the show must go on | mode suisse

KLAESI HOLDENER. photography. Alexander Palacios.


COVID-19, also known as coronavirus, has upended the fashion world. Escaping the main four cities of fashion month, the pandemic means many lesser-known International Fashion Weeks have been postponed or called off completely. While big-name designers may make it through the season disrupted but relatively unscathed, it’s the up-and-comers and smaller brands that rely on the visibility provided by the shows and showrooms that will bear the brunt of the damage. So, for their sake, as they say, the show must go on — though a bit differently.

Mode Suisse brings together the best and brightest of Swiss fashion, including designers, media, textile manufacturers, and industry experts, cultivating the perfect environment for collaboration. In the face of COVID-19, its 17th edition chose to honour its commitment to providing a platform for the crop of emerging and more established designers while also respecting health regulations. In lieu of a larger-scale presentation in Zurich’s main station, the event opted to host the presentations, showrooms, and direct sales at the Landesmuseum. 

Although the scale of the event was compromised, the quality certainly wasn’t — the designers were as eclectic and strong as ever. Some, like NOMADISSEM and aporeei championed responsible fashion through the use of vintage and long-lasting textiles. Others, like HEAD – Genève, championed local talent, puting forward two of their most promising alumni, Claire Lefebvre and Tara Mabiala. Against the circumstances, the event proved to be a success thanks to the contributions of the designers. Here, we’ve selected some of our highlights below. 

Swiss-born, Berlin-based designer Florian Holdener of KLAESI HOLDENER was one of the newcomers at Mode Suisse; but he certainly stood his ground against the veterans. His brand takes on classic elements of menswear and tailoring with an emphasis on outerwear. Puffer jackets, parkas, bombers, and button-down shirts are pieces that can be found in just about anyone’s wardrobe, but Holdener reimagines them in elongated, exaggerated and elevated new silhouettes. One of the easiest ways to be an eco-conscious consumer is to invest in pieces that have longevity. Holdener makes sure of that through its collaboration with Swiss textile manufacturer, Schoeller, who provides high-tech and eco-friendly fabrics. Collaboration is a key component of Mode Suisse’s raison d’être and it’s evidently integral to the designer’s ethos as well. The sleek shades were supplied by the Zurich-based eyewear brand, SOL SOL ITO. Truly a display of Swiss fashion’s finest. And, if you didn’t think socks and sandals were cool before, this collection may have you second-guessing.

AWS (After Work Studio) photography. Alexander Palacios.

Swiss multidisciplinary design duo AWS (After Work Studio) consists of fashion designer Karin Wüthrich and graphic designer Matthias Fürst. They have been regulars at Mode Suisse since the brand was co-founded in 2016. The label eschews from seasonal collections, preferring to showcase looks that are a continuation of an ongoing narrative. Its latest offering was very aptly a playful take on a stay-at-home uniform, with silhouettes inspired by business suits and outdoor gear but notably cosier and cool.

Models strode down the runway in a range of looks featuring skirts, dresses, scarves, and deconstructed shirts rendered in bold, geometric prints — no doubt the work of the graphic designer in the fold. Instead of handbags, models toted MacBooks and even an “Employee of the Month” plaque in what was a very HR-approved collection.  

LIDA NOBA photography. Alexander Palacios.


While many of her peers opted for a more neutral palette, LIDA NOBA’s presentation fully embraced colour. This shouldn’t come as a surprise, the designer hails from Tehran and her culture is known for its rich textiles and architecture. This particular collection drew its inspiration from Shiraz’s Nasir al-Mulk Mosque, revered for its iridescent stained glass windows. The garments brim with vibrancy, featuring frills, shimmering fabrics, and sequins. The multi-coloured, heart-shaped spectacles recalled the stained glass windows of the mosque. Although the tribute to the designer’s culture is palpably personal, this collection would be right at home in any fashion-forward wardrobe.

Rafael Kouto. Photography: Alexander Palacios.


Single-use plastic is out and upcycled fashion is in — that is the message we got from Rafael Kouto’s finale presentation at Mode Suisse. A fitting choice to close out the showcase, Kouto has long strived for sustainability and eco-consciousness. The bold showing featured couture silhouettes, deconstructed garments (showing his Margiela background), and a palette of earth tones juxtaposed against brighter colours. However, it was the accessories that stood out. Kouto repurposed tag ties, rubber bands, and plastic straws to create tribal-inspired headpieces, rings, and earrings. Bottle caps were used to give playful ornamentation to a black suit, and brightly hued reusable water bottles hung from the models’ hips. Contrary to common belief, sustainability doesn’t have to compromise on coolness.


Read more about Mode Suisse here.

words. Henry Lifshits
photography. Alexander Palacios

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