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switzerland basel institute of fashion design graduate show
Friederike TraubPhotography Nick Henry Soland

Six design graduates putting Switzerland on the fashion map

The Institute of Fashion Design in Basel ditched its regular show for a performance-cum-runway experience, showcasing its BA and MA graduate designers’ work

While the likes of Central Saint Martins, Parsons, and Tokyo’s Bunka College are the ones that immediately spring to mind, there are plenty of other prestigious fashion schools turning out wildly talented individuals. In Switzerland, it’s the Institute of Fashion Design at FHNW Academy of Art and Design in Basel that’s cultivating the students that are likely to go on to become some of the biggest names in the industry.

Boasting alumni like Christa Bösch and Cosima Gadient – the design duo behind Berlin-based label Ottolinger – the school’s progressive fashion design course, although in its infancy, is dedicated to staying at the forefront of what’s new and exciting. “For me, our study program places the people and their potential in the centre,” explained Professor Kurt Zihlmann, head of the department. “We live in a culture of experimentation and autonomy, and promote this through the interface of fashion, art and performance.”

This means a unique, holistic approach to its practices. As in previous years, for its latest graduate show – entitled ‘Land on Glitter’ – BA and MA graduate designers’ collections were shown together, and the traditional runway experience was switched out for a performance-cum-fashion show staged in a giant warehouse on the Campus of the Arts. Set across two rooms, the staging was made up of scaffolding structures with sections in which the models played to the camera  – literally – as live CCTV images were broadcasted on televisions around the space.

“They are our next generation, I want the students to learn to have the attitude to change things, not just go about it the same way” – Priska Morger 

“It was important to make the school understand that we had to change it,” explained Professor Priska Morger, creative director of the Institute on the new format of the show. “It’s modern and interesting, and I thought this was the year I had to do it.” “There’s so much going on in the fashion industry, they are our next generation,” Morger said. “I want the students to learn to have the attitude to change things, not just go about it the same way.”

Going about things their own way, the eclectic show featured collections that tackled subjects like female body hair, 19th-century literature, the impending apocalypse and ethical consumption. Not to mention an excitingly diverse cast of students and street-cast faces.

Post-show, we spoke with the graduate designers behind some of our highlights, as they talked us through their influences, aspirations, and the collections themselves.


Laia Liu Lipp’s collection was all about the nuances of being a woman, and presenting an alternative view of what femininity is. “It was about my own subjective point of view and experiences of being a woman,” she explained. “I tried to show a bit of the hidden ‘feral’ woman but a natural way.”

Replicating underarm hair with black feathers sprouting from a nude body, and a merkin created from faux fur, this ‘feral’ woman stalked the runway in shoes that were inspired by Swiss artist Méret Oppenheim. 

Elsewhere, cutouts revealed the models’ chest, stomach, and hips – often a focus in conversation around women’s bodies. The pièce de résistance, though, was a fake breast worn on the outside of a jacket, created out of rubber so it was invitingly tactile, said Liu Lipp.


At first glance, you might label Julia Stöcklin’s collection as minimal, but on closer inspection, the beauty was in the details. Finding inspiration in so-called fashion faux-pas, there was something slightly off-kilter about all of her models, who looked as if they were hunched thanks to giant shoulder pads sewn into the offering’s silk blouses.

Other looks included underwear – that Stöcklin created herself – layered over dresses, which created an illusion of them being accidentally tucked into a skirt, and shirts with bursting buttons that revealed the bra underneath. “For me, the most beautiful thing is when you can act really normal and you’re confident even when you have something weird on you,” said Stöcklin.


Like many of her peers, Nina Jaun was thinking about sustainability when approaching her collection. “The industry is already producing too much,” she explained. “I wanted to use leftovers, that would usually be thrown in the trash, as the raw material.”

With a dynamic sportswear feel, the collection was constructed from repurposed items of clothing. One ensemble, that looked like a matching tracksuit from afar, was actually made by cutting and stitching together old polo tops, while another turned a hoodie into a skirt. Other details included baggies as earrings. “It’s important I can work independently. I don’t want to be a part of the fashion system, as I don’t believe in the way it works.” 


Marion Ihly’s woman was strong, with an intentionally cold demeanour – as her models made their way around the set with stiff, robotic movements. “I started with stuffy clothes that I collected from second-hand stores,” Ihly told us. “The main idea was to take what I found and transform it.”

There was nothing stuffy about the clothes, though: the collection featured chic leather coats, tailoring, and frumpy-meets-chic garments like oversized knit dresses. “It’s the idea of taking something very precise, and then disrupting it,” Ihly explained. Contrasting the clean lines of suiting and outerwear, the designer played with layered pieces, including the final look that looked like futuristic officewear – a silver turtleneck topped with an oversized, geometric-shaped dress.


Taking inspiration from the unlikely source of Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment, Nina Britschgi wanted to look at it from a playful perspective. “It comes from a really dark place but I wanted to make something fun,” she explained. “I feel like fashion should be fun.”

This came in the form of a nightgown-style dress with a red patent insert to look as if it were dripping in blood. Other looks included feminine tulle dresses and tops, contrasted with prints of blood sausages. Walking around the space, her models looked afraid, as if they were being watched by an external force. “I told them to channel Black Mirror,” Britschgi said. “They’re like ‘why is everyone looked at me’, and realising the cameras are there.”


For her collection, Michèle Merz wanted to create a gang of strong, powerful women as an aspiration not only for herself, but for others too. “I wanted the models to assume the role of a strong, confident woman. She knows what she wants, and she’s a bit arrogant, so she doesn’t care what other people think of her,” she told us. 

Contrasting the idea of masculinity and femininity, the clothes were mostly leather pieces – a material that Merz hadn’t previously worked with – but wanted to challenge herself with. This manifested in the form of a hoodie, with a built-in corset, paired with over-the-knee leather boots. Another look included a pair of leather chaps. 

Off-setting the masculine, elements there were also photographs of female bodies printed on to the garments. “I wanted the women to be my muses, it was a lot about femininity, sexuality, and to play with the body with parts you hide and show.”

Apply for a space on the Masterstudio Design / Studio Fashion Design here until July 15. Watch the show below: