Design Prize Switzerland will be awarded for the sixteenth time on 5 November 2021. Swiss Textiles has been supporting this award for many years, not only because it highlights the design expertise of our sector, but also because it offers a unique interdisciplinary network.
In 2017, with her company YVY, Yvonne Reichmuth received the award in the “textiles and fashion start-ups” category. We asked her to tell us about the significance of this award for her, what has happened in the meantime and what her future plans are.
Yvonne, what did receiving the award mean to you at that time?
I was especially pleased to receive the award because it represents an overall judgement and evaluation of both the brand and the company. It was also important to me because it meant that designers like us were now being taken seriously as entrepreneurs. The award reflects an appraisal, not only of a particular collection, but also of overall creativity with a focus on economic viability.
What did you expect the award to trigger for you?
Actually, nothing – I think it’s always best to avoid placing high expectations on a single event. My progress has not been characterised by individual milestones, but rather always by a number of different developments, both major and minor, that together have contributed towards success.
What came next, or to put it another way, what resulted directly from the award?
At that time, the prize was worth 15,000 Swiss francs, for which I was very grateful, of course. For start-ups, finance is always a significant factor. However, the fact that the award enabled me to find a mentor via the network of Swiss Textiles was just as important. I am privileged to have a great team to work with – colleagues with whom I can exchange ideas and constantly develop our brand. But in the end I’m the founder and entrepreneur who has to bear overall responsibility. What I needed back then was someone in a similar position to me, but who had much more experience and with whom I could share my thoughts and ideas. I am happy to say that the person who became my mentor is one of the most fascinating and inspiring personalities I have met in the past few years. The resulting exchange was, and remains, an enormous enrichment for me.
The person who became my mentor is one of the most fascinating and inspiring personalities I have met in the past few years.
When you look back over the four years since you were awarded the Design Prize, what would you say were the most significant developments?
I have to say that the situation in the past few months, and especially last year, was of particular relevance – the Covid-19 pandemic was an extraordinary situation for everyone. At YVY we had in fact already drawn up ambitious plans to move onto the international markets. But the pandemic made this irrelevant for the time being. Instead, we strongly refocused on the local arena, in which I was fortunately already well placed. As a start-up you always to want to grow quickly, of course, but the recent extraordinary circumstances meant that it was an advantage for us that we were still a small business and thus were able to respond flexibly to the new situation.
What is left over from that time?
The hype that everyone would now have a rethink and do everything differently quickly evaporated. I regret that the initial euphoria did not last very long. The quiet months in lockdown were an important time for me, during which I questioned myself and my work. I found that many decisions I had already made before the pandemic proved to be the right ones, for example to no longer prepare seasonal collections and instead create designs that remain relevant for years. Or our made-to-order approach that cuts out overproduction, which in recent times had been assuming ever more absurd proportions. At YVY we always focus on timeless design, together with our own clear aesthetic in everything we do, so that we can share with our clients the feelings and values we develop within our team.
At YVY we always focus on timeless design, together with our own clear aesthetic in everything we do.
As a designer you are now also a member of the creative team at Piëch. How did that come about?
It began with a collaboration between ourselves and Piëch two years ago. With their launch at the Geneva Motor Show, the leather key chains afforded exclusive access, and I am pleased to note that, as we had hoped, they are still being worn today and give rise to the sense of belonging to a special community. For us it was also important to show in this respect that we set our sights on carefully conceived design and sustainability by creating top quality products. One year later, the co-founder invited me to visit him in his office, and I’ve remained there ever since. I was greatly impressed by their vision right from the start, and I find it exciting to be a member of this team. The opportunity to develop a brand from scratch, and in Switzerland too, is unique. I also find it particularly stimulating that at Piëch I am now working in an entirely different segment, but can nonetheless recognise many parallels to my own start-up – which represents an enrichment for both sides.
Timeless Design - The Moon Belt (created during the first Lockdown in 2020) is a reinterpretation of a design from YVY's first collection (2014). Picture: Mirjam Kluka
So what comes next?
As I’ve already pointed out, I’m not pursuing the classical path of designing seasonal fashion collections. In the past few years I have strengthened my focus on other projects. This year I’m working on a book, and have produced seven chapters on “FEELINGS” together with some artist friends. The book will be launched at the end of November on the occasion of a gallery takeover. The proceeds will be donated to the organisation FIZ (“Advocacy and Support for Migrant Women and Victims of Trafficking”). I am also about to enter into a cooperation with an internationally renowned brand, but I cannot reveal the details yet. This is scheduled to commence next year.
What advice would you like to give designers who are just setting out on their career path?
In my view, a healthy dose and balanced combination of ambition and humility is called for, plus the awareness of the fact that everything actually already exists on the market. It is also important to maintain a clear focus on developing an individual voice and to take care not to be distracted by what’s going on around you. You will not get very far by following trends or emulating other designers.
YVY was established in 2014. It cleverly combines traditional handicraft and innovative design. Here, the boundaries of clothing, fashion accessories and objects flow into non-seasonal collections and result in the development of exciting leather items that become even more attractive when they are worn. Each BESPOKE item is made by hand from the finest quality leather and brought to life in YVY’s studio in the centre of Zurich. YVY’s EVERYDAY items are made either in Zurich or in collaboration with artisans in Florence. All its collections are made from primarily vegetable-tanned Italian leather. The notable combination of Swiss quality awareness, Italian expertise in leather craft, and Hollywood publicity renders each YVY item a sought-after statement among women and men alike.
Yvonne Reichmuth has also been a member of the Piëch creative team since 2020, where she works as a colour and trim designer.