Akris – SS16 collection
Akris is the only Swiss brand that is a member of the prestigious Fédération Française de la Couture du Prêt-à-Porter des Couturiers et des Créateurs de Mode. In other words, it can validly claim to produce prêt-à-porter in the true sense of the word: they are a maison of a standard high enough to produce couture as recognised by the federation if they wished, even though they focus on prêt-à-porter. Yet, unlike with many other houses admitted to this elite membership that still defines what Paris fashion officially is or is not, most of us have never even heard of its Creative Director, Albert Kriemler, even though he faithfully conjures up the collections in that most classic of sketching traditions. And, he’s been doing so for the last three decades.
But a select company in the know that do know about Akris – about its prêt-à-porter as well as its more affordable Akris Punto second line- are loyal fans. Most are ladies of means who favour individualistic style over faddish trends for particular labels. And this select cohort includes more than one Hollywood star, a First Lady of the United States and a European princess, all of whom favour discretion instead of publicly broadcasting patronage of this season’s hottest designers.
Like them, Albert Kriemler favours discretion. Rather than hanging out with celebrities and film stars in the public gaze, he has a strong affinity with contemporary art and architecture and numbers some of its heaviest hitters among his close friends. Occasionally they will even undertake projects together, whether something for the brand or in the form of Kriemler curating art projects. Maybe this attraction to the art world rather than than the catwalk is simply indicative of Mr Kriemler’s personal passions. But perhaps his passions also have something to do with Sankt Gallen, the historic Swiss city where his grandmother founded the company in the 1920’s and which remains its centre of production even today. After all, despite a history going all the way back to the early Middle Ages, St Gallen is something of a hotbed of art in Switzerland, the hometown of Pipilotti Rist and a town with a vibrant arts scene. It’s difficult to live in the city and not encounter top quality contemporary art.
No surprise then that there’s something distinctly evocative of the visual languages of contemporary art and architecture about the SS16 collection, from a gold lurex sleeveless trouser suit covered in motifs straight out of 1970’s abstract painting, to embroidered monotone jackets with cut-outs that suggest sculpture. The beautiful printed textiles on some of the elegant dresses would hardly be out of place on a booth at Art Basel.
Needless to say, all of the fabrics are of the highest quality. St Gallen was already famous for the quality of its textiles by the 16th century and Akris remains true to that tradition. The company is renowned for often taking years to develop state-of-the-art textiles used to produce the clothes to their exacting standards and desired effect. They’re produced by a local workforce of highly skilled artisans who have to undergo years of training before they are even allowed anywhere near an Akris garment.
In fact, probably more so than any other luxury fashion house, production is at the heart of Akris. Before it made its debut on the catwalks of Paris, they produced garments for the likes of Givenchy and Ted Lapidus alongside their own burgeoning ready-to-wear line. Today it’s the largest garment manufacturing business in Switzerland and this long tradition of producing high-quality clothing for other brands has given them the financial freedom to simply get on doing what they want to do. Unlike so many others in the world of luxury fashion, they do not rely on investment from the handful of mega-companies that practically run the world’s luxury industry between them.
For Akris, the future looks rosy. They made the smart move of breaking into Asian markets in the 1980’s and continue to expand globally. Not bad for two brothers – Albert’s brother Peter is the business brain behind the brand- whose names seldom appear in the usual fashion gossip organs. Granny would be so proud.
Akris – SS16 collection