ONE reason I enjoy going to events like the recent Swiss Fashion Point is to discover the work of up-and-coming Swiss designers, but equally it’s to reconnect with my favourite and already established fashion brands to find out what they’ve been getting up to.
Update: Laure Gaury, who I interviewed for this article, has moved on, but her partner Laurence Imstepf remains and shares her boutique — now called Mademoiselle L — with other, mostly Swiss designers, mostly graduates of the Geneva University of Art and Design (HEAD). The boutique’s original vision and aesthetics live on so please read the article for a taste of what you can find there.
A case in point: catching up with Laure Gaury of T’as Pas L’Heure, whose elegant jewellery made with intricate pieces from antique watches I’ve long admired, and learning from her that she now co-owns a lovely new boutique on one of Geneva’s trendiest streets, Rue des Étuves, just a stone’s throw from Manor.
This is good news not only because Laure and her partner, the fashion designer Laurence Imstepf of Mademoiselle L, can now offer their respective labels in an easily accessible location on an almost daily basis. It’s also because they’re using their sleek new retail space to showcase the creations of other burgeoning Swiss fashion and accessories designers whose work is largely unavailable elsewhere in Geneva.
A compatible mix of two artistic universes
“The beauty of the shop is that we made no compromises, we managed to mix our two universes without one being left on the side,” Laure tells me, referring to her and Laurence’s respective artistic and business philosophies.
Given they knew each other only from their work before joining forces, they were pleased to discover they share a common work ethic, essential given that in addition to running the boutique and researching designers to share their space with, they both have other responsibilities on the side (Laurence also teaches at Geneva University of Art and Design (HEAD)).
“We’re both hard workers, so we clicked,” Laure reports. Their compatability even extends to how their first names conveniently combined to offer the business its name. Almost one year in — the boutique opened in December 2016 — she says: “We’re happy with the way things are going.”
Creating the boutique’s energy
Although Laurence and Laure had to compete with 31 other applicants for the lease on their unique property, Laure says the most challenging part lay in creating the shop’s mis en scene in the few months that they had before opening their doors for business.
“We had to build the energy of the shop, how it was going to look,” she says. Crucially, they needed room not only for their own creations but also for the merchandise of other designers whom they would invite to share their space.
The resulting boutique looks streamlined and uncluttered, mixing modern elements including black metal rods and glass countertops with the traditional warmth and rustic texture of a long, low wood cabinet, and wood shelving. Here too, harmony reigns where two aesthetic universes meet.
Business philosophy: spotlighting Swiss-made
Yet Laure is quick to say that their business philosophy involves far more than only their two universes. “It’s not just Laurence and Laure, it’s also Swiss Design, and buying local, and getting to know the amazing creativity of the other designers coming from Switzerland. We’re fighting for that.
“Our goal is to deliver more impact for designers who are building their businesses here, even if not all the production is based here. These designers need more oportunity and popularity to grow their businesses because we’re eaten by the big brands.”
Of course, profit considerations also come into play: a guest designer’s merchandise must ideally prove popular in Geneva and from the designer’s point of view, they are placing their trust in Laurence and Laure to sell their creations properly.
The merchandise changes about three times a year, in Spring, in Autumn and in Winter, and while Laure says they have their favorite brands she also admits that they “have to stay openminded and open to new opportunities and to finding new designers spontaneously. We’ve only been open a year so there’s no set pattern yet.”
Focusing on quality and diversity
At the moment, you’ll find at LL Swiss Design the luxurious organic cashmere collection of Christina Krämer and Italian-leather goods handcrafted by Magdalena Brozda and Pauline Famy, two graduates of HEAD, at their studio in Geneva.
Personal contact between customer and creator ranks high on their list of priorities. “We hold vernissages so that people can meet the designer and get a bit of the story behind the product,” Laure says. “That’s also part of our philosophy: you’re not just buying a product, but a story and a part of the designer, which in turn makes the product really special.” ♥