Behind every great Fashion House stand generations of people with big dreams, deep passion and hard work and devotion. Today we meet two of them:
Beautiful clothes, check. Beautiful interiors, check. Beautiful people, check.
We must be at the newly opened Maison Gassmann!
Maison Gassman, or Gassman as it was previously known, has some history. The women´s and children´s clothing store, as it has always been, was started over 130 years ago by Jacques Gassmann. His wife, a couture seamstress, quickly joined and fabulous hats, dresses, coats and skirts were manufactured and sold in the heart of Zurich. Unfortunately when the depression of the 1930s hit, the manufacturing had to close and Gassmann´s focus shifted instead towards retail.
The store has since gone from strength to strength, including a total store front overhaul and expansion. Which neatly brings us to 2016 and not only a new shop location, on Weinplatz in Zurich, but a new leadership team – the fifth generation Gassmann, brother and sister Katja and Michael Hahnloser.
Creative director Mums in Heels, Tsitaliya and I went to talk to them, to find out how they feel in their new home and how they envisage taking Maison Gassmann into the next decade and beyond.
And let me tell you, it was an absolutely fascinating 90 minutes. To say that Maison Gassmann has had to jump through some hoops to get to where there are today is an understatement: Some five years ago they received the news that they would no longer be allowed to stay in their, then current, location on Poststrasse. What they did not know, however, was where they would be able to move to. It was only in December of 2015 that the new lease was signed and work could finally begin. The new location is also full of history, some parts of it dating back to the 13th century. This in itself does of course come with its own difficulties with protected wooden beams and surprise ceilings. With such an incredibly tight schedule you need someone at the helm with boundless passion and tremendous drive. Cue Katja and Michael Hahnloser.
Rarely do I meet someone so truly passionate, so dedicated and focused about what they do and with such prodigious vision. A vision that absolutely takes its heritage and history into account, but also realises that in order to be true to this heritage it needs to be driven forward, into the future.
The four of us take a walk through the new store to have a look at and cop a feel of some of the beautiful pieces that deck these historic walls. There is the more “fashion forward” level, where brands such as Missoni, ETRO, Vilshenko, Rag and Bone, Akris and 2002DNA are housed. Then there are the upper levels, which house the gala dresses, then the luxury every day wear, and finally the children´s section. These are hand picked pieces chosen for their utmost attention to detail, their exquisitely soft fabrics and the infallible cut. Katja is equally wistful about a beautiful Missoni dress as she is about an amazingly soft cashmere jumper. This kind of excitement rubs off, and you can tell that every little detail in this store has been thought through and decided upon with as much heart as head.
What really strikes me as we are talking, is not only the tremendous zest with which Katja talks about the store and its vision, but how elaborate and mindful she is about each of the brands the house represents. Despite how young Katja is, she doesn’t take her heritage for granted. She works hard for it, staying open minded for new opportunities, new labels, premium quality and originality. Both Katja and Michael want everything in the new boutique to feel in alignment with the new vision of Gassmann. One of the reasons they chose Missoni for their fashion house is what the Italian Brand stands for: family values and craftsmanship which feels so close to Maison Gassmann´s heritage. Vilshenko on the other hand is a relatively new Russian brand, but the mix of the young designer’s Eastern heritage with Western silhouettes and the craftsmanship passed down through generation is exactly what appeals to Michael and Katja. Nothing in their family fashion house, from design, through clients service to final product feels out of hand.
But then one must remember that both Katja and Michael were born into this. They could have fought it as hard as they wanted but in the end, it´s in their blood. And true enough, Michael did indeed try his hand at something completely different. He was studying and working in the field of communications when he realised that his pioneer sister could do with a hand. A familiar hand at that.
So here we are, the four of us, (actually five when you count Katja´s dog Noe) sitting in the upstairs office of this prestigious and old building, talking about the future. And what we learn is that these two are clearly on the ball. They realise what an amazing opportunity this is, taking over a brand as reputable as Maison Gassmann, but also what a delicate balancing act it is, to move forward and attract a younger audience, whilst not losing any of the older or current clients who have been with Gassmann for years.
A new website is up and looking fresh. Maison Gassmann is also on social media, however, Katja and Michael still want to keep the real experience of shopping in the spirit of a comfy and friendly living room, where you can pop in and say hi and stay for a coffee whilst chatting to the staff and checking out the absolutely gorgeous clothing. You can´t really communicate the familiar and welcoming feel of the store and the amazing quality of the clothes, shoes and bags through a screen. Instead they envisage art events and open house events, where people can actually come and see and feel and talk.
What they want is a familiar feel with an impending purpose. I can´t see how, with that amount of passion and vision, they can do anything other than succeed.