It’s easy to appreciate the aesthetics of a beautiful object—the richness of its fabric, the genius of its functional shape—but the story behind it can bring new depth to that admiration. In the case of the Ai bag, Akris’ first foray into accessories 10 years ago, Creative Director Albert Kriemler found inspiration in surprising places, lending a fascinating backstory to the celebrity-favorite tote. To commemorate a decade of Ai, the fashion house is celebrating with a new sister bag—the Aicon—which simultaneously builds on, and celebrates, the design and heritage of its predecessor. Here are just a handful of the unexpected inspirations that elevate these bags to be more than just the sum of their stitches.
Please note this content was produced in partnership with the Wall Street Journal Custom Content.
“I was always thinking of my handbag collection being much more architecture than fashion,” Kriemler says. He first found inspiration for the bag’s shape while exploring the Jinhua Architecture Park near Shanghai, China, which was made up of 17 eclectic pavilions crafted by architects from all over the world. One particular building caught his eye for its trapezoidal shape and functional design, which guides visitors through the structure. That marriage of shape and functionality is mirrored in the architectural design of the Ai and Aicon bags.
One of Kriemler’s passions is employing unexpected materials, so horsehair was a natural fit. He grew up around his grandmother’s collection of horsehair furniture, and the fabric is one of his signature materials. Though it’s better known as a common component in antique European furniture, this unique textile is remarkably durable, flexible and holds its shape well. Horsehair also saturates color just as well as cashmere, making for bright, vibrant bags and clothing. In another nod to the equine world, all of Akris’ bags are named after horses.
Step back and take a broader look at the overall shape of the Ai bag. The narrow top, wider base and long, looped strap appear to give it the appearance of the letter “A.” That was intentional. Beyond mirroring the first letter of the fashion house’s name, that “A” can also stand for Albert, as well as Alice, the creative director’s grandmother. It was Alice, in fact, who founded the company in 1922, sewing aprons out of her modest studio in St. Gallen, Switzerland.
In partnership with the Wall Street Journal Custom Content.
10 Years of Ai, Introducing Aicon
In celebration of 10 years of Ai, Albert Kriemler has created an iteration of the key elements of the Ai with a new handbag,the Aicon.
The Aicon has an embossed cervo leather Ai closure creating a trompe l’oeil on the classic trapezoidal Ai bag.
The Art World
Many of Akris’ designs are rooted in artistic tradition and techniques. In the case of the Aicon bag, it’s embossed cervo leather design creates a trompe l’oeil—an artistic technique that uses realistic imagery to trick the eye into perceiving more dimension and depth—to simulate the Ai’s classic trapezoidal shape and closure. Various Ai bags over the years have been inspired by artists as well, ranging from the patterns of Antonio Calderara to the abstract minimalism of Carmen Herrera, a past collaborator. “Every new collection is a totally new approach for me,” Kriemler says. “It’s never the same thing, because you get inspired by the artist’s work, and I want to devote a collection to an artist. But I’m not interested in doing art pieces in fashion. I design things that want to be worn—and that’s Akris.”