Swiss fashion house Akris, its roots in fine fabrics, marks a century in Paris – WWD

Akris is perhaps the only house on the international fashion calendar to pin small, ravioli-sized fabric swatches to the sketches stored in the backrest atop every seat in its runway theater.

During the pandemic, when fashion shows weren’t possible, he sent a whole mix of materials to a ring – like an overloaded set of keys, only delicious to the touch.

These two gestures speak volumes about the brand’s roots in St. Gallen, Switzerland, the epicenter of textile spinning mills and embroidery houses since the 18th century, and about its soft-spoken creative director Albert Kriemler, who placed exceptional fabrics at the center of its design. process for 42+ years.

“Fashion isn’t just visual, it’s also tactile,” he says in a new book released by Akris to mark its 100th anniversary. “When you put this cloth against your skin, you understand.”

The centenary celebrations kicked off on October 1 with her Spring 2023 show, a private dinner, and the release of the 162-page tome “Akris – A Century in Fashion Selbstverständlich.” (The last word translates to “of course” in English.)

There will be anniversary events later this month with Neiman Marcus in Chicago, Illinois, Bergdorf Goodman in New York and Washington, DC, where the Akris store reflects a design concept by David Chipperfield. “A new concept for the next century,” Kriemler said.

The Akris store in Washington, DC, with interior by David Chipperfield.

The anniversary events will continue around the world, culminating in the opening on May 23 of an exhibition Akris at the Museum für Gestaltung Zürich, dedicated to industrial design, visual communication, architecture and craftsmanship. .

“We want to celebrate our customers, celebrate with our teams. Our people, our employees are important to us, ”added his brother Peter Kriemler, president of the fashion house for 35 years, who attributes his longevity to the company’s laser focus on luxury women’s ready-to-wear. .

Indeed, the house’s only brand extension came in 2009 when it acquired Comtesse, an elite German handbag manufacturer, favored by the international royal family and prized for its expertise in horsehair. hand woven horse. His first volley was the trapezoidal Ai bag.

The executive said footwear would be the next logical category, well ahead of menswear, but he’s in no rush. “We think small is beautiful,” he said with a smile.

Granted, the Kriemlers come from a family full of fabric whisperers.

In an interview at the brand’s Paris showroom, Albert Kriemler explained how his grandmother Alice Kriemler-Schoch, founder of Akris, always used the “good and best cotton” for her apron-making business – the origin of Akris – and how his son Max had the “fabulous skill to develop fabrics”.

Indeed, as a teenager, Kriemler accompanied his father on his trips to textile fairs.

“For us, fabric is the first playground of creative freedom,” he said, recalling their time at Ideabiella in Como, Italy, in 1978, when they discovered a double-faced cashmere from 800 grams whose price was exorbitant, but the fabric melted in the hand.

Max Kriemler, deck sampler.

Max Kriemler bought enough to make a coat he named Alpha, which was the start of a “complete cashmere department” at Akris and a cornerstone of his business, Albert Kriemler said, noting that he continues to use the same quality of cashmere for the brand. double-sided outerwear.

“When a fabric is pure quality and still looks modern, you should never change,” he said, praising the artistry and “pure craftsmanship” of his suppliers of high-quality fabrics and of its print designers.

Akris also continues to use a twisted cotton poplin developed by Max Kriemler in the 70s.

However, the designer is always on the lookout for new fabrics that stimulate his creativity. “I think fashion should surprise. I learned that over the past 40 years,” he said. “When we are back in St. Gallen, especially in my studio, I feel completely free to create something new.”

As if on cue, a model walked into the room wearing a sleek navy buttonless coat, navy jumper and skinny pants.

Kriemler jumped up from his seat excitedly, eager to let a visitor touch the wonderful fabric of the coat: a double-faced twisted cotton denim that has the look and drape of cashmere but is better suited to summer wear.

Next, he showed off a bright green panama silk organza coat, which dazzled him with its stiff hand and elegant drape.

Then he grabbed an evening column in a silk georgette he’s used since he was 19. His caress is like the finest sand flowing through your fingers.

“When I find a fabric, I always have an idea of ​​what is doable,” he said. “That’s why I can only draw when I have the fabric in my hand.”

For its anniversary show, Akris decided to include nine looks from the clothing archive, including this historic coat from 1978, and a sample of Albert Kriemler looks from the 80s and early 90s.

A fashion photo shoot featuring these and other vintage pieces became the visual centerpiece of the anniversary book.

Iwan Baan, a Dutch architectural photographer, depicts patterns in the brutalist architecture of a 1963 University of St. Gallen building by architect Walter M. Förderer.

“We were so thrilled with how they turned out. But you know what: I also discovered how modern my 1980s clothes were,” Kriemler said.

To wit: the Spring 2023 collection wasn’t just inspired by looks from the archives; Akris will replicate all nine vintage styles, as it keeps detailed records of fabric suppliers. This look from 30 years ago still looks straight in Kriemler’s eyes today is “truly an expression of a timeless modernity that we stand for.”

When he decided to include Calais lace, which was the hallmark of his first collection in 1983, he had lengths in the archives to show supplier Darquer to reproduce new rolls to his specifications.

The Akris sewing workshop in St. Gallen.

Iwan Ban

“Lines and proportions should look totally natural and perfect,” says Severin Meyer, blazer and jacket pattern designer since 1997. “Nice lapels, great fit – love it.”

While the book is edited by the Kriemler brothers, they have enlisted a range of contributors to write essays recapping the brand’s artist collaborations, embroidery expertise, family history and prominent women who wear Akris.

Indra Nooyi, the former CEO of PepsiCo., says her double-faced cashmere sheath dresses from Akris boosted her conference as one of the few female leaders of a Fortune 500 company.

“They say the clothes make the man. I’m telling you something, the clothes make the woman too, if they’re the right clothes,” she said. “I didn’t have to feel bad anymore. comfortable being a woman, an immigrant or a person of color.”

Kriemler also praised the talents and craftsmanship of his team, and the book highlights nine of his closest collaborators, including pattern makers, print and knit designers.

Knitwear designer Manuela Luthy-Schneider is much like Kriemler in her orientation to the future.

“For me, the current collection is still my favorite. When a collection is finished, I look forward to the next one.