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Timeless pieces


Practicality and functionality are at the heart of Swiss products, but as Ana Finel Honigman discovers, design is also a priority

Ana Finel Honigman ,

The label ‘Made in Switzerland’ sends a clear message that this is a luxury item, made with care. While craftsmen in other countries may focus on creating speciality items that are admired for their scarcity and the costly materials used, Switzerland is best known for fine-tuning everyday products. The Swiss are admirers of affluence, not opulence, so it is no surprise that their country’s luxury labels exemplify functional and timeless elegance.

Switzerland’s ability to marry luxury with practicality has preserved its status as the world’s leading creator of premium watches, with the roll-call of highly respected brands including TAG Heuer, Breitling, Longines, Raymond Weil and Rolex. Another Swiss watch company, Omega, has extended its brand credentials to the world of fragrances. Aqua Terra cologne was developed by top-tier perfumer Alberto Morillas; primarily woody, its ingredients include clary sage, oakmoss, bergamot, grapefruit, petit grain and violet leaves. In quintessential Swiss style, the scent is clean, clear and crisp.

Switzerland’s leadership in everyday elegance extends beyond the watch industry. Users around the world rely on the signature products from Victorinox, the century-old knife manufacturer. The company is most famous for the Swiss Army Knife, which has become an icon of innovation. Recently, the label has branched out into windbreakers and, like Omega, into fragrances designed to ‘capture the uniqueness of a Swiss mountain range’.

The ‘Made in Switzerland’ label also graces some of the world’s most refined clothes and footwear. The Bally shoe company was founded in 1851 by Carl Franz Bally and his brother in the basement of their home in Schönenwerd. In 1932 former ski instructor Fritz von Allmen created Kandahar boots. These après-ski boots have earned a dedicated following and are still made from lambskin with a cork sole. They remain an exclusive luxury because of the careful craftsmanship devoted to producing each item – the company’s motto is ‘shoecraft is handcraft’. Only 17,000 pairs of boots are produced each year.

The clothing label that embodies the best aspects of Swiss identity and represents Swiss style on the Paris catwalks is Akris. Founded in 1922, the Swiss heritage brand remains consistently fresh and cultured. ‘It is a name that has been whispered in boardrooms and ballrooms for the past five years. It is used as a quasi-password to a rarefied world of super-luxe fabrics and discreet charm,’ says Vanessa Friedman, fashion editor at the Financial Times.

Akris started as a humble apron-making firm. By the mid-40s, it had branched into popular but unremarkable ready-to-wear clothes. The brand’s house designer is now Albert Kriemler, the grandson of the company’s founder, who dismisses this era in the label’s history as ‘matronly’. Since assuming command in the 80s, he has guaranteed that the line will remain mature while never becoming dowdy. Akris launched its first handbag collection in 2009, presented in Paris. The bags are sophisticated, in neutral hues with clean lines, and are made from horsehair and leather.

Even when playing with prints or intricately cut patterns, Kriemler’s designs have a classic, intellectual elegance derived from simple, sculptural grace. Tellingly, the label is the only Swiss member of the highly prestigious Chambre Syndicale des Couturiers, French fashion’s trade association. Style.com’s Laird Borrelli-Persson’s praise for Akris sums up Switzerland’s luxury brands’ achievements. ‘The bags are designed with the same subtlety and meticulous care the brand is known for; they are something to yodel about.’

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