undergarments eventually became intertwined with Schwab’s clothing range, thanks to designers like Jean Paul Gautier and Dolce & Gabbana, whose work ignited his passion for fashion growing up.
“I really liked the idea of how undergarments were portraying
feminine aspects but at the same time it helped women become very powerful with their identity – using the femininity to be empowered."
"That was a very strong message for me and I think it kind of summarised what I wanted to do later on when I became a designer,” adds Schwab.
Later on in life, he found that women who wear Marios Schwab, no matter their size, were very confident with their body shape and that gave him the hint to create a collection that was lingerie based.
Schwab’s Kallisti collection of bodies, deep-V bras and knickers appeals to women who like to reveal and/or combine their lingerie as part of their outfits. The design is simple, yet very directional.
“If you wanted to show a hint of your undergarment, it gives you a space to do so,” explains Schwab. “It’s not necessarily over decorated, but at the same time it brings an element of modern aesthetic together with the right balance of retrospective in undergarments.”
“So I look at things that happened in the past and take inspiration from 50s or 60s femme fetales, without being the having retro undergarments that you typically find. It’s much more about subtle detail and things that draw attention to certain parts of the body, like a really nice low v-neck that emphasises the neck or a beautiful strap worn with a backless dress.”
Asked if his collection pays homage to the manufacturing techniques used during his father’s time as a lingerie engineer, he responds: “It’s sometimes tricky, but I do love the stitching that you come across on an old vintage piece, even from the 70s or 80s. I really like 80s undergarments because they seem more functional but also not overly decorative.”
“I like to have a lot of girls surrounding me when designing and I look at the undergarments from a functional perspective because it’s so much about the wearability, but also about the posture and how the fit makes you feel. After you have captured the fit you can put the
right detail on to balance it out,” Schwab adds.
Schwab now wants to expand his Kallisti line after receiving positive feedback from both ASOS and customers. “The lingerie had very low return rates for an online platform, which makes us very excited to understand that the customers are very happy with the fit,” he enthuses.
While the current collection features embroidered and mesh bras in sizes 32-36A-D, future lines will also include foam cups and t-shirt bras in larger cup sizes.
“The second collection is very much emphasised on detail and design. It’s a really beautiful story about beauty and women that are very strong and very interesting in their own right,” says Schwab.