In a market governed by a mantra of ‘less is more’, we’re always eager to praise the designers that buck the trend. Leading the way is Ottolinger, one of the hottest brands to call Berlin home. Firmly rejecting the prevailing fashion doctrines of ‘clean’ and ‘quiet’, their garments have reintroduced a radical air to the industry landscape, offering slashed & burned pieces, black hoodies emblazoned with weed leaves, wrap around shirts and tie-dye dresses.
First meeting as students at the highly esteemed Basel School of Design, Cosima Gradient and Christa Bösch then elected the German capital as their base, from which they have gone on to win praise across the board. Having previously presented in New York, taking part in the MADE and VFILES runways during the city’s Fashion Week, AW17 saw the Ottolinger girls’ Paris debut, with a collection brimming over with innovative takes on denims and tweeds, complete with a lookbook shot against the backdrop of a rainswept Eiffel Tower.
Given their perpetual globetrotting, Œ was lucky enough to catch up with the pair to discuss Berlin, having friends as your muses and about their current collection ‘in tatters’.
You are both from Switzerland, now live in Berlin, have presented on the New York runways and your latest collection was shown in Paris. Do you consciously play with the different inspirations the cities offer?
It finds its way into our work, for sure. We’re lucky that travelling is a big part of our job, and that experience forms a key part of what inspires us. However, we’ve always wanted to show at Paris Fashion Week, and it’s great that we’ve now had the opportunity.
What impact do the various cities have on the settings for your shows?
Well, our current lookbook has the Eiffel tower for its background, so in that sense we like to play with settings and locations. But the city doesn’t completely change our vision for the clothes or the way in which
they should be presented.
On the topic of fashion capitals, what attracted you to the Berlin scene?
We were more attracted by the city itself, rather than by its fashion scene; we came here because many of our friends live here, not to mention that Berlin is still very affordable, which gives us a lot of freedom to focus on our work. It’s a good place to be for the time being.
Looking at your designs, it becomes clear that you make great use of this freedom. What motivated you to slash and burn your fabrics?
We like to handcraft in a away that’s rough, but still chic and with a grain of sexiness. After all, sexy doesn’t necessarily need to be pretty. We like to play with the underlying meanings of the word ‘couture’ and prefer working hands on rather than with a paper and pen; this process comes to us very naturally.
Would you say that imperfection is the new perfection?
The definition of perfection is probably just a point of view. At the end of the day we are all looking for perfection in our own way; but the burning or manipulating of fabrics has nothing to do with imperfection, as we think very precisely of how this has to be done.
Why do you focus on womenswear?
We do womenswear first and foremost it’s what we know best, working with the female body comes very naturally to us. But it often happens that some of our pieces look better on our male friends…
Do you design with a particular muse in mind?
It’s more like a group of people, mainly our friends and the people we spend our time with.
Would you say that there’s much of a difference between the style of your figures of inspiration and your personal style? And do you think that it’s better to have multiple perspectives when it comes to design, so that you have a more varied end result?
During the process, we always look at things thinking ‘would we wear this?’ It’s how we relate to it first and it’s where we share a very similar point of view. But our personal style and interests are still different enough from each other to add some complexity. In the end it’s the combination of the two of us that ends up in the work.
Quite a few weeks ago was the Graduation Show from FHNW in Basel, where you both studied. Are you interested in new talents?
Yes we watched the show online, it’s always interesting to see work from students and to see how they approach fashion from a very young point of view.
Thanks a lot for the quick chat!