If you are looking for high-quality, sophisticated and unique leather shoes, Alex Bisaz’s shop in Kreis 4 is the place to be. The range also includes a shoe line that Alex designed herself, which is handmade by a family business in Italy.
When you enter Alexandra Bisaz’s shop, you are greeted by the scent of leather. This is hardly surprising given that the modern premises with concrete and wood features have only one thing on offer: leather shoes – and lots of them. Whether you are looking for lace-up boots with stonewashed leather or Oxford shoes with the typical perforated pattern, Alex offers style and sells it with her effortless integrity.
‘I love the shoes I sell. Leather is a material that breathes. Feel this shoe – the leather is so soft, it’s better than having a pet!’ says Alex, who can’t seem to walk through her shop without touching a shoe.
‘Simple, high-quality shoes and an androgynous style have always been important to me.’
The 52-year-old is an old hand when it comes to retail. However, this woman from Graubünden only found her way into the shoe business just shy of two years ago: simple, high-quality shoes and an androgynous style have always been important to her. ‘In 2021, I thought about what else might interest me professionally, what I could be passionate about, and I came up with shoes.’ So Alex attended a two-month shoemaking course in Florence, where she made her very own pair of shoes from start to finish.
She didn’t want to make shoes herself, but she enjoyed designing them. ‘I drew some sketches and fell in love with it. The idea of opening a shop selling high-quality leather shoes kept on growing.’
‘I’m not wearing that!’
‘I was every mother’s nightmare when it came to shoe shopping: “I’m not wearing that!” was my catchphrase,’ says Alex. Wearing beautiful shoes was a tradition in her family, but even as a four-year-old Alex didn’t want to wear ‘beautiful’ shoes, preferring boys’ shoes. ‘But my mum supported me and bought me shoes that we could both agree on,’ she says with a smile.
She found her first favourite pair of shoes at the age of 14 in a second-hand shop: ‘I dreamed of owning shoes like them for weeks, and then one day there they were just sitting in a second-hand shop. I couldn’t believe my luck.’
‘My shoe line Alex is made by an Italian family business.’
When Alex made the decision to open a shop, she visited various shoe factories in Italy and Spain. ‘It makes me feel good when I see these smaller businesses, often family-run, making shoes completely by hand. My own line of shoes, Alex, which I design myself, is also produced by a family business in Italy.’
For a year, she travelled to Italy for one week every month and visited various shoe manufacturers. In Zurich, she asked people on the street where they bought their shoes. ‘I even stopped my car once and jumped out because I just had to talk to a woman about her amazing shoes,’ Alex laughs.
She was encouraged by the answers she got: ‘I thought a good shoe shop would fill a gap in the market. So now, in addition to my Alex line, I sell shoes by MoMa, Evarist Bertran, Shoto, Fiorentini + Baker, Officine Creative and Carmina Shoemaker.’ The range of products on offer is completed by coloured socks from Dilly Socks, stylish pocketknives that are about two centimetres long, and lighter cases attached to necklaces, made by Alex herself, alongside shoe care products.
Gathering around the ‘Shoe-Volata’
This woman from Graubünden, who is almost always found wearing a hat, enjoys human interaction: ‘That’s why I organise Shoe-Volatas in my shop,’ – a play on the Italian word ‘Tavolatas’ (gatherings around a table). ‘We set up a long table specially for the occasion and we eat and chat while a guest chef cooks for us.’
Anyone who wants to stop by and say hello and have a chat is welcome: ‘I really enjoy doing this!’