When it comes to craftsmanship, Switzerland is undoubtedly best known for its watchmaking, but timepieces are not its only area of manufacturing expertise. In fact, while Marcel Hossli started his career in the luxury watch industry, working with the likes of Carl F Bucherer and Patek Philippe, when he was invited to become managing director of Swiss lingerie and nightwear specialist Zimmerli in 2009, he jumped at the chance.
‘It had always been a dream of mine to direct a small, independent company with a luxury positioning, which has its own manufacturing capabilities in Switzerland,’ says Hossli, who is now CEO of the company. ‘I found all these qualities in Zimmerli.’
Established in Aarburg in 1871, Zimmerli was founded by Pauline Zimmerli after her husband went bankrupt and she began to hand-knit socks in her home, selling them locally to generate an income. She soon began to knit socks and hosiery with a one-needle knitting machine, before inventing the two-needle knitting machine, which allowed her to expand her production and create the very fine ribbed fabrics for which she quickly became renowned.
Now a manufacturer of women’s lingerie, men’s underwear, loungewear and nightwear, Zimmerli’s head office is still located in Aarburg, while its factory, where 80 per cent of the company’s production is done, is based near Lugano. Around 60 people are employed in the factory, with up to four years of training required for apprentices to reach the highest level of skill.
‘We use modern sewing machines, but the most important thing is the human touch of the person at the machine, and this requires a lot of experience, talent and passion. The passion must be sensitive and tangible in every product – that’s what really makes the difference,’ Hossli explains. And it’s not only the handcrafted element that sets Zimmerli products apart – from Sea Island cotton to Merino wool and fine Italian and French lace, the brand uses the highest quality materials, which feel sumptuous on your skin, and are made to last.
Zimmerli is the number-one-selling men’s underwear brand in Harrods, and the women’s collection is expanding in Harrods this October. More seasonal pieces will be available, such as lace bra tops and high-waist bottoms, a hoodie shirt, cardigan and trousers made from Sea Island cotton, and a strikingly embroidered Grey Mélange top, all comfortable yet elegant garments designed for relaxing.
‘The ‘cocooning’ trend is really key for us,’ says Hossli. ‘Everybody is always stressed nowadays, and you need to be dressed formally when you go to work, so when you come home you want to be at ease, but also look stylish.’
Hossli believes that Zimmerli can give you a professional advantage, too: ‘Successful people wear good, high-quality underwear,’ he states. ‘You’ve got to start with the basics – if your underwear doesn’t fit your body, you don’t feel comfortable, you’re distracted, and you’re not performing at your best. With Zimmerli, you know you’re going to be comfortable, so you can focus 100 per cent.’