When Albert Kriemler was beginning to think about how best to celebrate Akris’ 100th birthday (the creative director is grandson of founder Alice Kriemler-Schoch), he asked himself the question: ‘What makes us unique?’
‘To answer, we went into the archive and picked out pieces from 1978-1992 that seemed particularly important to us,’ Kriemler explains from St Gallen, Switzerland, where the house was founded in 1922 (Akris began with Kriemler-Schoch manufacturing dotted aprons in fabrics from the area’s famed mills, later moving into clothing, much of which featured detailed embroidery).
Albert Kriemler on 100 years of Akris
These various pieces – among them a double-faced cashmere overcoat (1978), a ruffle-collar lace blouse (1989) and a pair of vicuña nappa leather trousers (1983) – were subsequently photographed by Dutch image-maker Iwan Baan for an upcoming book, Selbstverständlich, which celebrates the house’s centennial year. ‘Selbstverständlich is the one single German expression [that] best encapsulates the Akris spirit for me,’ says Kriemler of the book’s title, which loosely translates to ‘natural’ or ‘self-evident’. ‘It perfectly conveys our aesthetic ideal of clothing, embodying an effortless modernity.’
The backdrop for the photographic series is the 1960s brutalist extension of the University of St Gallen by Swiss architect Water M Förderer, which features various works of contemporary art – a mobile by Alexander Calder, a sculpture by Hans Arp and a tapestry by Pierre Soulages are all found within the space. Since the beginning of his tenure at the house in 1979, Kriemler has positioned Akris at the intersection of fashion, art and architecture; collaborators have included Carmen Herrera, Geta Brătescu, Rodney Graham and Thomas Ruff, among others.
Seeing these archival pieces in a fresh context also set the groundwork for Kriemler’s S/S 2023 collection, shown at Palais de Tokyo last month as part of Paris Fashion Week S/S 2023 (the show doubled as a celebration of Akris’ century in fashion). ‘When we saw the pieces staged in this architectural landmark of modernity in St Gallen, we knew right away we had to work with them for our 100-year collection,’ says Kriemler.
‘There is always a fine line between embracing the past and defining the future. But these archive pieces seemed so new, unexpected, and stunningly modern to us, that we decided to base our collection on them. They had this absolute timelessness that is and remains modern.’
In the show itself, these archival pieces were interspersed within Kriemler’s S/S 2023 collection for a fusion of past, present and future (the aforementioned 1978 cashmere coat, created by his father Max Kriemler, opened the show). New pieces draw inspiration from the house’s history in both design (‘some came from old paper patterns I found and refashioned to make them of today’) and motifs (lace references his collections of the 1980s, while hearts recall Akris’ very first print, created by Gianpaolo Ghioldi for A/W 1989).
‘When you think about brands with a past, you feel their history. But, with Akris, we want you to think of something that defies time,’ says Kriemler. ‘I think a woman should have the right to wear a dress for several years without it losing its relevance in the present. In fashion is not the latest fashion, but what really counts and looks right for the moment.’
The anniversary allows a moment of contemplation for Kriemler. ‘A hundred years is a long time; times have changed, fashion has changed, and so has Akris,’ he says. ‘We have come a long way from a humble apron atelier to a fashion house presenting its collection at Paris Fashion Week. We are a small family business that has found its place among the greats in fashion.
‘A hundred years ago, my grandmother Alice set out to define a woman’s presence and enhance her charisma, and that very much remains my mission today.’
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Jack Moss is the Fashion Features Editor at Wallpaper*. Having previously held roles at 10, 10 Men and AnOther magazines, he joined the team in 2022. His work has a particular focus on the moments where fashion and style intersect with other creative disciplines – among them art and design – as well as championing a new generation of international talent and profiling the industry’s leading figures and brands.
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