Much like the Akris brand, the company’s 90th anniversary celebration early last week at Bergdorf Goodman in New York City was a decidedly understated affair.
The guest of honor, Akris designer and creative director Albert Kriemler, chatted up guests while signing copies of the new book “1922 2012 Akris,” which chronicles the evolution of his family’s business. Despite having jetted in from Europe the day before, the designer and creative director preferred to stand to greet fans of the brand and the espresso that was set on the edge of his signing table was left untouched. “There is no time for jet lag,” he said with a laugh.
Fittingly, the idea to mark the family-owned Akris’ milestone sprang from a next-of-kin gathering. “We were celebrating the 90th birthday of our father and he mentioned how my grandmother started the company three months before she gave birth to him,” Kriemler said.
Progressive as Alice Kriemler-Schoch was for the Roaring Twenties, Kriemler views his mission as one that encompasses the needs of these times we live in without walking away from the past. “I think it is my duty to bring the product forward and to keep up with that modernity,” he said.
Kriemler, who lived with his grandmother as a child, has the “wonderful diary” she kept when starting the business. But he always envisions the brand looking forward, not back. Now sold in 600-plus stores and via its new e-commerce site, Akris is still based in St. Gallen, Switzerland, a town of 73,000 that dates back to the seventh century. The label continues to rely on the area’s textile artisans, but more for the sake of innovation than heritage. Valerie Steele, who wrote the new Akris book, said as familiar as she was with its “fabulous creations,” she didn’t realize how futuristic the machinery is that the company uses for production and digital printing. “They put a lot of effort into making those textiles in this little village in Switzerland, but Albert is also so plugged in to so many other places and things,” she said.
The architecturally minded Kriemler has referenced Herzog & de Meuron’s buildings, Tatiana Bilbao’s Jinhua Architecture Park in China and Joseph Maria Olbrich’s renowned 1908 building The Wedding Tower in Darmstadt, Germany. “It is beautiful when you can design and create something whether it is a collection, a building or a piece of writing,” Kriemler said.
Art, not surprisingly, is another well for inspiration and he had blocked off Wednesday to catch “Schiaparelli and Prada: Impossible Conversations” at the Met, abstract paintings at the Museum of Modern Art and, if time allowed, the Lucio Fontana show at the Gagosian Gallery in Chelsea. A few years back he collaborated with the ballet choreographer John Neumeier, which gave him the chance to design for men. As much as he relished that, there are no immediate plans for men’s wear. “This is not the moment to start new activities, but you never know,” he said.
Having recently designed a cruise collection inspired by the Oceanographic Museum in Paris, which was founded by Prince Albert I of Monaco, the irony of drawing from another well-known family was not lost on Kriemler. “Family matters —for sure,” he said. “Always.”