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Londoner takes home Swiss fashion award

Designer Marios Schwab (right) receives his award from Swiss Textile Federation president Max Hungerbühler

(Keystone)

American designer Tommy Hilfiger, a dozen young hopefuls and 60 metres of runway have all helped create a glamorous atmosphere in an old yoghurt factory.

Zurich's Toni Eventhalle served on Friday as the setting for the Stella Fashion Night competition, run by the Swiss Textile Federation, and won this year by London-based Marios Schwab.

The Swiss Textiles Award recognises international designers on the verge of breaking through. Established in 2000, the prize is the brainchild of federation committee member Ronald Weisbrod.

"We were looking to attract young talent, and it's working," he said. The award is worth €100,000 (SFr165,000) - €10,000 of which is given in the form of fine Swiss fabric.

Rather than being paid out in cash, the rest is used to support the production, display and marketing of collections.

Designers are not allowed to apply for the award, but must be nominated. Out of 20 nominees, six finalists from Berlin, London, Paris and Vienna were invited to present their collections to a receptive crowd in Zurich.

After the runway shows, a jury of industry experts selected designer Marios Schwab as the winner.

Ambassador

"Vigour-mortis", Schwab's latest collection, features an exciting blend of body-conscious clothes aimed at strong women. Using patches, vivid prints and strings of beads, the designer highlights the female form in a highly inventive manner.

"I'm going to cherish this moment for the rest of my life," said Schwab. He plans to expand his business and begin working with more prestigious textile houses.

Born in Athens in 1980, he was named Best New Designer at the 2006 British Fashion Awards. As the winner of the 2007 Swiss prize, he will be an ambassador of sorts for the local textile industry.

"We are very proud of the level we have reached these past few years," Weisbrod told swissinfo. Past winners have gone on to work for well-established labels.

For example, 2003 winner Raf Simons of Belgium is head designer at Jil Sander. Last year's winner, another Belgian - Bruno Pieters - is now an art director for Hugo Boss.

"It changed my life completely," said Pieters of winning in 2006. "It was a wonderful year."

New talents

Hilfiger was there to present the annabelle award, sponsored by the country's biggest women's magazine, to Caroline Casanovas.

"I'm always looking for designers who love life," said the American designer, who selected the winner from a pool of five promising Swiss designers recommended by the magazine's editors.

"I think there's a tremendous amount of talent here," Hilfiger noted, adding that it would have been easy to choose every one of the candidates.

Casanovas carried off the prize with a women's collection entitled, "The Truth Is Found between the Lines." A recent graduate of the Basel College of Art and Design, the 24-year-old concentrates on the essential.

Her winning collection features a rich array of black fabrics sewn into clean and simple shapes. She will have the opportunity to develop that style during a one-year apprenticeship in Hilfiger's Amsterdam design studio.

swissinfo, Susan Vogel-Misicka in Zurich

Key facts

Swiss textile and garment industry 2006 figures:
Number of employees: 16,100 (-1.2%)
Sales: SFr4.131 billion (+4.6%)
Exports: SFr4.195 billion (+4.9%)
Imports: SFr8.202 billion (+5.7%)

end of infobox

On show

Swiss Textile Award 2007 finalists:

- Ann-Sofie Back (London)
- Bless, Ines Kaag and Desiree Heiss (Berlin/Paris)
- Felipe Oliveira Baptista (Paris)
- Ute Ploier (Vienna)
- Gareth Pugh (London)
- Marios Schwab (London)

Annabelle Award finalists:

- Sandra Fässler, Basel
- Lea Wyss, Basel
- Florian Holdener, Rüti (ZH)
- Caroline Casanovas, Langenthal (BE)
- Ramses Roman Rapadas, Zurich

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