Riyadh is enjoying Swiss Fashion Days in the grounds of the Swiss Embassy Residence. Imagine camera flashes, Saudi guests and a unique atmosphere combining different cultures and styles of clothes design. Well, I have been lucky enough to witness a unique run way collection full of colour and shine by Swiss Designer, Raphael Blechschmidt, who visited from Switzerland to launch his collection for the first time in Saudi Arabia.
One early, dusty morning in Riyadh, me and Raphael were sitting in the lobby of one of the central hotels, talking about his first experience in the Saudi fashion industry and slowly getting into his fashion career story which began more than 30 years ago.
This is your first visit to Saudi Arabia. Please share with us the concept for your work.
Yes, this is my first trip to Saudi Arabia but actually, I didn’t have any special expectations. I relished the opportunity to show my fashion collection in this fashion show in Riyadh. My aim was to represent my business and the way we trade in Switzerland, to a completely different country.
Could you tell us about your influences or inspirations for this season?
My inspiration for this season was Paris, the capital of haute couture, the city of the Chansons bistros and, of course, its landmark the Eiffel Tower which makes Paris also a city of architecture. In my current collection you can see several details which have been inspired by this extraordinary construction.
Do you feel that your Swiss origins have a strong influence upon your work?
I am sure that my Swiss origins exert an influence on my work. Most people associate Switzerland with mountains, chocolate, watches and banking but there is a lot more. Despite the small size of our country, we have four different languages (German, French, Italian and Rhaeto-Romanic) plus many other factors that make Switzerland remarkably versatile and unique. I tend to think more on an international level than most people living in central Switzerland due to my place of work and residence in Basel near to Germany and France.
In your early sketches for each season’s design, do you try to bring a feeling of world cultures into your creations?
I never plan to bring a certain Swissness into my creations. My inspiration comes from everything which surrounds me in my everyday life, my experiences and my feelings. Perhaps there will be a touch of Saudi Arabia in my next collection. Who knows?
Which countries have your designs been shown in recently?
I am one of the last couturiers in Switzerland. That is why I only present my collections in Basel where I live and work.
Can we expect to see your designs available here in Riyadh and in the GCC countries?
No. My dresses can only be bought in Basel. We set a great value on perfect measurement and accuracy and we work on two exclusive collections each year that you can see in my own fashion show in Basel. You are always welcome to come around and we will create your attire exactly how you fancy it!
Please tell us how your creative career began:
In December this year I will celebrate my 30-year-jubilee! After my training, I started working from home and then, after a while, I started my own business with my first store in the historic city center of Basel. Over the years, my business grew and I am happy to employ 12 tailors at the moment.
Do you feel influences from other designers, countries or eras in your work? Could you give us an outline of these aspects?
I always try to go my own way, to feel the time, to bring my own feelings into my collections and of course to have fun with what I do. I want fashion to be elegant and nice. In my eyes, fashion should never appaer tawdry. But there is one couturier that always fascinated me: Yves Saint Laurent. The way he used colours and clothed women elegantely is just outstanding. Apart from that, I am just a creative person who makes his own things and has developed his own style over the last decades. When one of my clients is admired because of her outfit, it‘s is the biggest compliment for me; especially when you can see it is Raphael Blechschmidt made.
What has been a major surprise in your life?
My first diving experience. All these beautiful shapes and colours in numberless varieties. Diving is also a special inspiration for my daily work.
Our readers are all very aware of Italian, French and German fashion designers. Now seeing your designs we have a new focus of interest! Please tell us a few words about your country:
Switzerland is small but offers many different aspects of daily life. Despite its size everything is possible here. I am very proud to have the possiblity to live and work in Switzerland and we should never forget that we live in a wealthy and peaceful country. People that come here will be astonished by Switzerland‘s diversity. Even for me there are still lots of parts of my country that I don’t know which gives me the chance to discover them in the next years.