A Fashion Import
After his spectacular runway presentation at the Art Institute of Chicago’s Modern Wing, Swiss designer Albert Kriemler chatted with Sheridan Road at Neiman Marcus Northbrook about his fall collection.
Photographs by Hannes Thalman and Robin Subar
Kriemler’s fall line features three-piece suits, a well-cut pant, and differenttextures of fabrics. Here, shots from the show at the art institute of chicago’s modern wing.
Fashion made its first appearance at the Art Institute of Chicago’s Modern Wing this spring with the presentation of Akris’ fall line. Sequins, shearling, and tweeds marched down the runway, which filled the Renzo Piano-designed Griffin Court. Structured trouser pants, high-collared coats, and full-length dresses foreshadowed the coming of cooler weather, but the elegant designs made the thought of a frigid winter far less daunting. The brand’s designer, Albert Kriemler, even made a special appearance at the show, shyly waving to the attendees at the end of his glamorous runway show.
Albert inherited the company from his father, Max Kriemler. Albert’s grandmother, Alice Kriemler-Schoch (from whom the word “Akris” was derived), started the company: she used to craft simple aprons on a single sewing machine. But it was her son, Max, who really expanded the company into a ready-to-wear brand. Albert then took it to the next level; under his creative direction, Akris has become one of the world’s fastest-growing brands—shaping its development first in Europe, then in Asia, and finally in America. Because of the company’s prized relationship with Neiman Marcus, they chose to stop in Chicago for several in-store visits and the very special runway show. Sheridan Road sat down with the world-renowned designer when Albert visited the Northbrook store.
What drew you to Chicago on this tour?
It’s the relationship to Neiman Marcus and my passion for the city’s architecture. I love Chicago; I’ve come here several times over the past 10 years.
What motitvates you to go on tour?
It’s interesting to see what your clients like. You always learn when you are in front of your customers.
How was the show at the Art Institute?
We were the first people to have this opportunity to present our collection in the Modern Wing. We infused the look and feel of our Paris show, which took place March 7. That red curtain [used in the show] was taken from our show in Paris, so it was nice to draw that parallel.
What sticks out to you about the area?
I’m always amazed by all the new buildings. On my first visit, I was lucky enough to discover some old Frank Lloyd Wright buildings and I did the architectural boat tour. My second visit was to see Millennium Park, and I also saw some early concrete buildings. Yesterday, we went to see an originally decorated apartment by Mies van der Rohe.
Is America the most recent market for the company?
Yes, it is. We are present on three continents. America has grown into a very important relationship for us. We’ve been working with Neiman Marcus for over 15 years now.
What differentiates American shoppers from European shoppers? Is it difficult to create line for both tastes?
I think we speak about the global taste today. What I have to respect in this country is your different climates. What is black in the North, you make white in the South. Europe is a very northern climate, similar to what you have in Chicago.
In your own words, describe the your fall line.
We started with fabrications this time: colors, tweeds, plaids, and different kinds of fabrics. I wanted to present a lot of rich fabrications in alpaca, wools, and cashmere. At the start of the collection, we used an undyed camel hair for some garments.
It’s a mix of lady meets boy: we went back to sharp suit tailoring and combined it with super-soft, feminine tweeds. We also came back to a three-piece suit, which I don’t literally see [being worn all] together, but broken up. I see pants as being an important piece for next fall, because I think with nearly all women wearing dresses and skirts, there is a new push for a well-cut pant.
Where did you find your inspiration?
The whole collection was inspired by a view of a quiet lakefront. I was inspired by fall in the forest. Lots of fall colors: cassis, blackberry, elderberry, plum, gooseberry, and camel.
Do you think anything on your trip here will inspire your new collection?
Oh, I’m sure.
Have there been any new additions to the line?
We just launched a handbag collection. It’s made out of horsehair. People often ask why I didn’t do an accessory or handbag collection; I didn’t think people needed another leather bag. We found this atelier in November 2008, which was going to go bankrupt and had been doing horsehair fabrics since the 1920s. This was a fabulous opportunity to launch a new line. To develop a new handbag is really a demanding subject. I worked for nine months on this collection, and in October we launched it in Paris. This season, we added a second tote bag. It’s made with a resistant fabric and double-fast hems. The signature will be the horsehair.
What inspired you to make that leap?
There is no horsehair around. It takes color like only pure cashmere does. It’s a lot to build for now. You need to have a unique aesthetic to compete. The moment you are comparable, you are obsolete.