Akris, Switzerland’s most inventive fashion house, took a novel approach to fashion this season., with no live show in Paris, nor any typical clothes video. Instead, designer Albert Kriemler formed an unusual triumvirate – finding inspiration from the great German abstract minimalist artist Imi Knoebel, and then artfully recording that collaboration in a film shot by the award winning Dutch filmmaker Anton Corbijn.
The five-minute film was shot in Dusseldorf, using a studio and some of Knoebel’s greatest works, like Raum 19, a series of often massive cardboard shapes and boxes in unexpected demi-geometrical forms.
Kriemler even uses Knoebel’s late ’90s paintings as designs for leather totes and fantastic tunic dresses; shoots phosphorescent lace pantsuits and trench-coats in front of his sculptures; and generally invents a new twist to the ennobling modernist vision of fashion that is Akris.
For the past two decades Kriemler has come each season to Paris – often taking the TGV from Zurich – to show in the City of Light. But this season Albert’s contribution was unveiled at 3.30 p.m. on Monday, while he stayed in St Gallen.
So, in a call to his studio, we caught up with Kriemler to better understand his thinking; why fashion shouldn’t be political and what will change, or not, because of the pandemic.
FashionNetwork.com: How has the lockdown been for you?
Albert Kriemler: It’s definitely a moment for evolution at so many levels. It was never a complete lockdown in Switzerland. For once, we were really lucky to be back in St. Gallen. But after 18 years in Paris it feels strange not to be there now. But we wanted to keep that date. Paris has been very good to us, and we appreciate what the Federation has done for Akris. But to come with 40 people to Paris right now is not simple.
So, we decided on this idea came of a film. Not a video of a show; but the creative process with the artists. As I am sure you know, one of the most important abstract minimalist German artists is Imi Knoebel, who collaborated with Joseph Beuys. Fortunately, I met Imi in January and launched this project without knowing what would happen, before the lockdown. And then since mid-March, I actually felt spoilt being here with a committed team. Even if the result is a much smaller collection, about half our normal size.
FNW: Why did you decide to work with Imi Knoebel?
AK: I met him in a gallery in 2017 and I was as already an admirer. Then I wrote to him and started speaking about my plan. Eventually I visited him in Dusseldorf and discovered his color kitchen. This poetry of color. Imi is as much a craftsman as a painter. We were eventually able to film before his works of art. And even in the room of Raum 19 and third edition of his Batterie, a big structure in acrylic and aluminum. I was then able to visit him at the end of May, and I had a fabric that was phosphorescent in this metaphoric collection. I suspect that when it reaches stores the timing will be right. Since phosphorescence takes all the strength from nature and sun and continues to glow at night.
FNW: Why did you choose to work with Anton Corbijn?
AK: I had Anton’s portraits on my mood board, so I suggest him to Imi, who loved the idea of making a film. They knew each other. So, it’s a real project with Imi as the inspiration and Anton the director and myself as the designer. I wanted something surprisingly different – a choreographed and inspired film on what we elaborated. We produced the film in Dusseldorf, and found three fabulous girls in Berlin. I needed actresses and not mannequins: Noor who is African-American, Elodie who is Caucasian and Moon as Asian. It worked out so well. Then Anton had great ideas. Like shooting the film in Imi’s colors, or shooting before key pieces of art.
FNW: Did this collaboration alter the silhouette this season?
AK: The silhouette were really references to shapes like the red hexagon you see in the film. The hexagon is the first free geometrical shape. In Imi’s view, other shapes – triangle, square and circle – are shapes with meaning. So, I made a blouse in this shape. Plus, Imi believes green is one of the most important colors for nature and for hope. So we developed ideas in green. Plus, we used lots of his abstract prints – color paintings as a backdrop to look book, and then in prints from 1989 and 1990, which Imi had not seen in a long time. His colors are so modern. They look perfect for today. Plus, I developed four other fabrics – like a special embroidery; a new pinstripe; new knits and a sequined fabric people said people was not possible.
FNW: Why did Imi call one print Tiger Woods?
AK: The titles have no meaning. Anything verbal has no meaning for him!
FNW: Imi is photographed with his back turned in the film? Did Imi enjoy the film?
AK: Imi is very shy. He never gives any interviews, nor is photographed in front of his works of art. That’s very good. Because fashion today is often political and wants to say a lot. But in our case, it is never political. Akris stands for nothing but itself.
FNW: Why do you often works with artists?
AK: When I interact with any artists, I find it encourages a totally different approach each season. It changes you. And is often a pure joy to have such an inspiration and wonderful to develop something more profound each day.
FNW: What changes has the pandemic brought? What changes will remain and which fade away?
AK: We all realized that we can easily travel less. Travel is stress, even if also inspiration. I cannot say how much it meant for me to go every day to work with my fabulous team. This empathy in the room, we need more of what which we just had. Yes, we are rethinking our way of dressing – yet clothes will always remain a powerful way to soothe us and strengthen us and drive us forward. Even the simple act of getting dressing for dinner. So, there will always be that hunger and that joy that clothes bring. Fashion will always be a powerful vector and that won’t change.