Today, actresses like Kristen Stewart, Eva Longoria, Megan Fox and singers like Gwen Stefani, Kate Perry, Shakira wear her creations, but it was Yvonne Reichmuth’s fringe belt Kylie Jenner posted on Instagram in 2015 that put her on the map. The past 1,5 year the Swiss Founder and Creative Director of YVY has been collaborating with the watch brand Longines to pay homage to the equestrian world in leather.
Tekst Anja Van Der Borght
You started as a women’s fashion designer for yourself, but what initiated your passion for leather?
YR: “Leather always fascinated me. In the beginning, when I was working with fabric and leather, I just kind of realized that my heart beats faster as soon as I touch leather. At some point I felt that I wanted to specialize in something and leather it became. It has this longevity. People invest in a good leather piece and keep if for a long time, so you can really create a piece that will last over several seasons or even several years.”
Would you say your pieces are made to last?
YR: “Absolutely. I think a design should be a good design for many years and not be dependent on a certain year or time. We are working in projects and products, rather than traditional seasonal collections. It’s also a more sustainable to make pieces that last longer.”
Talking about sustainability, there are a lot of vegan alternatives for leather today. Are you already experimenting with some?
YR: “We have been following all kinds of developments and have been experimenting with alternative materials as well. But I have to say to this point, none of the materials really made us happy. They were all not too satisfying: being how it feels, how it smells, how you work with it, how it lasts over time as well, how sustainable it really is, and so on. So to this point, I still feel like leather is my preferred material and it’s still out there to use, so we’re sticking with that. But of course keeping up with all kinds of developments that are going on at the moment.”
Do you pay attention to the way the leather is tanned, like that it’s chrome-free or?
YR: “Absolutely. The leather we use most of the time is vegetable-tanned leather. Like 90% of our pieces is vegetable-tanned coming from Tuscany that is made without chrome and chemicals.”
A: It was the fringe belt that Kylie Jenner shared on Instagram in 2015 that put you on the map, but how do you get in contact with people like Monica Bellucci, for instance?
Y: In different ways. With Monica Bellucci, it was actually through the photographers that shot an editorial with me for Marie Claire in New York. Somewhat later they wrote to me that they had this shoot with Monica and needed some pieces to make it a bit more edgy and sexy. I was very happy to see her wearing my creation, because I think she’s one of the most beautiful women ever. I mean, she just has this aura, so sensual. But then it’s also often through our agent Bea Akerlund from The Residency Experience in Los Angeles. A lot of celebrity stylists go there for selecting pieces.”
Which aspect of your designs do you think all these celebrities appreciate so much ?
YR: “I think it’s like how you can take a simple or any outfit and just add a piece from YVY and it transforms it into a unique outfit, a show-stopper. Like it’s an accessory that is not just a side element to your look, but it can really transform your look into something different.”
What was for you the most challenging project you ever worked on till now?
YR: “Definitely the Longines DolceVita x YVY. When the watch brand reached out to me about 1,5 year ago, I must say that I was thrilled. It was a real dream come true. When I visited the Longines Museum in Saint-Imier, I was very much impressed with the rich heritage and I learned so much about watches. I also learned that we have a lot of similar approaches. When we design we both pay attention to every tiny little detail, the precision, the timelessness but also to combine traditional craftmanship with contemporary design. When we started this project the first thing we asked ourselves was: what are our shared values? But also what are the new ideas I could bring to the brand? So first and most importantly of course we wanted to pay homage to this very intense and passionate connection of Longines to the equestrian world. We wanted to make this visible in the product: in the design, in the finishing. Secondly, it was very important to me to make this watch genderless so it could be worn by anyone. And I also wished to have a very playful approach and this is why this watch is very modular with two different straps and last but not least, we had to respect the dna of Longines making sure that elegance is an important element throughout the whole process.”
What was for you the best part of this collaboration?
YR: “The exchange and also the creative freedom. I mean, in the beginning we developed different ideas and then of course together we decided which one we wanted to go forward with. The one which had the best potential with the customers of Longines, but also the fans of YVY. The one that really highlighted our values. The one that really brings something new to the market? That’s why we chose the wristband in calf leather that has this modular element and this subtle references to the equestrian world. It can be worn by women and men all over the world, of any age.”
How the idea of the modular element that you can wear as a separate bracelet, was born?
YR: “It was something I wanted from the beginning onwards. A lot of my designs for YVY, have this concept that you can add or remove something. You can combine and wear it in different ways. I really just like this playful moment that you can create with accessories and very differently. I think also with a watch, you’re quite limited in what you can do, because there’s only so much space around the wrist. And it also has technical requirements. So we wanted to have a watch that you can wear very classic as a normal wristband, but then you can also add this harness element and really transform the watch into a fashion statement piece.”
What is for you the coolest project you worked on until now?
YR: “The Longines Dolce Vita x YVY watch because it is a registered design, which confirms that what we have created is completely disruptive and unique. But of course, with YVY, I have a lot of interesting projects going on. I love to work with artists and musicians. Last year, we had for example the Dutch artist Pascal Möhlmann painting with oil on our leather pieces for YVY’s lastest book FEELINGS. And it really kind of raised this question of: what is art? What is fashion? When does it change? So that was an interesting project. And then apart from my atelier in Zurich, I also work two days a week for Piëch, a Swiss manufacturer of electric cars as a member of the creative team. Piëch was founded in 2017 by Anton Piëch (son of the former CEO of the Volkswagen concern Ferdinand Piëch and great-grandson of Ferdinand Porsche) and Rea Stark Rajcic. So it’s very interesting to enter this industry as well. I like both worlds.”
YR: “Because I never saw myself as a fashion designer, but more as a designer in general. I think everything in our world is interesting to be beautiful in a way. You can give me whatever you want and I would find it interesting to try to redesign it. I think the car industry, as well as the watch industry, are interesting because you can work on a project for a long period of time and you also keep it for a long time. It’s not as fast as the fashion industry. So I’m very attracted by these industries.”
In terms of cars, you’re always limited, you have regulations to take into account. Does this limit your creativity you think?
YR: “I think limits can always push you to become even more creative. For example when I decided not to be a women’s wear designer designing full ready-to-wear collections, but really just focus on one material, I found that limitation quite interesting because then you have only black vegetable tanned leather to do it with. For eight years already I am only working with this material and then you need to challenge yourself even more: what can you do with it to make something new out of it? So, I think also the limitations of having it to hold on the wrist or having it go through all of these tests in the automotive industry, it kind of pushes you to think differently and to find new ways to make something interesting.”
Would you be the person that would love to wrap everything in black leather if you had the chance?
YR: (laughs) “Yes, absolutely. Easy answer.”