There have been much discussion about the fashion month just ended and specifically one topic: the rise of ‘fashion immediacy’ and direct-to-consumer shows. In such time of lost in translation between consumer and fashion, we suddenly start to realize that fashion in its core is about clothes, clothes that someone has to wear or would like to wear. Of course that raises the question as well about the effectiveness of the runway and how to feed the consumer frenzy and fascination with all things fashion, and how to best use technology, which keeps distributing information at warp speed.
In the context of the fashion weeks today, Swiss designers have always been looking for different ways to communicate to the consumer: a bit more directly, to some extent being experimental and stirring the imagination, without making grandiose shows and turning the client into a paramount. Ever since I’ve been to Charles Vögele fashion days or Mode Suisse or any designer’s private collection presentation, most parts have felt intimate and detailed, yet open to everyone who is curious to see even if not a fashion intellectual. Swiss designers have somehow managed to really keep it strictly about the clothes, not the entertainment or the effervescence. This may not have brought them a huge clientele, but a loyal one, not much popularity, but a compelling identity and groundedness that many in the fashion world crave today.
The perfect example of what I am talking about was last week event “The New Freedom” at the Alliance des Créateurs Suisses. The fashion event took place at Europaalee 33, near the main trainstation where in the intimate space of the GRIS shop three models made an appearing of several selected garments out of the 33 selling brands.
The looks were styled by Urs Affolter and Soledad Zehnder, who is also the GRIS store manager. Make up and hair by MadHairstyling. This was not a fashion show in the traditional sense with a runway and the professional skinny models. The two women who walked for the Swiss designers were real bold mature women, who obviously own the stage once they even walk on the street and capture with natural charm and charisma. They proved one more time that clothes are designed to complement real people, not just to look good and sell well from the hangers.
Model Elsiena, T-Unika, Shopper, Scarf, necklace, Socks, Ankle boots Paola de Michiel, Shades by Scharfmacher
This is in fact how the Alliance de Createurs was started. After realizing that local boutiques don’t buy Swiss design, a new business model that allocates risks and profits in a different way than conventional solutions was developed. Thanks to GRIS, Swiss designers can show and sell their clothes in this space without worrying that if they don’t sell their next collection, they are out. They also don’t have to pay a huge rent to be seen and experienced. This is an important fact in a country where lots of the fashion shopping still happens live, rather than online. In fact what currently seems the most popular way of marketing and sales in the fashion world are events that engage people not just catwalks and shows. The events feel like a safe and fun environment to experience clothes, to communicate their value and to become close to the brand’s story and mission.
Back to Alliance de Createurs Suisses, I am meeting Esther-Mirjam de Boer, one of the founders of GRIS, to tap a little deeper into the topic Swiss Fashion and what expectations women have on fashion in Switzerland.
Tsitaliya: After two years how has GRIS changed? Esther: We have matured: in dialogue with clients, designers and stakeholders like media we balanced our way between culture and commerce. And I am very happy with the recent work that our storemanager Soledad Zehnder together with Urs Affolter have done on the shop redesign.
Tsitaliya: In your opinion what does the Swiss woman want? Esther: “The Swiss woman” is very individual. We attract a specific group of clients both men and women, who have their independent style, who give value to Swiss Design and central European production and who want to turn their back to anonymous, international aesthetics without roots.
Tsitaliya:How do you see the current world of fashion and what do you want to see is changing? Esther: It’s more about brands and marketing and less about the soul and substance of the product. Except for some very high fashion labels. I would like to slow down and reduce to the relevant: In the supply chains and in the cupboards. We should start asking ourselves: Do we really want to wear clothes that were produced in exploitation of human beings and nature? Consume less and consume better is my guiding principle.
Tsitaliya: The change that GRIS brings to the world of fashion is ….? Esther: You mean like the butterfly in Switzerland causing el nino in the world? Huh! If I could wish, GRIS would raise the awareness for Swiss Fashion and Design as a relevant alternative to international brands.
Tsitaliya: In a global sense where does Swiss design stand? Esther: Swiss Designers develop products, which have lasting value – they don’t play the game of fast moving hypes and trends that much. And then, every single one has his or her own USP. What most of them have in common is a logistics advantage: they produce in Switzerland or nearby and can reorder quickly if certain pieces run out of stock. On the downside of comparisons, Fashion Design is of no strategic value in Swiss economy. It’s extremely hard to finance a growth strategy if you don’t have family, friends or other fools (the famous 3F) who support you. Therefore the business often takes 5-10 years for break even. That’s one of the main reasons that we have high drop out rates in Switzerland. What a pitty for all the creative potential we have built and educated, isn’t it?
Tsitaliya: Do you think women are well informed about what’s available on the SWISS fashion scene? Esther: Honestly no, I don’t think so. Mode Suisse is very present in the media, but they represent an avantgarde of Swiss Design. It’s not about the commercially successful brands with wearable clothes, which we have as well. In many fashion magazines brands have to pay for articles, that’s called native advertising. Swiss Fashion labels except from Akris and Tally Weijl don’t have the commercial power to play a strong role in that marketing game. Therefore the public presence is limited. We depend on independent media that want to cover Swiss Design without being paid for.
Dress and Coat Paradis de Innocents, , Shoes Maison de Talons, Vintage shades Scharfmacher
Pullover and trousers by Adrian Reber, bag AvecNono, shoes Maison de Talons
Tunic Sabine Portenier, Backpack AvecNono, Jewelry K. Maltez, Shades Marc Stone
Dress Lela Scherrer, Scarf Gentle Earth, Jewellery Digimorphe, shoes Maison de Talons
Special thanks to GRIS Alliance de Createurs Suisse and Madhairstyling.