ORLANDO ESSAYS Episode No. 4: the Party Posters of St. Moritz with Fabrizio D’Aloisio and Luke Edward Hall

To mark the launch of Chateau Orlando spring/summer 2024: “EDELWEISS EXPRESS”, Luke Edward Hall speaks to the Swiss-Italian creative director, photographer and author Fabrizio D’Aloisio about some very special Swiss posters. Luke spotted these posters whilst in St. Moritz recently, and, beguiled, he set about discovering why, where, when and how they were made. Based in St. Moritz, Fabrizio has worked as Creative Director for the alpine resort.

Can you tell me a bit about the history of these posters? When were they made? And what are they advertising?

The fact that we have these posters today is a stroke of luck! They are not among the well-known posters that the tourism office of the time commissioned to advertise St. Moritz to the world. These rather typographical posters had a different purpose, they were intended to advertise an event or an offer on site and to encourage guests who were already in town to come. Accordingly, they were never used again after the event and were usually thrown away. Fortunately, the former Wetzel printing company in St. Moritz kept one copy of each poster in its archives. When the print shop closed for good, the owner called and asked if the St. Moritz library would like to have them. We were able to rescue 30 rolls with around 2,000 posters from the years 1930 to 1985. 

It looks as if there were many fun and extravagant parties going on in St. Moritz in the 1960s, '70s and '80s? (And they continue to go on, I know!) Has St. Moritz always been a place of pleasure?

The French have a beautiful saying: "Joie de Vivre". I think the expression fits St. Moritz perfectly. The town didn't even have 200 inhabitants 200 years ago. Then the English came and not only invented winter vacations and modern winter sports here, but they also brought a certain sense of humour. Two Olympic Games in 1928 and 1948 made St. Moritz world-famous, and many famous people came afterwards. St. Moritz has always been lucky enough to have visionary hoteliers and tourism directors who were open to the unfamiliar, fun and new. This has remained true to this day. The Amaru restaurant in the Kulm Hotel, which you designed, is the best example of this. 

The design of these posters is so brilliant, but some of them, in particular the very simple ones, appear informative, rather than designed. The typography and colours however are just perfect. Who made them?

Those posters that consist mainly of typography were most likely designed by the Wetzel printing company itself. At the time, these typographical works were not works of art, but the cheapest and most pragmatic way to place an advertising message. Hardly anyone back then would have thought that we would be talking about them today. If customers had a little more budget, they probably also hired external artists and illustrators to decorate the poster. 

Were they rediscovered recently? I'm so glad that the decision was made to exhibit them in the town.

Yes, only a few years ago. Some posters had to be restored first because they were torn. I saw them for the first time about five years ago and then immortalized them in a small publication when I was still Creative Director of St. Moritz. I had 13 stories written for 13 posters so that you could go back to those times. Our town library then had the idea of displaying them in our St. Moritz Design Gallery, where changing exhibitions are shown. 

Can you tell us a few of your favourite spots in town?

My favourite place to be in winter and summer is on Lake St. Moritz. It offers the best view of the town and is the best place to see its fascinating architecture. Some people say that St. Moritz has the charm of an underground parking garage, but I love its diversity, also in terms of the different architectural styles. Where else can you look at buildings by Norman Foster and Oscar Niemeyer while skating on a frozen lake? I grew up in the beautiful chalet village of Klosters, so St. Moritz was always like a Monte Carlo in the mountains for me, offering the most impossible things like polo matches, bobsleigh runs and old five-star hotels.

St. Moritz - what makes it so special do you think?

St. Moritz is not just a vacation resort and certainly not just a ski resort. Only 30% of guests ski here because, unlike other places in the mountains, they have many other options. For example, it has the highest density of galleries in Switzerland. And St. Moritz is a way of life, a famous brand. If you want to explain to people abroad where Switzerland is, it usually helps to say that it's the country around the 5,000-soul village of St. Moritz!