Swiss seek spot on Europe's fashion catwalk
More commonly awash with dowdy dark-suited bankers, the Swiss city of Zurich is bidding this week to join Paris and Milan as a capital of style as it hosts its first ever "Fashion Days".
"There is now a young generation of Swiss creators who deserve international attention," said the Zurich-based blogger Play Hunter -- a pseudonym -- whose site playlust.net tracks new fashion trends.
Some 40 designers from Switzerland and elsewhere will put their creativity on show from Wednesday on the catwalks of the northeastern economic capital.
Adding a touch of glamour, A-lister Penelope Cruz's sister Monica will unveil the line the sisters have designed for the event's sponsor, high street Swiss clothes chain Charles Voegele.
"It's the first time such an event has taken place in Switzerland," said Anne Gorgerat Kall, spokeswoman for the four-day event.
"We want to recreate what happens every year during the fashion weeks in London, Paris and New York, with the difference that in Zurich the event will be open to the public," she told AFP.
Switzerland has been slow to embrace the creative zest and glitz of the fashion world, even though its specialist textile makers have carved a discrete niche as creators and suppliers of high quality fabrics for upmarket foreign fashion houses.
The decade-old Swiss Textiles Award, whose 2010 laureate will be unveiled during the Fashion Days, rewards young international fashion talent every year.
The Alpine country also has a pedigree in the clean-cut creative world of graphic design and produces world class architectural talent.
But Zurich couturier Heiner Wiedemann, who specialises in evening dresses, says the fashion industry is still dismissed as "superficial" in Switzerland.
"It's rather difficult to gain acceptance in Switzerland, there's no fashion industry like in France for example and finance remains hard to come by," he explained.
Organisers are hoping that about 1,000 guests each evening and 150 journalists will help home-bred creative talent find international recognition.
About 200 designers are active in Switzerland, mostly in Zurich, and Wiedemann hopes the event will help them break out of isolation.
Blogger Play Hunter agreed Switzerland has no lack of talent, highlighting the work of labels such as Toujours toi-Family Affairs by Nina and Kaya Egli, or the stylist Tran Hin Phu.
"But people prefer to go shopping in London," she acknowledged.
"Our best export remains the Freitag bag," a trendy shoulder bag made from recycled tarpaulins that was created 17 years ago by eponymous brothers -- both local graphic design students, she said.
Zurich's Fashion Days may not put it in the ballpark with Europe's top fashion capitals right away, she said, but they can put the spotlight on Swiss stylists, help them innovate and make use of the high quality textiles on their doorstep.
© 2010 AFP