Fashion / Lifestyle

DESIGNGUT: Where Swiss Design Meets Sustainability

Last week I had a great opportunity to visit DESIGNGUT, the annual Swiss sustainable design fair, in Winterthur — a charming town located a 20-minute train ride from Zurich. The event brought together Switzerland’s more established and up-and-coming designers in fashion, jewellery and furniture – all with a sustainable twist. Held in the city’s magnificent Casino Theatre, the event was a fitting setting for visual arts. And I got to go up on the stage of this theatre to give a talk on the shifting perceptions on fashion and sustainability — and how we can change the image of sustainable fashion for the better. You can watch it here. I also had a chance to catch up with Jennifer Lüscher from the DESIGNGUT team, and ask more about the 2013 event went.

The all-female DESIGNGUT team with Jennifer Lüscher first from the left. Photo via DESIGNGUT.

The all-female DESIGNGUT team with Jennifer Lüscher first from the left. Photo via DESIGNGUT.

Green Stilettos: What was new about DESIGNGUT 2013 compared to previous years?
JL: The fair attracted once again attracted a group of visitors interested in learning about and buying good-quality, sustainably produced objects with a long lifetime. Our side events «Design meets Sustainability» and «Meet the Makers» were a perfect compliment to the sales platform. Both events were very inspiring and attracted a curious audience. While the first event showed very encouraging and new ways of combining design with a conscience, the second event portrayed some Swiss designers with all their passion, creativity and visions.

What specific trends in the Swiss sustainable design have you noticed this year?
We saw the upcycling theme become even more established this year. We had young labels like Frau Nils, which turns used t-shirts into beautiful and unique scarfs. Or Matrouvaille, a label which takes traditional Swiss folk art and turns them into new objects. Apart from the upcycling trend we had quite a few designers working with paper. In the age of digital communication many people apparently long for traditional paperwork.
Unique paper objects by Swiss label Matrouvaille. Photo via DESIGNGUT.

Unique paper objects by Swiss label Matrouvaille. Photo via DESIGNGUT.

What do you think needs to happen to make sustainable fashion in Switzerland more mainstream?

Or course cheaper prices would help, but this is difficult for Swiss designers because they have to make their living and also produce high quality objects that are worth their price. On the other hand a different  attitude by the consumers is needed in order to give sustainable design a boost.

Saddlebags? Saddlemaker Fiona Losinger produces unique vegetable tanned leather bags. Photo via DESIGNGUT.

Saddlebags? Saddle maker Fiona Losinger produces unique vegetable tanned leather bags. Photo via DESIGNGUT.

What are you favourite picks from this year’s DESIGNGUT offerings?

Fiona Losinger, a saddle maker who now makes the most beautiful handbags. Each one is unique, and when you order one you have to wait for three months for the bag to be delivered.  This is literally slow design! And Arno Wolf, a label by an architect and an interior designer. They produce objects in very special small ateliers in a region in Germany where they grew up.  I like the combination of clear forms and high-standard workmanship.

Star features by Swiss designer Arno Wolf. Photo via DESIGNGUT.

Star features by Swiss designer Arno Wolf. Photo via DESIGNGUT.

As for me, I loved the clean lines of fashion designer Ida Gut, a household name in the German-speaking part of Switzerland. I could not resist her dress coat with an oriental vibe, which is bang on trend for this winter. I was also impressed by Sabine Thuler, a single mother-of-four turned goldsmith, who makes exquisite jewellery pieces not dissimilar to Cartier’s nouvelle vague collection.

Gold and tourmaline ring by  Swiss designer Sabine Thuler. Photo via DESIGNGUT.

Gold and tourmaline ring by Swiss designer Sabine Thuler. Photo via DESIGNGUT.

And Zurich will be calling again soon, with another international design fair, Blickfang, coming to town on 22-24 November. Wunderbar!

The author would like to thank the DESIGNGUT and Zukunftsspenglerei teams, and in particular Knut and Jennifer Lüscher, for their warm welcome in Winterthur.

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