AKRIS AND NEIMAN TEAM UP FOR BENEFIT
Byline: Holly Haber
DALLAS — Clean, wearable styles sewn in luxurious fabrics have made Akris one of the fastest-growing designer labels at Neiman Marcus, an achievement that prompted the Swiss company to make its spring collection’s debut at Dallas’s Wyndham Anatole Hotel during a charity luncheon underwritten by Neiman’s.
“This is quite an exception for us to show the line in Dallas before Paris, and this is thanks to Neiman Marcus,” said Albert Kriemler, designer and partner in the firm with his brother, Peter. “We have been selling to them for a long time, but really building the business in the last two years.”
Akris has been working hard to cultivate its business worldwide in the past few years, opening its first store on Faubourg Saint-Honore in Paris in 1996, followed by units in Boston, Monte Carlo, Dusseldorf and Frankfurt. A Tokyo unit opened in early October and a second Paris store opened in August on Avenue Montaigne, for a total of seven.
“Next year, we will probably do the next step in New York City on Madison Avenue,” Kriemler noted. “We are near to a decision on a space.”
Kriemler spoke in a phone interview from Como, Italy, where he was shopping for fabrics for next fall. He said that in the past two years the U.S. market has come to represent one-third of company volume. The remainder is split equally between Europe and Asia. He declined to reveal volume.
Founded in 1922 by Kriemler’s grandmother, Alice Kriemler-Schoch, Akris exudes a quiet luxury evinced by its elegant lines and meticulous craftsmanship. Most pieces are lined in silk georgette or silk charmeuse, while unlined jackets are finished with bound seams and handsewn armholes.
Many fabrics are developed by Kriemler and exclusive to the house and all fabrics are natural fibers, like an unusual basketweave-textured silk, cotton and linen blend with a high sheen in solid silver or black. Double-faced fabrics, such as a tan cashmere sewn into a cropped jacket paired with single-layer pants, are a hallmark of the collection.
But its signature is dots — a motif Kriemler introduced about 20 years ago that he continues to use. For spring, dots pop up big and small in subtle black dotted jacquard suits, big sequined circles scattered across a white evening jacket or a white leather dress and black and white polkadot linings, among other iterations.
“It’s all about innovative tailoring and double-faced cashmere in a blush of lightweight colors,” Kriemler said. “I like architectural lines and simple shapes and I think the little suit is very important, as are perfectly cut dresses.”
They turned up as simple, elegant sheath dresses, as well as jackets with single loop closures that flared open over skirts or pants. A zip jacket with deep V cuts at both ends of the zipper was a favorite motif, along with a crisply tailored jacket with a stand-up collar paired with slim skirts and pants.
Eveningwear featured black sparkle sequins and a silk chiffon fabric scattered with charmeuse rose petals. Not a piece of jewelry was in sight, but chiffon scarves draped around the neck accented some evening dresses and pantsuits.
Akris keeps tight control over production since everything is made in its two factories in Switzerland.
“It’s very expensive, but when I inherited this business with my brother from our parents it was a real challenge and target for us to keep our factories,” Kriemler explained. “We had 250 to 300 people working for us and we wanted to be able to maintain this.”
Akris has always been a designer collection, but the brothers decided in the early Nineties to ramp up the styling and the quality to a higher level.
“We have really improved not only the collection but the production base,” Kriemler noted. “I just visited our factory and I was pleased. There were three ladies doing silk-covered buttons by hand. We also mount every sleeve lining by hand. Because we own the factories, I can develop new techniques, new workmanship, new detailing 365 days a year.”
Neiman’s sells the designer collection in 22 doors and is looking to add more, said Malcolm Ruben, senior vice president and director of stores.
“Akris really has been an outstanding performer emerging throughout the country,” Ruben added. “The sell-through has far surpassed expectations — it’s over 60 percent. We can’t seem to get enough of it. It’s very wearable clothing that the customers understand and can relate to.”
The spring runway show, held Oct. 4 in the hotel’s spacious ballroom, was viewed by about 900 women and the event netted more than $50,000 for the Dallas Symphony Orchestra League.