I am a Chicagoan. And as a child returning to my father’s native Switzerland, I was often the butt of jokes relating to the roaring twenties’ notion of Al Capone-land. ‘Ah, Chicago? Kids would point at me with jolting imaginary machine-gun spouts. Rat a tat tat! My childhood memories contained no such violent gang wars on the streets of the Windy City back in the sixties, but I did have a very clear recollection of a bi-annual treat that filled me with pride: accompanying my mother on her regular bouts of window shopping every change of season along the ‘The Magnificent Mile’. One of the city’s most prestigious residential and commercial thoroughfares, the avenue has been occupied by luxury retail stores, restaurants, museums and hotels since the late forties.
As the years flew by, my pride somewhat diminished as I had opportunities to visit the likes of 5th Avenue, Old Bond Street, Via Monte Napoleone and Faubourg Saint-Honoré. And as my publishing activities intensified, I discovered even more wonders on Moscow’s Tverskaya Street, Shanghai’s Nanjing Road West and Avenida Paulista in Sao Paulo. But our home market is Switzerland, and despite the small size of this country it harbours the Bahnhofstrasse and Rue du Rhône, two world-class luxury venues that have little reason to envy their old and new-world cousins.
It was during a recent lengthy and unnerving stall on the Rue du Rhône – caused by the numerous and oftentimes incomprehensible works that seem to crop up every month – that I mulled over the importance of these magnets of luxury retailers, and came to a conclusion: the time had come to better understand what it is that makes them tick.
This is what we will endeavour to present to our readers in a special two-part series of Swiss Style Magazine.
John François Béguin — Publisher