It takes the Zürich-based fashion duo Ikou Tschüss a full week to hand-knit the blankets from their winter collection — each ringed with dangling sleeves to appear as though it’s hugging the bed — and maybe a day to knit one of their bulky sweater dresses. Even silk shifts are hand-printed and edged with rows of crochet, the pair’s signature trope. Add to all that labor the fact that Carmen D’Apollonio spends the majority of her time in New York, where she’s been the right-hand-woman to Swiss artist Urs Fischer for the past eight years, and it’s a good thing she and partner Guya Marini have help. “Most of our knitting is done by Swiss grandmothers now,” says Marini. The first hopeful wrote to them out of the blue after seeing them muse in a magazine about how they’d love to have their clothes made by ordinary people. “She gave us the idea, and after we told the story in our next interview, we heard from all the grandmas in Switzerland.”
It’s not a typical production setup for a clothing line that sells at the likes of Colette in Paris. But it’s also not such a stretch considering Ikou Tschüss’s pieces employ the classical knitting and crocheting techniques the pair learned as children, having both been raised in Switzerland by Italian parents. “Here you learn to knit in school, and in Italy you learn it from your grandma, you have no choice,” Marini explains. What makes the pair’s clothes so avant-garde is the unconventional way they marry lightweight fabrics with heavy yarns — the very first Ikou Tschüss design was a vintage scarf crocheted all around to ensure it wouldn’t fly off D’Apollonio’s neck as she rode her bike — as well as the patterns, colors, and cuts they dream up during their mostly improvisational creative process.
It was the charm of that old-school/new-wave combination that first caught the eye of Marini’s influential friends back in 2006, when she was living in Paris and styling for Andre Walker and Beat Bolliger. She and D’Apollonio showed the guys at the Public Image showroom their work — which until then had only been made for themselves, or as gifts for loved ones — and they encouraged the fledgling designers to start a line. Marini’s pal Sarah Lerfel from Colette was the first to pick it up. It happened so fast that they had to choose a name on the fly: “Ikou” means “let’s go” in Japanese, “Tschüss” goodbye in German. Their upcoming eighth collection, which they’ll present in November as part of Zürich’s fashion week, will be their largest to date, buoyed by the investment of a new backer. Before they blow up, Sight Unseen decided to pay a visit to their studio to find out how they work.
For more than three years, the Argentinean sisters Sol Caramilloni Iriarte and Carolina Lopez Gordillo Iriarte kept a design studio on the second floor of a building in Barcelona, handcrafting an eponymous line of leather bags in relative privacy. Sol, 32, was working part-time as a set designer for films; Carolina, 25, had just finished a year apprenticing under her friend Muñoz Vrandecic, the Spanish couture shoemaker. Called Iriarte Iriarte, it was a modest operation. Then in June, fate intervened.
Since graduating from London’s Royal College of Art in 2006 with a master’s degree in womenswear, Eudon Choi has had his graduate collection picked up by the fanatically worshipped Dover Street Market, been a senior designer for Savannah and Sienna Miller's label Twenty8Twelve, and been called a “fabulous individual” by our favorite throwback men’s fashion mag Fantastic Man. All of which makes his decision to move to London in 2003 — after having already completed a master’s in menswear at Yonsei University in his hometown of Seoul — seem like a pretty good move. “London, and womenswear in particular, just felt like a place where I could be more experimental,” says Choi.
At 22, Alexandra Verschueren has interned for Preen, Proenza Schouler, and Derek Lam. She’s been honored by a jury that included former Rochas creative director Olivier Theyskens and the International Herald Tribune’s fashion critic Suzy Menkes. And in the last six months, her graduate collection Medium has been fêted by Wallpaper magazine and the Mode Museum in her hometown of Antwerp. So why, when she applied to that city’s Royal Academy of Fine Arts straight out of high school, did no one expect she’d get in?