Swiss Lace & My Grandpère

Swiss Lace & My Grandpère

My father’s father, Maximilian Oscar Zürcher, my grandfather, imported Swiss lace to all the Couture Houses in Paris. Originally from Teufen, Switzerland, he moved to Paris where he and his wife raised my father, who was born in 1919 and my Aunt Jeanne. This was the extent of my knowledge regarding my grandfather. And then one of my patrons on Patreon asked if I’d demonstrate working with vintage lace for our monthly livestream. As my eldest brother had sent me some of my grandpère’s lace years ago, I pulled some out and along with it, came upon a sketch book that I’d not spent much time looking at.

And inside was a treasure trove of beautiful sketches that he had done.

When I realized that these sketches were my grandfather’s I was both proud and astonished. How was it that this book had been sitting on a shelf along with dozens of samples of the beautiful Swiss Lace he imported and yet I never realized he also designed and was an artist?!

A few samples of the Swiss Lace he imported.

And then I remembered that my Aunt Jeanne, my father’s only sibling who lived in Paris until her death, had given me a photo album filled with photos of Grandfather’s lace used by the fashion houses in Paris, where he also lived and where my father and his sister grew up.

Grandfather’s lace used by Christian Dior
Nina Ricci – Spring 1957
Robert Pignet

Almost all the photographs were marked on the back with the designer. A few even had other notations in French: the year, the model and where they were. And then I came upon this watercolor drawing.

Lanvin Watercolor Sketch

As I looked through the photographs it was like stepping back in time…

Mme de Salis: 1952

I haven’t tried to translate all the writing, most of it is in either French or German or maybe even Swiss German, I can’t tell, and the handwritten script is difficult for me to decipher, still it’s something I’d love to do so that I could read what he wrote.

I cannot describe the feelings that are coming up after seeing all of this. When I was at Parsons, I knew fairly quickly that fashion design was not for me. At the time I felt that I had somehow failed. Here we had spent a small fortune getting me through college, and yet I knew I didn’t have it in me to devote the rest of my life to fashion design. But there was something about fabric, threads, fiber that continued to call to me. I began designing hand knits, I ventured off into designing fine jewelry, but I always felt the pull to return to fiber of some kind. Finding all of these things from my grandfather, a man I never knew as he died before I was born, has been nothing short of astonishing. It feels as though things make more sense. Could it be that this man whom I knew nothing about, my father rarely spoke of him, had never-the-less influenced me? Is there some genetic component to what one feels drawn to? Who knows? Regardless, I am incredibly grateful to have these small treasures that were once his.