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Architect of style reveals her dark side

Swiss designer Christa de Carouge is honoured in a new book

(Keystone Archive)

Swiss clothes designer Christa de Carouge has been named as one of the 48 most inspirational women in Europe in a book entitled “Frauen mit Visionen” (Women with Vision).

De Carouge, who rejects fashion in favour of style, told swissinfo her inclusion in the book was recognition of the importance of her work.

The owner of two boutiques in Zurich and Carouge, Geneva, the designer said her main achievement had been to introduce structural movement into women’s clothing.

De Carouge is best known for her comfortable, practical clothes in her trademark black.

The 48 women in the book – representing 17 countries – include writers, politicians and women’s rights activists.

swissinfo: How do you feel about being included in this book?

Christa de Carouge: I feel accepted by the world of women for what I have done for women, not just here in Switzerland but internationally. It’s also perhaps a thank you for the sincerity of my work, and that makes me feel good.

This gives me strength to carry on in the direction I’m going, and to develop new ideas without compromising my own style.

swissinfo: Are clothes really important?

C.C.: I think clothes are very important today. How we dress is an aspect of society.

But I think we need to adopt a sensible attitude towards clothes, because if we carry on with the current fashion trends, people will soon be wearing nothing at all, and that’s not the right way to go.

swissinfo: This book is about women who are considered role models. Which women inspired you when you were starting out?

C.C.: French women mainly, for example [the writers] Colette and Simone de Beauvoir. I was inspired by intellectual, thinking women who initiated change.

swissinfo: When you started out in 1965, what was your vision?

C.C.: My vision was comfortable, quality and aesthetic clothes. Of course, my work has evolved over the years.

Chanel liberated women from corsets and brought in comfort. And I have also done something for the cause of women. I introduced structural movement into clothes, like modern architecture.

My approach to dressing women is rather like the approach of Le Corbusier to designing houses.

swissinfo: What kind of women do you have in mind when you design your clothes?

C.C.: I relate to women who are achievers, thinkers and working women, women with a sense of humour and spirited women.

swissinfo: Can you explain your obsession with the colour black?

C.C.: It was always my favourite colour, because it is the most neutral, most opaque colour that offers the most protection. It is the least problematic colour and the most urbane colour in Europe.

swissinfo: Recently you have also introduced some colour – red and yellow – into your collection.

C.C. I introduced these colours for the 25th anniversary of Christa de Carouge [in 2003]. These are colours which I saw on my trips to Asia – Tibet, Nepal, China and Japan – and which I loved.

I tried these colours out as a gift to my customers, but it’s just an experiment, which will be over soon. Black will always be the most important colour for Christa.

swissinfo: Where does Christa de Carouge go from here?

C.C.: The next step is lightweight fabrics in black, clothes that are great for travelling – light, comfortable and washable.

I am in the process of developing some light, fluid fabrics, inspired by the nomadic peoples, but my style will always remain the same.

swissinfo-interview: Morven McLean

Key facts

Christa de Carouge biography:
1936 – born in Basel.
1965 – starts designing clothes.
1978 – opens first boutique in Carouge, Geneva.
1988 – opens second boutique in Zurich.
2004 – named as one of Europe’s 48 most inspirational women in a new book.

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