enSoie – The Colorful World of the Meier Family

 

 

Trying to know where all the Meiers are atany given moment is challenge to put it mildly. Pen and paper definitely come in handy to track Monique and Dieter Meier and their four children. Their youngest daughter, Anna, lives in Zurich, where, behind the doors of family label enSoie, the new generation is taking over.

Until two years ago, Anna Meier lived in the creaking, venerable old building in Zurich’s historical center. Now, the 26-year-old only comes here to work. The concept store encompasses the basement and the ground floor of the building, and everything revolves around silk print fabrics in ever-changing patterns and designs – the heart of enSoie. Some fabric panels are printed in Glarus while other print designs are sent straight to India, where they are converted into custom-made embroideries. “We choose the site that has the necessary skills and the best craftspeople for the task at hand,” Anna explains. Besides silk fabrics, the range of products also includes ceramics, jewelry, and accessories of all shapes and kinds. As we walk through the other floors, we pass several rooms. In one, a dog clad in a T-shirt laps water out of a trademark checkered ceramic bowl while, in others, people are busily typing, painting, or carrying out some other task. On our way to the top floor, Anna points out a room that contains a small kiln. “This is currently our ceramics project room. We produce a small, in-house line here,” she tells us.

We choose the site that has the necessary skills and the best craftspeople for the task at hand.

Pausing at the top of the stairs, she refers to the myriad of rooms we passed and laughingly says: “I’m starting to notice that maybe a little distance is not such a bad thing.” Outside, a heavy summer rain falls and the refreshing scent of wet cobblestones wafts through the room. Anna’s oldest sister, Eleonore, and her middle sister, Sophie, now both live in Los Angeles. Eleonore has lived there for some time – with her husband and child, and a second one on the way. Sophie, who had been living in the Zurich house with Anna until recently, initially lived next-door to Eleonore in Silverlake in Montesito Heights, but has since moved – and she still visits Zurich regularly. “Sophie sort of seems to belong in both places,” Anna explains. “She helps Eleonore in our second store in Silverlake and is also an important part of the store here in Zurich. Often when I’m in the workshop, she’ll be up front chatting to the customers.” Their brother Francis, the Meier’s youngest offspring, technically still lives at home, although not at the moment,” as Anna explains with a slight sigh of exasperation. “He’s in South America right now.”

I would never presume to say that something is good or bad, fashionable or unfashionable. It’s more that there is a right or a wrong context for everything.

Parental impact

Anna sips her coffee and gazes out the window absentmindedly, as if going over in her head whether she has really given the current version of the family’s coordinates. She has the even features of a model and is dressed in a simple white blouse, jeans, and a pair of ballet flats on her bare feet. Anna thinks she’s always had a flair for fashion and design: “Even as a child I was always telling my mother what she should wear, and I used to change my own outfit several times a day. But I would never presume to say that something is good or bad, fashionable or unfashionable. It’s more that there is a right or a wrong context for everything. Orange, for example, is not my thing at all. But the minute I get to India, I think it’s one of the most gorgeous colors.”

To a certain extent, our parents have opened a lot of doors for us, which has helped us to be more confident about trying new things. But it’s their thoughts and values that have impacted us most.

Anna currently lives in Zurich’s 3rd district with her young daughter and husband, a graphic designer and musician like her own father. A nanny looks after her daughter while Anna works. “Just the way my mother did when I was younger,” she says. “We were raised to be very independent. If you could talk, you could order for yourself in the restaurant. If you could walk, you could travel. That gave us a lot of confidence. And, of course: To a certain extent, our parents have opened a lot of doors for us, which has helped us to be more confident about trying new things. But it’s their thoughts and values that have impacted us most. I hope I’ll be able to pass these down, too.” Father and artist Dieter Meier is sometimes here, sometimes there, she continues. “It’s been that way as long as I can remember. He used to have a house in the US, but was in India just as often. He still travels a lot today, but with the difference that he likes to come home in the evening.” Dieter Meier is not involved in the day-to-day running of the shops. “He contributes as an artist, though, sometime with music for a show, or a design, or simply good input and useful advice.” Mother Monique is the one whose ties to Zurich are strongest. She is also the one who created the label enSoie.

It was really more about the dream of a lifestyle than a dream career – the desire for a place where people could encourage each other, create something together, something that would work for everyone involved.

The dream of a lifestyle

Monique Meier enters the room together with the well-dressed dog. It was 1974 when she took over the silk business Abraham & Brauchbar, where she had done her apprenticeship earlier. This was just at the height of the textile crisis and, in order to continue in the trade, she had to do something innovative. Her idea of creating new products from remaining stock ensured she was able to stay in business. “But it only worked because it was connected to my dream,” she relates. “I wanted to make the shop where I had learned the trade better than it was before. I thought: You can make nicer designs and introduce other products. And you can treat customers better. So I decided to give it a try!” She laughs and admits: “But of course I had no idea what I was letting myself in for! Still, I fought for my ideas, which was a source of inspiration. It was really more about the dream of a lifestyle than a dream career – the desire for a place where people could encourage each other, create something together, something that would work for everyone involved.” The dog rests his head in her lap and, in reply to Monique’s questioning look, Anna explains that he had been to the dog hairdresser who had accidentally nicked his skin. “He doesn’t normally wear a T-shirt!” she laughs.

A product doesn’t only have to be attractive; you also have to know how to display it, market it, and bring it to the customer’s attention. Otherwise, it will never add up.

And how does a generation change like this take place? Anna says: “Because I was allowed to help in the shop at an early age, I experienced my mother’s business sense and her creativity first hand. And so my interest in the store came about very naturally. My father is a daring entrepreneur and likes playing for high stakes – something that helps you to become successful. One important thing I learned from my mother is that a product doesn’t only have to be attractive; you also have to know how to display it, market it, and bring it to the customer’s attention. Otherwise it will never add up.” Monique Meier says: “You also need to get a lot of personal satisfaction out of this line of business. Otherwise the responsibility becomes too much of a burden.” Her daughter agrees and adds: “Industrialization has generated a dangerous form of anonymization that damages the economy in that a sense of community is disappearing.” In India, entire clans live from the enSoie assignments. “That’s why direct relationships are so important. If you know people personally, you know about their problems and think twice about whether you really have to let somebody go.”

Monique has always cherished the dream that, one day, enSoie would continue without her: “Otherwise I would have to sell out or continue until I keel over. We all get set in our ways at some point and it’s good when somebody injects a fresh breeze. And what could better than when that somebody comes from your own family?”

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