In the historic centre of Lausanne, Switzerland, is a small shop called Walpurgis. Founded by Philippe Casolo in the 1970s, it is now co-run by his daughter Julie Casolo Hofmann, alongside Sarah Briand and Ginevra Fontana. Having taken over the shop in March this year, the three bring a fun yet thoughtful approach to selecting pieces for their light-filled shop, on an old street in the city. “We are incredibly lucky to work in this place,” says Sarah. “We inherited one of the oldest shops in Lausanne.” There are only small, independent boutiques on the street, “which makes it even more beautiful,” says Ginevra.
The city is situated on the shores of Lake Geneva, close to the mountains. “The surrounding nature is sublime,” says Julie. All three are in love with Lausanne due to both its setting and the rich culture. “There is an abundance of culture, on the scale of a large city. I particularly like the Museum of Art Brut.” Ginevra likes to spend time in the Hermitage museum. “The walk there is beautiful – from the old city, you pass through a small forest and then find a bucolic landscape,” she says. Sarah particularly loves summer on the shores of Lake Geneva, meeting up with friends after work. “I think I wait for that all year round!” Sarah says. “If I had to advise a visitor, I would tell them to go for a walk in the vineyards of Lavaux, a UNESCO heritage site. There are vines as far as the eye can see along Lake Geneva, not to mention the small wine-growing villages that you cross.”
Julie grew up in the shop, and as she got older worked there occasionally. Her father Philippe brought back handcrafted items and clothes from southeast Asia and Afghanistan in the 1970s. “It was the first store to offer such pieces in our region,” she says. “Then the times changed, and they adapted their style, beginning to stock contemporary brands in the 1990s.” Walpurgis was then run by Julie’s mother Anne, “who gave it the look that we know today,” says Sarah. “Julie, Ginevra and I are a parenthesis in the history of this shop.”
The choice to continue the tradition of the shop came suddenly, Ginevra adds, “mainly dictated by the fact that being here made us feel good.” Walpurgis has been important to Julie during many different stages of her life. “I didn’t know I would take over the family business, but when Sarah and Ginevra told me that they wanted to continue, it seemed obvious to me,” Julie says. “I’m happy to participate in this adventure, with a collective operation. It’s always fun to go to work.”
The three come from a range of backgrounds, which brings multiple perspectives to their work. Julie, who is also an illustrator, began her professional life training as a photographer, before working in theatre as an administrator and programmer for several years, collaborating on artistic projects. Ginevra is Italian and moved to Switzerland around 6 years ago. “I was born into a family of merchants and I grew up in my family's shops, always in contact with customers.” she says. “I never thought that in the future I would follow in their footsteps. I studied sports management and athletics, but my passion for craftsmanship and fashion won out.”
Sarah is originally from Rennes, and studied graphic design and multimedia at university. “After travelling to New Zealand with my boyfriend, we decided to go to Switzerland with some friends and put our suitcases down in Lausanne. We were supposed to stay here for a few months – it's been 10 years now!” She met Anne Casolo, Julie’s mother, while working in catering, and took up the offer of working in the shop.
When choosing pieces for their shop, they “operate by feeling, just like my mother always did,” says Julie. They have a broad age range of customers, from 20 to 100 years old. “As such, we work with timeless pieces that women can wear for all occasions in life. We love beautiful materials and small designers, not fast fashion. We pay particular attention to the places of production.” Ginevra looks for apparently simple pieces, which are well-finished and well-made. “Searching for brands is always fun and continuous,” she says. “Today social networks are a great help, but we also have brands proposed by friends and customers, or discover them while travelling.” Sarah adds, “we look at the brand, what it represents, its values. If it suits us, then we can work with it.”
TOAST was a natural fit for Walpurgis. “TOAST corresponds perfectly to the philosophy of the boutique.” Ginevra says. “It has a discreet femininity, soft colours, impeccable cuts, fabrics that are pleasant to wear.” Julie was drawn to TOAST for “the attention to doing things with respect and awareness,” while Sarah notes the timelessness of the pieces. “We didn't hesitate for a second to work with TOAST,” she says. “It was obvious! When we saw the collection we said to ourselves that this brand would find its place at Walpurgis.”
Over the next few months, there is plenty to keep them busy. “As we took over in March, there is a lot of work to do from refreshing the interior to creating photographs for Instagram,” Julie says. “As there are three of us, there is no shortage of ideas and projects,” Ginevra adds. “For the moment, we’re focusing on the most important ones and enjoying the summer.”
Interview by Alice Simkins Vyce.
Photographs by Lucie Hofmann.
A curated selection of the TOAST collection can be found at Walpurgis, 1, rue de la Mercerie 1003 Lausanne.