People & Living | Fashionable people

‘Zurich isn’t a fashion capital’

Alessandro Paoletti has worked for a women’s fashion agency in Zurich for more than 25 years. But he still thinks Zurich has little room for individuality. He talks to us about the problem of global fashion chains and why good style is frowned upon these days.

Alessandro, how important is fashion for you?

Very important. I love clothes, and I must admit my style is a little quirky. I’ve also spent 25 years working at a women’s fashion agency, and my partner and I have a soft spot for interior design and furniture.

Do you spend a lot on clothes?

Yes. But I’m not telling you how much! (laughs) In my defence, fashion is also my job. If I had an office job, I certainly wouldn’t spend so much on clothes. My love of fashion means I have to do without other things.


Do you think of Zurich as a fashion capital?

Not really, to be honest. But, to be fair, I don’t think there are any true fashion capitals left. These days, whether you’re in London, Paris or Milan, everyone looks the same. The only city that you could possibly still call a fashion capital is Tokyo. Fashion is still important there – not just because people want to show off their individual style, but also because they like to dress well. Here, everyone dresses the same and there’s no individuality.


‘These days, good style is almost frowned upon.’

Why is that?

In the past, when you walked through the streets of Paris or Milan you came across shops selling really unusual clothes. People used to dress more consciously and be much more individual than they are today. I think fashion has really lost its significance. Today, if you dress well, you’re dismissed as being superficial or a fashion victim. These days, good style is almost frowned upon. The big fashion chains and platforms like Instagram haven’t made the fashion world more varied. Quite the opposite – everyone looks the same. Everyone follows the same trends without thinking about whether they actually like the garments.


Is it the same in Zurich?

I’m afraid so. Zurich is an incredibly wealthy city. As a result, lots of people think expensive clothes are automatically beautiful clothes. Often it seems all people care about is whether the clothes have a designer label, like Gucci, Balenciaga or Louis Vuitton. People think wearing these labels automatically makes them fashionable and well-dressed. But that isn’t my understanding of personal style and individuality.


‘Why do you need seven pairs of the same jeans?’

Is it possible to dress for less in Zurich?

Definitely! You can communicate your style in all kinds of ways, including with cheaper brands. If you don’t have a lot of money to spend, I suggest checking out the sales. The city is full of small shops selling cool clothes at very reasonable prices. What surprises me is how people buy the same things again and again. Why do you need to buy a pair of jeans that is almost identical to the other seven pairs in your wardrobe?


How would you describe your personal style?

It’s hard to even call it a style. I just have a few pieces that I really like wearing. For example, I nearly always wear rolled-up trousers with a high waistband and wide legs. On top I go for things that are tighter and narrower. I often wear waistcoats, sweater vests or cardigans that might look a little vintage.

Why do you like these kinds of clothes?

Even as a child, I loved classic Hollywood movies and the clothes worn by the old movie stars. My father comes from a mountain village in Campania, and I was always fascinated by the clothes the local farmers wore – rolled-up trousers, waistcoats and plain shirts.


‘My favourite shops in the city include VMC at Rindermarkt and Apartment.’

Do you buy your clothes in Zurich?

Amazingly, I buy 90% of my clothes here in the city. I’m not a fan of online shopping. My favourite shops in the city include VMC at Rindermarkt and Apartment. I like it when store staff know their stuff, love their job, and think about things like sustainability in fashion.


You have a lot of tattoos. When did you get your first tattoo?

I got it very late, when I was 46. Tattoos are so permanent, which is why it took me ages to finally get one. But once you get your first one, it’s easier to get more. Now I have quite a few.

How did your style evolve?

When I was a kid, I often had to wear hand-me-downs from siblings and neighbours. I soon learnt how to cut off sleeves, loosen collars and taper trousers. Then the ‘80s came along and I started wearing denim shirts and blazers, but I started cutting holes in everything and being a little crazier. Then I had a phase where I wore very chic, high-end fashion.


But that’s not your style now, is it?

No. You change over time, and so does your style. You start to understand what you like and what suits you. You just have to think about it consciously. Now I’m over 50 and I think I’ve finally found my look. I don’t dress in a certain way in order to fit in or belong, but because I like the clothes. Basta!

This article is not free to read.

hellozurich stands for a diverse and tolerant city. We tell stories about the people and places that shape Zurich. But all this costs money. As an independent magazine we rely on your help.

Become a member from just 8 francs a month and, as a supporter, receive the hellozurichPass. In conjunction with our partners, this gives you access to more than 200 exclusive deals and discounts.