The dress always fits
The dress always fits
„Little Black Dress“
Joanna Skoczylas and Eliane Diethelm are self-confident. Very self-confident. And they have to be. After all, what they aim to accomplish is quite radical: to change the fashion sense of the women in Zurich.
|NAME:||Eliane Diethelm & Joanna Skoczylas|
|PROFESSION:||Fashion-Desginers, owners of 'Little black dress' and 'Love Again'|
|ZURICH IS ...||Like a giant village.|
|ZURICH IS NOT ...||as bad as most of the locals say.|
|OUR FAVOURITE MUSIC:||Jazz, Electronic, Easy Listening, Indie, Folk, Classic|
|OUR FAVOURITE MOVIE:||at the moment 'Solitaire' (our lbd white Film)|
|A GOOD DAY BEGINS WITH:||Plenty of time, sunshine, fresh-fruit and music|
|WE ARE HAPPY WHEN ...||we get to eat a bis steak with french fries.|
|WE WOULD NEVER ...||say never, we don't know the future that well.|
“When I first came to Switzerland, I was a little disappointed. It wasn’t stylish, not fashionable. Women here dress for comfort and convenience. They don’t want to draw any attention to themselves. I wanted to change that.” Johanna was born and raised in Warsaw. At first, she was surprised that the women in a rich and cosmopolitan city like Zurich seemed to have so little self-confidence. “Men don’t have as many opportunities as women to express themselves with their clothes. Men wear pants and shirts. That’s it. Women, on the other hand, wear skirts, dresses, pants – why don’t they play with these different options and enjoy it? A dress is so beautiful, because it’s enough by itself, because it’s a fast solution and looks great!”
At her graduate fashion show nine years ago, Joanna met Eliane, a professional seamstress, that had realised that she wouldn’t be able to work the way she wanted to at one of the big fashion labels. The two hit it off immediately and became best friends. It’s easy to see why. Eliane’s face is an open book that seems to reflect her every thought. Her eyes fly about the room restlessly, looking for something to hold on to whilst her thoughts drift from one topic to the next. Like Joanna, Eliane is full of energy and entrepreneurial spirit, and driven by the desire to do things differently.
The only thing they still needed was a name–Little Black Dress. “Black” is crossed out in the logo, and naturally everyone wonders why, but nobody asks.
The two of them were looking for a suitable and affordable store. They found it in a very exciting area–Kreis 5, an up-and-coming neighbourhood. The young women worked hard and within four fast-paced years, they managed to make their label famous throughout the city.
Rents in the neighbourhood have gone through the roof, new restaurants open on an almost weekly basis. There are lots of little coffee shops, some of them roast their own coffee. Life on the streets changes every day. Meanwhile, other designers have taken notice to the change and have followed the young womens’ path. Concept stores are popping up everywhere, like the small store across the street, selling custom-fit eyewear. Joanna and Eliane enjoy hanging out at the Café Noir or dining at Josef’s; both are favourite gathering places for the creative class, and not only those from the neighbourhood.
“I always have something to write on next to my bed. Sometimes when I’m dozing off, I have ideas I’d like to capture,” Eliane confesses. Such ideas might even be the starting point for a new collection. The two women work together closely on the composition of their designs and they make their decisions jointly. As soon as an idea is solid, they move on. Sometimes they go back to old drafts–and that’s when the real work begins: crossing out and revising things, choosing fabrics. Where is all this going? That’s what they talk about, discussing it over and over again.
Then it’s time to make the first decisions; they buy fabrics and spend real money. The project comes to life. Does the zipper really fit the design or should they use buttons instead? Which fabric works best? What size? A lot depends on these details, the items picked thus far, on the arrangement. They keep asking themselves repeatedly which story they want to tell, which idea or concept they want to reveal. “Well, and then we start here in the studio. New ideas come up and we second-guess our work, trying out new things.’
Eliane stops and holds her breath. Her eyes wander away, and she gestures with her hands. Some designs, she says, are done: the concept is complete and every little detail has been discussed. These go into production right away, which saves time. And so the collection slowly build upon itself. Now the designers ask questions about the pending fashion show, where they will present their collection to the public. “You want to promote your body of work as a whole, as a complete world of its own; the catwalk is part of that.”
Eventually the moment arrives when everything is done, when it’s too late for anymore changes or alterations. “You stand there, watching the models. Everything is perfect. There is nothing you can do any more. You just want everyone to like what they see. All that’s left is to go home, get some alone time and start thinking about the next day.
What are the happy moments? The two women seem to agree, taking turns answering. There are so many moments, they say. For instance, the moment when a new delivery arrives. Unpacking the merchandise is like Christmas. “You have handed over the designs and the drafts and everything else–and then the finished product arrives: pure, beautiful, clean, sewn perfectly, well creased. And then you put it on for the first time.”
Or the moment when the suppliers show up with their fabrics. “We have the greatest fabric suppliers. One of our favourites is Jacob Schlaepfer from St. Gallen. He comes twice a year.” It is extraordinarily difficult for them to cut down in this area, they say. “Their fabrics are innovative, they have the lightest materials in the world!”
Their eyes start glowing when they think about their product. Just like a gourmet chef can make your mouth water when he talks about fine ingredients for a dish, the designers talk about fabrics, patterns, and materials from all over the world – the ingredients for their designs.
“It’s the transformation that fascinates me,” says Joanna. “The women who come to us are usually insecure at first, because of their bodies, their looks. We encourage them, show them the possibilities. It’s so beautiful when a wallflower leaves our store as a diva. That’s my work – I make that happen.” The two designers have found their calling and are living their dream. I could listen to them for hours; their energy is so contagious and inexhaustible.
Then they tell me about their favourite places in the city – about the ‘Badis’, or public pools where you can meet friends and swim in the clear mountain water of the river or the lake; about the many clubs they visit more or less frequently; about the new shops they want to open all over the city. It almost seems as if they are exactly what Zurich has been waiting for.
So why is the word ‘black’ in their logo crossed out? I think they’ve answered that question already, haven’t they?
Text by Jo Weissgerber
Photos by Martin N. Kunz, Jo Weissgerber