Stylist and journalist Silvia Calvo landed in Switzerland in March 2021, amid the pandemic, after getting a job there. “I packed my suitcases and moved to Basel, a city located in the north of the country,” she answers us from London, where she is now based. But her experience, beyond the strictly professional aspects, led her to discover a vivacious fashion scene in a country unknown to her.
Talented young designers and an interesting assortment of creative styles were what the Spanish journalist found as she immersed herself in the national art scene. All this in a country that puts conservative industries first and does not hugely promote creative disciplines. That was the starting point for What Is Going On, her fascinating project that we are presenting today on METAL.

“They have good universities to study design, but once they finish, there is no infrastructure that leads them to interact with each other to form a creative scene”, explains Silvia when asked about the fashion landscape in Switzerland, which she discovered during the months she has spent in the country. It’s an interesting conclusion that evidences a lack in promotion of promising national artists. The system needs to improve to boost young talent internationally and create synergies with agents in the sector. From a huge language barrier to a lack of a fashion editorial scene, there are several reasons that the Spanish stylist has identified as triggers for this phenomenon, which she explains to us in this interview. “I don't believe the problem is a matter of an attitude from the upcoming designers, but the lack of opportunities they are presented with.”

Shot in Basel from May to July 2021, twelve emerging and independent designers have taken part in What Is Going On, offering us a complete and diverse view of Swiss fashion. Committed to getting to know their creative universe and their opinions on fashion in their country, Silvia met most of them in person. But this project that we are now unveiling is just the first chapter of a platform that the creative director wants to continue developing. “If I can expand this editorial idea to enough territories, I could build an app that would act as a directory that maps the most thriving Gen Z talents across the world,” she adds. Now, from London, she looks for her next destination while she works on her projects. “If anyone would like to jump into this initiative I love to collaborate and encourage them to contact me!”
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Silvia, before getting into the project that we present exclusively today, could you briefly introduce yourself? Where do you answer us from?
My name is Silvia Calvo I am a Spanish stylist and journalist passionate about emerging design and the influence of fashion as a cultural manifestation. I am currently based in London, but I am developing my practice as a freelance stylist and creator across Europe.
You have developed this interesting initiative, What Is Going On, in Switzerland. In which emerging local designers became the protagonists of your new work. What took you to Switzerland? How was your experience in the country?
In 2021, I got a job as a fashion stylist for a Swiss brand and this is how last March I packed my suitcases and moved to Basel, a city located in the north of the country. My experience in Switzerland has been really enriching. I discovered how multicultural the country was, and I met some fascinating creative people along the way. Nevertheless, it is a territory full of stunning landscapes.
At what point did you decide to undertake the project? Was it a decision as a consequence of your experiences there, or was there a specific trigger?
When I move to a new country, I always like to investigate what is going on in the creative scene of the place I am going. I normally do it by looking on Instagram, TikTok, reading magazines, checking the street style and of course by meeting new people. During the second month of living in Switzerland, I found an online fashion show that featured the work of a few Swiss designers and instantly became aware of the big number of talented people the country held. This blew my mind, as I had never seen anything on any media about Switzerland being such a prolific creative country. That moment became the starting point of the project.
Despite being a place connected with many other nearby countries, where I guess different influences and cultures meet, you say that the work of young talents in the fashion scene is muted. What are the reasons for this?
Switzerland is a country full of talented young people, but the mentality imparted onto the population is orientated towards “conservative” industries like banking or pharmaceuticals. Any profession that falls outside the ‘status quo’ is shunned by society - leaving artists with difficulties building a fashion community to lean on. They have good universities to study design, but once they finish, there is no infrastructure that leads them to interact with each other forming a creative scene. Moreover, their conservative education also affects the way Swiss people dress. They are not open to extravagant fashion and gravitate towards the classic high-end brands we all know.
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But beyond the conception of emerging fashion or the vision of independent promises, there is a concept on which What Is Going On is built: the community. “My intention was not only to create images with these muted designers but moreover contribute as a community organiser for this group of upcoming artists,” you explain in your manifesto. Why do you think there is a lack of group cohesion?
Part of the lack of cohesion comes down to a huge language barrier. Switzerland is a country with three official languages, Swiss-German, French and Italian. If a group of creatives wants to do something together, and they are from different regions, they would most probably have to speak in English which is not their mother tongue language. The lack of an editorial scene also plays a big factor here. The detachment between creatives is due to the few possibilities they have of doing collaborative projects for their country's magazines. There are not many Swiss fashion publications, and they don't prioritise their own emerging designers. I don't believe the problem is a matter of an attitude from the upcoming designers, but the lack of opportunities they are presented with.
Besides having lived in Switzerland, you grew up in Madrid and spent some time in London. What differences do you notice in the fashion scene of each country?
Madrid to me represents the creative dream because it’s a melting pot for young artists. As there are so many publications and talented individuals based here, it is easy to build a team for creating editorial or experimental fashion content from one day to another. I definitely think this energy is the one that guided me in building What Is Going On when I moved to Switzerland. On the other hand, London is a big fashion capital full of work and opportunities. They have one of the biggest underground scenes as well as the highest level fashion brands. It is a cool spot for learning and for developing a practice that is balanced between both fashion circuits. The street style, the fashion sense and the party scene are just amazing for inking inspiration as well. Switzerland is a country where the business side of fashion takes a bigger space than the creative side of it for the moment. But I really hope initiatives like What Is Going On in Switzerland can actually make the people in the country realise how lucky they are with this prolific generation of fearless, innovative creators.
And if we delve into the development process of this project, what was the starting point? Did you previously define a series of phases to be followed, or did you progressively make decisions?
The starting point was notifying there is a generation full of talent in Switzerland that no one was talking about. Therefore, I set the intention of building a project that acted as an editorial lookbook for showcasing the next generation of Swiss upcoming designers. From the early stages, the goal was clear. One of the most important parts of this process as a creative director and stylist was to understand each designer universe. I decided that for getting all this information I needed to meet personally everyone I could, to fully understand the designers individually and the collective as a whole. Once I spoke with the creatives and I did the pick-ups, everything took form in the studio easily.
You have not only collaborated with designers but also with two photographers, seven international models and four hair and makeup artists. How did you contact them, and what would you highlight from the group work experience?
We shot the Project in Basel (Switzerland) and it took us from May to July 2021 to complete it. Everyone involved in the project is are amazing professionals who I already had the opportunity to work with beforehand, so I reached out to them personally in most of the cases or via Instagram or e-mail. Because both of the photographers who participated, Federico Magadán and Francisco Fernandes  were already based in Basel like me, we organised the shooting days around models and the hair and makeup artist. They were travelling to Switzerland to do commercial work but squeezed the project into their diaries. Overall, there are 15 creatives involved in the project and over 10 different nationalities. Seeing all of them trying to do their best work to interpret the world of the different upcoming Swiss designers was one of the best experiences I ever had on a professional level.
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I guess that as you worked with the different creative participants, you shared impressions and reflections. Maybe even some active debate was generated. What conclusions did you draw after working with them?
Working in fashion means working as a part of a team, and this in my opinion is one of the greatest things the industry has. When a big project is coming to life, it is exciting seeing how the criteria and experience of all the people merge into the vision. Because our goal was to build an editorial that reflected the talent of a generation, we all agreed on not going too crazy with anything that would distract the viewer from the main point. Keeping factors such as locations, props or lighting really discreet. When working with the team, I noticed how they became aware of the fact that great design can be found anywhere. We all learnt that sometimes the industry skips places where there is so much potential.
Stephanie Klaproth, Yannik Zamboni, Jana Colic, Sarah Bounab, Anastasia Bull, Marco Gomes, Revue, Elvira Grau, Claire Lefebvre, Mara Danz, Gaëlle Da Costa and Ilja Kager are the twelve designers involved in this new work. What would you highlight of each of them?
Stephanie Klaproth is environmentally conscious, great at working with structure and has a non-binary approach to design. The brand of Yannik Zamboni is called Maison Blanche, and he only works with different shades of white, he represents the anti-fashion concept. Jana Čolić uses colour beautifully. Her designs are theatrical and inspired by a world of fantasy, reflecting her work creating costumes for the ballet. Sarah Bounab´s designs are based on shocking evening wear inspired by cyberculture and digital identities. Her incredibly creative accessories remain to me reflective of the concept of liquid personality. Anastasia Bull encourages people to be bold and enter into her world, created by a cross-over between Tim Burton movies and Victorian opulence. Marco Gomes creates pieces that are always in movement. He has mastered the juxtaposition of fluid volumes and body tight garments. Revue is a brand created by Eva Maria. Her collection is entirely built from up-cycled pieces. Her exaggerated silhouettes and bold use of colour speak for themselves. Elvira Grau is a fun creator. Her garments could make anyone smile. Her collection screams childhood dream due to the playfulness of her modulated designs and colour choices. Claire Lefebvre transforms everyday fabrics such as denim into designs that are to dye for through her print illustrations. Her prints are inspired by the female figure. Mara Danz pieces are deconstructed garments that reflect a big sense of humour, impregnated with notes of Magritte’s surrealism. Gaëlle Da Costa work is based on giving depth to the human body through layering fabrics as an extension of the skin. Ilja Kager takes menswear trends and challenges them with opulence and volume to create something that goes far beyond men's fashion standards.
And how was their feedback when you first emailed them to present the project? Did you get any refusals?
The response I got was overwhelming. I reached out to the designers at the end of April through Instagram DMs, and they were all so positive and excited to collaborate. I felt super supported by them. Furthermore, I got to meet almost all the designers in person and even visit some of their ateliers, which was perfect for getting to know what was really going on in Switzerland.
“I believe that Switzerland is not the only country in which there is hidden talent as a result of cultural barriers,” you say in the statement that comes along with What Is Going On. Are you planning to continue this project elsewhere in the world? Is there any country whose fashion scene you would like to explore in the near future?
I would love to continue my mission around the world trying to showcase hidden talent and showing to the industry What Is Going On. My intention is to keep exploring some regions of the European continent first and then expand the project around Africa or the Caribbean counties. I believe territories like Kenya or Jamaica would be a perfect fit. If I can expand this editorial idea to enough territories, I could build an app that would act as a directory that maps the most thriving Gen Z talents across the world.
This site would be a two-way secret weapon for the fashion community as the designers will have a platform to showcase their work and every single stylist, photographer, MUAH, buyer, retailer or collector could not only discover them but also contact them and vice versa. Within this ambitious idea, there would be features for the creators to interact and support each other, creating a global and local community to lean on.
And beyond this interesting (and incipient) platform that you are building, what can you tell us about your next projects? Any dream to fulfil?
At the moment, I am based in London working on commercial projects and trying to build a team for creating experimental content. My intention is to take advantage of the big art scene there is in this city for exploring visual cultural topics using fashion as my main vehicle. I am documenting every step of this process on my TikTok. On the other hand, I am looking to expand What Is Going On around the European continent. Therefore, I am currently looking for my next destination. By March, I would like to already have set up the next editorial, working with a new group of talented designers, that for now remain outside the industry's radar. If anyone would like to jump into this initiative I love to collaborate and encourage them to contact me!
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