Embody: GmbH

Meet the booming Berlin fashion collective that’s not a collective.

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If you’ve ever spent time in Germany, you’ve been incessantly confronted with their name: GmbH. Those moments probably had zero to do with the emerging fashion brand, however, as Gesellschaft mit beschränkter Haftung simply means “company with limited liability”. Somewhat in the spirit of Vetements, there’s a raw anonymity to the acronym, and likewise to the Berlin-based label. Founded in 2016 by designers Benjamin Alexander Huseby—also a respected fashion photographer—and Serhat Isik, the moniker was chosen in a self-described “moment of desperation”, but had been lingering on the back of Isik’s mind for a very long time. “The moment he mentioned it, I knew it was perfect. And then it was clear; everybody loved it and we didn’t really think about it anymore”, says Huseby.

GmbH is not a collective, Isik emphasizes. “We’ve never used to that term to explain what we’re doing; everyone involved is considered family because we’ve all been here for so many years and then eventually, we genuinely started working together. But we’ve never really accumulated under one roof. The quote was always out of a group of people that consider themselves a family.” Naturally, this is linked to the formation of queer communities, Huseby adds, since “for a lot of gay people ‘family’ is not exactly their family. People come from different worlds and feel a connection with other people. It’s the family you create.” And though it might sound a bit predictable, especially coming from a Berlin-based group, GmbH’s members met each other on the dancefloor. “That sounds like we’re trying to make it catchy or something, but it’s a fact. It’s how people meet here.”

GmbH SS18 ‘Europe Endless’ Now represented by @ritualprojectsparis

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Mixing their nightlife origins with uniform influences, GmbH’s speedy puffers, shiny PVC trousers and zipper-heavy workwear can be shaped to a wide range of environments, from the club to the office to the factory floor. Yet there’s ever a deliberately provocative edge too, which Isik describes as dangerous: “We like to play with this cultural image… for instance, imagine a boy of Turkish or Arab descent that’s just wearing jeans and a singlet. Growing up, that was the uniform people were afraid of. Or think of a shirt that says: ‘Randomly chose another back’—because whenever we go through airport security, we always get singled out. Those are the narratives we’re playing with.” His partner continues: “It’s something that’s fully part of who we are. I mean: it’s our skin. Growing up I never saw a brown person like me in any fashion magazine. I remember there was one cover story with Indian boys, and I thought: ‘Wow, I’d never seen this relation. You too can be beautiful and represent something in fashion.”

THE DAZZLING BEAUTY OF EUROPE @gmbh_official European Union E.U., more commonly called Europe. Is called after the Phoenician middle eastern (today she'd be considered Syrian) Princess Europa who was abducted by Zeus and brought to Europe. Europa, daughter of Agenor king of Tyre, was walking one day along the seashore with her companions, and was noticed by Zeus. Kindled by her dazzling beauty, the God transformed himself into a white bull with a crescent moon-shaped horn and sat down at the feet of the young girl. Frightened at first, the princess grew bolder, caressed the animal and sat on his back. Immediately the bull got up and rushed towards the sea. Despite the cries of Europa, who clung to the horns, the bull stepped into the waves and moved away from the shore. They reached as far as Crete, where Zeus resumed his human appearance and mated with Europa. The legend of Princess Europa summarizes historical, economic and cultural realities that should correspond to the movements of civilizations homes from the Middle East to the regions of the West, which were then named "Europe". We are Europe! #europeendless #gmbh #ss18

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Casting models of all colours and ages for their official presentations—GmbH just showed at Paris Fashion Week for the very first time—these issues of race and multiculturalism are at the forefront of their message. But in reality, it’s simply what GmbH is. More than a cause, it’s an authentic identity. When it comes to structure, the GmbH family is both fixed and fluid. “Being the main designers, Serhat and I have quite clear roles”, Huseby says. “You can’t be a group of happy people living together without structure, yet we try not to use titles so much. Especially because we’re still evolving.”

Having quickly gained the respect of industry insiders and dancefloor devotees alike, what happens when a ‘collective’—sorry guys!—like GmbH wins popularity? Is there a risk of the family becoming an introverted enclave rather than an inclusive entity? According to Huseby, “It’s quite dangerous that when you gain some kind of fame, you start protecting yourself because people want things from you. And you don’t know if they’re being honest…” However, he also insists: “Our friends are our super friends. The most important thing is to be genuine in what you do. Things change, but that’s what fashion is: it goes up and down, and things go out of fashion—that’s the nature of the beast. You’ve just got to keep your feet on the ground.”

GmbH SS17 campaign Casting @hammalcaide

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Photography by Ari Versluis

Words by Leendert Sonnevelt

Featuring: Mina Hammal, Serhat Isik, Benjamin Huseby and Alexandre Diop

Embody is an ongoing collaborative project by photographer Ari Versluis and Glamcult, exploring the relationship between influential contemporary fashion designers and those who influence their work. 

www.gmbhofficial.com

www.ariversluis.com

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