No cuts, no seams, no stiffening: the leather bags that Cristina McDaniel and David Pfrommer sell under the LABEL17 name at Brotgasse 3 in Zurich and in selected shops in Switzerland and abroad are true sensory delights to the touch. And the stylish couple is now offering several other items that are a treat for the senses.
30 metres off Seefeldstrasse is where the world of Cristina McDaniel and David Pfrommer starts. It goes by the name of LABEL17 STUDIO and is home to handmade leather bags and accessories, and now also cushions and candles, vases and clothes, plus furnishings for the home and garden. Basically, it’s an entire universe. And if you follow Seefeldstrasse just a few steps further than Kreuzstrasse and then turn left into Brotgasse, you will be immersed in its cosmos before you even enter the shop.
‘I was fascinated by Morocco, fascinated by the leather, fascinated by the craftsmanship.’
As soon as you see the small, leafy building with the number 3 on it, you’ll know that what’s waiting for you inside strives to create a uniform appearance with a lot of care and an eye for aesthetics. To put it simply: that this is a place of beautiful things.
It all started in June 2017 on a trip to Morocco. But it was actually much earlier than that, because the couple’s affinity for design, beautiful things and the best way to present them has always been a part of their lives. But it all came together in that moment: ‘I was fascinated by the area, fascinated by the leather, fascinated by the craftsmanship,’ summarises Cristina, referring to her first impressions at the time. And since she had expected to find the craftsmanship she had in mind there, she had already made contact with a Swiss woman who is extremely well connected among leather tanners and workshops in Marrakech. After that, everything happened very quickly: by autumn of the same year, the first bags she designed in napa leather were ready for sale – and so LABEL17 was born.
‘The concept is simple: we don’t want to offer factory-made goods, but our own distinctive designs in the highest possible quality,’ she says, summing up the essence of the label. ‘It’s purely about modern products made according to all the rules of traditional craftsmanship.’
What began in 2017 without a shop of its own and with just two designs has now grown into an impressive, steadily expanding range whose current products can be purchased online, in around twenty different shops in Switzerland and abroad or right here in this idyllic part of Zurich’s Seefeld district. Here, you will find shoulder bags, crossbody bags, handbags, cases, laptop sleeves, key rings, wallets and even bag organisers to provide order in the large- and medium-sized bags. It all speaks the same language, forming a cohesive whole. ‘The funny thing is, it actually happens unconsciously.’
‘It’s a tactile experience, you see?’
Cristina travels to Marrakech about six times a year, and in between she visits the manufacturers in Switzerland and Italy and works on the collections on site alongside people she trusts. ‘I have everything in my head: the function, the cut, the material, the colours – but I’m no good at drafting patterns. That’s why I do everything in direct exchange. Until the prototype is finished.’
And the result is two collections a year. She never runs out of ideas: a variation of the distinctive braided pattern – ‘it takes three days to make’ – is soon to be launched. And there could also be a backpack in different sizes at some point.
‘Of course, the process could be made easier, but it’s not about “easy”.’
What’s special about LABEL17? ‘Take a look for yourself!’ requests David, who used to work in a fashion agency and is now responsible for everything administrative, in lovely Basel German, holding out a woven bag to the writer. There are no cuts, no seams, no stiffening of any kind: ‘It’s a tactile experience, you see?’ The napa leather is soft, finely woven and light, the tannery has ISO certification and uses plant-based tannins – so there’s no chemical fixing agent.
During a guided tour of the small building, people keep handing you things, saying ‘Have a taste!’ or ‘Take a look!’ There is a story to every product, every manufacturer has a close relationship with the shop. The lambskins, for example, come from a farm in Tuscany. They are processed by a saddler in Graubünden and a furrier in Basel. All of them are small businesses.
‘Of course, the process could be made easier,’ says Cristina McDaniel after the coffee has been drunk and the croissants eaten, ‘but it’s not about “easy”, it’s about “quality”, about design. About things you fall in love with and don’t want to let go of.’ LABEL17 is her baby, her vision. Even from the outside of the small building, on whose leafy façade the birds feast, you can tell that attention to detail is paramount here.