It’s only been a year since Glamcult first teamed up with Dutch design talent Rushemy Botter, introducing him with the words: “Botter crosses the heavy with the so, holds his banner high, and wears his heart on his sleeve for his breakthrough collection.” Little did we know—but secretly of course we did—that the success of his BA collection, made in Antwerp and shown in New York, would by far be surpassed in 2018. With the forward MA collection Fish or Fight, Botter established his label as a collaborative endeavour with his longtime girlfriend, Lisi Herrebrugh, uniting under the Botter moniker.
This spring, the tireless twosome was awarded one of fashion’s most prestigious prizes, the Grand Prix of the Hyères International Festival of Fashion and Photography, and was nominated for the just as desirable LVMH Prize. Botter’s clothes are well-crafted, fresh, elegant and surprising—meanwhile commenting on contemporary issues such as the environment and equality. But who exactly are the people conjuring these clothes?
When asked by photographer Ari Versluis to feature in our Embody series—an ongoing investigation into the relationship between today’s designers those who influence their work—team Botter tells us they’re working on casting the right models. On the day of the shoot, however, the two designers simply show up together. “Is that alright?” they ask modestly. “There’s one model from Paris we would’ve loved to have in the picture, but he couldn’t be here so last-minute. And really, our collections aren’t inspired by anyone in particular…”
So, who does inform their creations? “It’s more about a type of person,” they answer as one. “The man that grabs our attention has a certain elegance. We like to think that he’s refined and real. It’s not about a certain style he fits into, but about the feeling he gives us. You can spot him on the street, even from a distance.” When asked to give a concrete example, Botter explains: “My grandma lives in Curaçao, in a neighbourhood that isn’t nearly as auent as we’re used to here. It feels like people there have less to lose, so there’s not as much pretence or charade. Things are simply what they are. That’s when you get to see a real person.”
Among the key elements that make Botter stand out, are the young label’s unmistakable casting choices. Take a look at their most recent catwalk presentation (or any of their shows, for that matter) and you’ll see a triumphant line-up featuring only models of colour. When questioned on what they look for in a model, Botter answers: “Intelligence.” Casting black models only, the designers book the boys that—even today—have lesser chances than their white counterparts. “That time is up,” Herrebrugh states sharply. “But I do think that makes our boys more thankful,” Botter adds, “And that’s also because we make them an actual part of the collection. They don’t just ‘wear’ the clothes.” Speaking of their show at Hyères, the designers reminisce: “There was this one boy we overheard calling his mum, telling her exactly what he’d been up to all day. That’s what we really enjoy; we’re like that too.”
Seeing the two designers come together as one and build their brand together, another strong influence surfaces. It’s a two-way drive that allows this duo to work together from the early morning to the late evening. “Yeah, in the end we’re definitely each other’s most important influence,” they confirm. Botter adds: “Throughout the years we’ve built a huge amount of respect for each other. It can be painful at times, when she tells me something’s shit—but usually it’s an affirmation of what I already feared.” “We also really complement each other,” Herrebrugh jumps in. “We do our research together, because the themes we work on are pretty much our diary. Then he does the sketching, and I take the sketches to the atelier to turn them into 3D garments…” “And from there I trust her completely,” her partner concludes.
As cohorts in work and love, team Botter often gets the same question. “You mean, how we do it?” they grin. “Well, it’s developed very organically. We’ve known each other for 12 years and have worked together for four. Of course, we’ve had to learn when we are lovers and when we are colleagues. We love working together and being in the same place, but we don’t sit next to each other all day.” From the imagination to the atelier to the runway, Botter is equally his and hers. “My name was just a disaster to pronounce,” Herrebrugh laughs. “Botter sounds bold, and that’s what the clothes are all about.” We agree, wholeheartedly.