The Discreet Modernist
Akris’s Albert Kriemler is propelling his Swiss fashion house forward using a mix of innovation and simplicity. Valerie Steele gets to the root of his aesthetic.
Whether at his home near St. Gallen, Switzerland, or off on another far-flung trip to the other side of the world, Akris Creative Director Albert Kriemler can’t seem to stop looking—at buildings and furniture and lighting; at paintings, drawings, and sculpture. Some of his closest friends—Pierre de Meuron and Jacques Herzog, among them—are architects, and Kriemler was very hands-on in the designing of his modernist house, collaborating with the architect Christoph Sattler through various iterations.
Albert, 52, part of the third generation of Kriemlers to oversee the label his grandmother Alice Kriemler-Schoch founded in 1922 (the name Akris is formed from her initials), has also built a sophisticated collection of work by artists including Thomas Ruff, Ursula Schulz-Dornburg, Lawrence Weiner, Ian Hamilton Finlay, Remy Zaugg, and Paul Thek—whose colors Kriemler compares to those of Yves Saint Laurent—and amassed an array of 20th-century furniture (focusing on chairs and lighting fixtures) by the likes of Norman Cherner, Adolf Loos, and Richard Riemerschmid. But while Kriemler cops to taking inspiration from anything and everything, it’s the high-performance functionalism of modernist architecture and design that has influenced his work most specifically. He is obsessed with developing new fabrics for Akris, which is, in turn, renowned for its couture-quality materials and craftsmanship. (Or as Kriemler puts it rather bluntly: “I cannot work with cheap fabrics.”)
The designer is equally fond of saying that it’s not enough for clothes to look beautiful—they also need to have “an awareness of individual personality.” When these qualities come together, they form what Kriemler, in his native tongue, calls selbstverständlichkeit—best translated as an effortless “just-rightness” that exists on a higher plane than trendy and over-the-top fashions. It’s minimalism, yes, but a minimalism that allows for color and decoration—as long as it’s the right color and only the kind of decoration integral to the design.