Eva Bräutigam

Eva Bräutigam makes fine bespoke clothing in a workshop with glass walls. This is slow fashion at its best.

Impulse buying? Fast fashion? Not in Eva Bräutigam’s shop. Here, customers don’t have to hope they can fit into mass-produced garments. Instead, she makes bespoke clothing for men and women that fits like a glove. Eva loves tradition and fine detail and believes it’s time we rediscovered our connection with clothes.

Despite her name – ‘Bräutigam’ means bridegroom in German – Eva Bräutigam doesn’t just make wedding outfits. And yes – it is her real name.

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Now 36, Eva didn’t plan to be a professional dressmaker – despite the fact that it was her favourite childhood pastime and she loved to make dresses for her dolls. But she never thought about turning it into a career. ‘At high school I had no idea what I wanted to do next,’ she recalls. ‘I went to see the careers counsellor, who suggested turning my hobby into a career.’ She decided to dip her toe into the water and train to be a dressmaker. ‘From the very first day, I knew this was what I wanted to do.’

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‘Perfectly cutting and finishing a suit is just as exciting as making an evening gown.’

And so, at the age of just 25, she opened a small shop in a basement behind her house in a residential area of Zurich. ‘It seemed cute at the time, but the novelty of working in a basement soon wore off,’ says Eva. When she saw an advertisement for new premises on Europaallee she sent in an application – and was successful. ‘At the time I wasn’t sure how I would cope because the building was just a shell and construction work was still going on all around it.’ But she rolled up her sleeves and set to work turning this empty shell into a shop. In fact, she did all the work herself. In the mornings she would work in the old basement workshop, then spent the afternoons and evenings plastering walls and laying wooden floors on her own little building site: ‘The locals all thought I was a builder.’

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‘I was able to take over all the equipment, including his machinery and tailor’s dummies.’

After finishing her apprenticeship as a dressmaker, she decided to learn men’s tailoring and immersed herself in the dying art of making fine, bespoke suits. The more she learnt about tailoring, the more she loved its long tradition: ‘Making bespoke suits is a skill that goes back hundreds of years.’ But isn’t making suits a little boring? Definitely not, says Eva: ‘Perfectly cutting and finishing a suit is just as exciting as making an evening gown. And anyway, there’s more to men’s tailoring than just suits. We also make coats and gilets.’ While she talks, Eva is busy sewing a dress in light blue velvet. She sells a wide range of clothing, and her work is very labour-intensive.

She did her second apprenticeship under an English tailor who had been in the trade for decades. ‘He retired when I finished my training,’ she recalls, ‘so I was able to take over all the equipment, including his machinery and tailor’s dummies.’ That was eleven years ago.

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She soon realised that setting up her own business was the way to go because of the lack of bespoke tailoring shops in Switzerland. And so, at the age of just 25, she opened a small shop in a basement behind her house in a residential area of Zurich.

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It seemed cute at the time, but the novelty of working in a basement soon wore off,’ says Eva. When she saw an advertisement for new premises on Europaallee she sent in an application – and was successful. ‘At the time I wasn’t sure how I would cope because the building was just a shell and construction work was still going on all around it.’

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‘The locals all thought I was a builder.’

But she rolled up her sleeves and set to work turning this empty shell into a shop. In fact, she did all the work herself. In the mornings she would work in the old basement workshop, then spent the afternoons and evenings plastering walls and laying wooden floors on her own little building site: ‘The locals all thought I was a builder.’

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The new workshop that bears her name opened in spring 2015. There are windows on two sides, ‘because I wanted people to see me at work.’ Eva says it’s a real luxury to have 108 square metres to work in after her 60-square-metre basement. Speaking of luxury, does she also like to wear expensive clothes? ‘I tend to live simply. And my own clothes have to be suitable for cycling,’ she says, glancing through the window at her bike parked a few metres away.

‘It’s not that people can’t afford to buy clothes today, but they tend to buy cheap things.’

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Yet she still cares about the clothes she wears: ‘For me, it’s really important to know where they are made.’ People who make slow fashion understand the problems of fast fashion. ‘In the past, people spent a much higher proportion of their income on clothes,’ says Eva. ‘It’s not that people can’t afford to buy clothes today, but they tend to buy cheap things.’

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She wishes people would rediscover a connection with how garments are made. But her kind of slow fashion has one drawback – it makes impulse buying impossible. Eva laughs and turns her attention back to the blue velvet dress.

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Address

Eva Bräutigam
Lagerstrasse 96
8004 Zürich
+41 43 960 33 39
Website

Opening hours:

Mon – Fri 11 am – 7 pm
Sat 9 am – 6 pm