Marlonne, Marina and Roc Montandon run the legendary Booster Boutique. The subcultural fashion shop has stayed true to its unique style for over 40 years.
Back in the seventies, Swiss clothes stores were outmoded and conformist. The punk movement changed that – and inspired Pierre and Irene Montandon to open a boutique that would suit the tastes of the younger generation. Their children have run the shop since 2012.
At the heart of Niederdorf, barely half a kilometre from Zurich’s main station, you’ll find two square shop windows filled with a sea of accessories, sunglasses and shoes. The narrow entrance in between is the gateway to a timeless experience. The furnishings must date from the nineties, but the clothes and accessories on display are as fresh and inspiring as anyone could wish for in a boutique. There’s an intuitive order to the constellation of items, which represent all possible styles and eras. Selected hats and bags are on display on the little mezzanine level, while towers of shoeboxes fill the second floor.
Booster’s history begins in 1976, when the punk movement heralded a fashion revolution. Pierre and Irene Montandon saw which way the wind was blowing and opened a clothes shop for the younger generation. Back then, Booster even sold furniture.
Their children more or less grew up in the shop, and Marlonne, Marina and Roc took over the boutique in 2012. ‘We’re a family business and all of us are all-rounders. We’re just as happy working out the front as in the background,’ says Marlonne Montandon.
The three of them know that their customers love Booster’s nostalgic atmosphere. Marlonne explains that many of the clothes shops in the neighbourhood have moved away over the decades. But their family has remained true to Niederdorf – and the children have remained true to their parents’ principles. ‘All our visitors can tell straight away that a relaxed atmosphere in the shop is important to us.
‘But of course, we've also moved with the times. For example, stocking fair fashion labels is one of our major focuses at the moment.’ And those looking for vegan shoes will also find them at Booster. Incidentally, the proprietors don't advertise their shop. ‘Word-of-mouth recommendations are the most effective thing for us. We’re still a hot insider tip for plenty of people.’
‘It’s about the needs of the customer, not the manufacturer.’
Ranging from twenties style to current fashions, the Booster collection is difficult to categorise – and that's exactly what makes the shop so popular: ‘It’s about the needs of the customer, not the manufacturer.’
Before I leave, I have to ask: does she have a personal favourite item in the shop? Marlonne Montandon considers for a moment, smiles and says: ‘From classic women’s shirts and sharp men's shoes, through cool creepers and offbeat fifties dresses, to top hats and braces, we love every single item.’