Past weekend Julian Zigerli presented his Autumn/ Winter 2019 collection to the public at the Greulich Design Hotel Zurich. Not only Swiss designer du moment, but an highly creative individual who has been significantly shaping the Swiss fashion landscape for the past nine years, Julian is best known for his playful yet wearable designs. Moreover, his collaborations with a variety of other artists and labels, like with the renowned German painter Katharina Grosse or “the world’s finest underwear” label, Zimmerli, made him also an internationally known designer on the rise. Œ met the eclectic maverick before his show to discuss his current where- and howabouts – An insight on a Fashion Designer’s approach when working together with an Visual Artist and how to artistically benefit from national cliches…
Œ: You are always on the move – How has your year been so far, can you sum up some of the fashion highlights for us?
Julian: I can’t remember what was happening in the beginning of the year… (laughs), but I definitely was traveling quite a lot, and still am. Next weekend I’m going to be in New York which is exciting as well. There is a lot happening, especially in the last two or three months I was really busy. It was great to launch the bags with Qwstion, noticeable it’s already the second time we’ve successfully worked together. We launched them in Berlin – it’s always nice to be back there as it’s kind of my second home, one could say. I studied and lived there for 6 years, that’s why it will always have a special value for me. But I guess the highlight of the year is going to be today!
Œ: You are known for a lot of beautiful collaborations, this time with Christoph Hefti. How did that come about?
Julian: I’ve known Christoph for a few years now. He used to work a lot for Dries van Noten, Acne and now Mugler. Besides this profession as an Textile Designer, he is in some way more of an Textile Artist. We’ve got to meet each other once at the Swiss Design Awards where I was nominated and have been the winner three times already. He was at the jury there and we drove home together in the train from Basel. We just talked and got to know each other more and more. I had stumbled upon his work earlier. Especially the carpets he creates as an artist I found really intriguing and I really thought to myself: “This is something special and new!”. As I had never worked with someone that is actually coming from Textile Design before, I considered it to be an ideal occasion to collaborate with a guy who actually knew how we Fashion Designers work. Christoph had the expertise in what it takes to create a certain fabric or a print. At one point I just told him „Hey, one day we’re gonna work together!“ – And this day arrived, so now we did it, basically. (laughs)
Œ: What, would you say, do both of you have in common – is there some kind of aesthetic intersection?
Julian: I really wanted to include the kind of aesthetic he’s showing in his art – so I tried to concentrate more on him as an artist than on him as a Textile Designer. Not only do we have the textiles background in common, but also both of us are Swiss. I had enjoyed working with Switzerland as an inspiration before and it turned out to be very welcoming for him to use this as a pool of inspiration as well. We then decided to go into this kind of really “dark woods”-theme and created a psychedelic wood-pattern one could imagine to see when walking through the forest on acid or similar hallucinogen substances. We also integrated the faces, sometimes printed, other times embroidered, which Christoph involves in his carpets as well as in his art.
Œ: Christoph Hefti’s work often tells stories. Is this also happening in your collaboration?
Julian: It kind of is. You could say it is kind of a fairytale but more the dark and spiritual kind of fairytale we wanted to tell. To transport this feeling, we used a lot of real material for the prints. We went to the countryside as a creative starting point – to Feldis, more precisely, which is really up on the mountain. We took the gondola up there to a little house, which almost looked like a wooden, cute little chalet.
Eventually we just started to gather all this natural material you find in forests, and even went to the farmers to ask them for hay. Afterwards we placed our, you could say, „basic material“, i.e. pinecones, leaves, nuts etc. out on the floor in front of the house and just started to create prints from scratch there. We took pictures of all the different patterns we created and those were then turned into fabrics.
Œ: Your S/S19 collection, ‘I Carrot Believe It’, made a clear statement Pro Europe, but also featured a lot of different ideas out of your home country. Think of Alphorn, Ricola and Toblerone…
Julian: It (the EU-CH foulard) was the first political statement I ever gave in a collection, I guess. It was in a very playful kind of way, just as sort of a little side note. I didn’t want to get too political about it since it simply isn’t one of my intentions and I don’t really want to take sides.
It’s the second time I used Switzerland as inspiration pool though. I enjoyed it personally, and every time I look at the collection I still have lots of fun and it seemed like the audience had the same feeling. ‚I Carrot Believe It’ was the collection which gained the most feedback so far, probably because everyone understood the whole joke we did there and they really enjoyed the fact that you could refer to Switzerland without it having to be patriotic, dusty or all about hiking – Simply that there’s a lot more edge to it!
Respectively, I took this topic a step further, so the new collection goes in the same direction but more dark, less ironic. A bit more fantasy…
Œ: Would you consider yourself a typical Swiss designer?
Julian: Not really. It’s a bit funny that I’m in Switzerland doing what I do, honestly. But we do have an audience we’re working on, all the time. I think they appreciate the difference we make and that we have this ironic and more fun approach towards Switzerland!
Œ: What comes next, is there maybe another collaboration in sight yet?
Julian: Sometimes you just meet someone and you connect in some way of spiritual or friendship level, and all of a sudden something new comes into being. There’s a few people on my list, which I already know and am in contact with. We just wait for the right moment for it to come to existence, it’s something I don’t really want to force. It either develops or not, but mostly it comes really natural. So, lets see what happens…