Women’s luxury fashion brand Akris is celebrating 100 years of fashion this year, (its Paris Fashion Week show featured 74 looks, nine from vintage collections), and the brand opened its first DC location at CityCenterDC.
To celebrate, creative director Albert Kriemler—whose grandmother started the brand as an apron atelier in St. Gallen, Switzerland, in 1922—came to DC last week for the grand opening of the CityCenterDC store.
Albert spoke to Washingtonian about the past 100 years of the company, as well as what’s to come.
How would you characterize the last 100 years of Akris?
It’s been three generations of family. My grandmother Alice started it, she was the eighth daughter of a family with 11 kids. [After my grandfather died,] my father joined her. [Switzerland] is small, you know, and he always saw [Europe] as a playground for his company. We’d already had collaborations with Paris houses in the ’60s and ’70s. In the 80s, we started collaborations with Hubert de Givenchy and he would stay a friend up to the end of his life.
When did you get involved with Akris?
I loved going to the company after school; I went to fabric fairs at the age of 15. I thought that I would start in Paris, get a professional education as a designer. But in my final examination week, the right hand of my father died, and he said, “I need your help, you know already our people.”
How do you see Akris now?
[When my grandmother built this company,] she sent her cousins out to sell aprons because women, especially women of purpose from these times, would wear an apron, you know, a woman running a business or a bakery or a hotel or a restaurant would always wear an apron. These days, we don’t do anything particularly different. We dress women of purpose and that’s why we are most excited to finally have opened our store here in Washington. We are still a small house but I think we have built our space. We have been working for 30 years with Neiman Marcus, 35 years with Bergdorf Goodman. And here we are in a moment, you know where I feel proud that we as a family achieved 100 years. But for me yes [it’s about] looking into the future for the next century of fashion.
This collection is based on your archives. What inspired you to do that?
[For this collection] I just needed to go my own way. You have to surprise. Because you can be creative, you can surprise in a new voice every season, but then you still have to keep your own hand. So in this year of the anniversary we really honor our own archives. I got really inspired by my fabrics of the ’80s which are fantastic. [There is] a suit from 1993, then there is a coat my father designed in 1978, [and] a blouse I did at the age of 23. We were inspired by ourselves. And the best discovery for me was to discover how timeless we are, how fabulously timeless my clothes are.
Why open a store in DC?
We wanted to develop a new concept and we spoke to David Chipperfeild, who has done this exquisite store for us with a new concept. It was a difficult three Covid years, but then I came here in May to walk this room. First I said, “Wow, we have succeeded in something sleek and modern.” You know, we have built up to 100 years and now it seems ready to enter into the new century.
Covid taught us how important stores are. My clothes do well online, but these clothes want to be touched and worn. Fabric is essential in my design approach, I think it’s very important that fabric touches well. For me, everything starts with fabric. I cannot even draw when I don’t have a fabric in-house because the fabric tells me already so much about what I can do with it and what I cannot do with it.
Akris is located at 965 I St NW, in City Center.