Pick up a pen and some paper, write down a typical definition of classic beauty and throw it in the trash. That’s what Ottolinger makes us want do to—and honestly, we’re obsessed with the brand’s practice, message and aesthetic. Founded by Swiss duo Christa Bösch and Cosima Gadient, based in Berlin and having graced the runways of New York, London and Paris, Ottolinger’s scattered locality is in direct conversation with the meshed-up essence of its designs.
The designer duo take a handmade approach to creating garments yet turn couture on its head—the personal, elegantly executed touch of each Ottolinger piece has an affair with a boldly raw, unfinished blend of shapes and forms. Fabrics are burned, acid is spilled and contrasting textures are layered—the orthodox marriage between fashion and perfection is shattered. Ottolinger’s distinctive aesthetic steps in to merge the mundane with the sublime in a realm where opposites synchronize.
Fascinated by the reconstructive process behind the design of Ottolinger garments, Glamcult sat down with Bösch and Gadient for a candid chat about intuition, constructing new worlds, past and present collaborations and, not least, the good old every day.
For some of our readers, this may be an introduction to you and your label. So let’s go back to the basics. How did you meet, when did you know something clicked and how did Ottolinger come to be?
We met during our studies at the Institute for Fashion Design at the FNWH Academy in Basel, Switzerland, and we’ve always liked each other’s work and style. At some point, we starting going out for drinks together, we couldn’t stop talking about our views on fashion and life, and eventually we became friends. It’s like a love story, really—you admire someone, and once you get to know them better, you admire them more and more.
You’ve mentioned that Ottolinger was the name of your neighbour’s doorbell and you liked it so much that you made it your brand name.In what ways do everyday realities permeate your work and your sources of inspiration? What parts of the everyday do you find oddly interesting?
The everyday is very important to us, and since we always have Ottolinger on our brains, our work and leisure time overlap. Ottolinger is very much about everyday realities and how we can make the world better and more beautiful for every woman.
We also love working with our friends—sometimes in our studio, in a bar or on a lake. We find it important and inspiring that our friends’ daily realities are melting together in significant ways to everyone’s work. For example, this season we’re collaborating with our artist friend, Julian Nguyen.
Can you describe your creative process and the way an Ottolinger runway look comes to life?
Everything starts with a conversation about what we’d like to own ourselves and what’s missing in our closet. Then we start draping, researching materials, developing prints, etc. There’s a lot of discussion and sometimes we get really annoyed if the other side doesn’t like an idea. So we develop it until we both like it. We try on the prototypes to see how everything feels, and we continue once we both agree the garments feel good. Only then are we ready to create the final look with stylist Ursina Gysi.
What role do materials and textures play in your work? What inspires you to mix those as boldly as you do?
Materials are crucial—they are the garments’ soul that touches your body. The materials are what you feel when you wear clothes and it is essential to us that it feels good. We also love to create our own unique material out of existing and traditional fabrics.
Familiar and formal shapes are reconstructed into unconventional combinations that somehow put harmony to opposing forces. What role does intuition play in your designs?
Intuition is our motor. Finding all the shapes and forms is very intuitive—there’s a fine line between deconstruction and stillness in balance. Only our intuition can tell us where this line is.
Do you have any social, political or cultural references that you keep going back to?
Presently, we’re hooked on Ken Liu’s science-fiction stories. We love the way in which he uses language to build up a whimsical society and story. His descriptions are incredibly sensitive and beautiful, with lots of truth, political views and morals in the unique worlds he creates. Reading his books is almost as visual as watching a movie.
We’ve seen you collaborate with multidisciplinary artist Lukas Hofmann on his performance piece Dry Me A River. How did that come to be and where does performance art stand in relation to your brand?
We have a lot of friends in common, although we hadn’t met before. He wrote us a very sweet email, asking us if we’d like to collaborate, and so it all started. Since our clothes are about movement and being worn, it was amazing and quite natural that they got to be part of a performance piece.
Ottolinger is all about deconstructing in order to creatively reconstruct, with a handmade, DIY essence. What world do you imagine your clothes constructing? Who would populate it? Can you imagine a political system for it?
It’s a very intriguing question and something we talk about a lot—especially now, in our strange and disturbing political climate. If we could choose a world for our clothes to construct, it would be a dreamy one with astonishing nature and lots of opportunities for discovery. We believe that every person has great qualities and we want our clothes to highlight that individual beauty, making you feel stronger and more confident. Our political system would be one where people take care of themselves without forgetting the needs of others. Everyone respects the other’s individuality and is curious about all things new and different. There’s no envy or desire to have the most—it’s about tolerance, support and a process of constant learning.
You stand out for the people you put on your runways and in your look-books. What directs and defines your casting choices?
We’re interested in finding unique and interesting characters—people we would like to know more about and hang out with.
Beyoncé wore a custom piece by you for her OTR II World Tour. How did this collaboration come about?
Our press agency, Ritual Projects, contacted us, and from then on everything went superfast. We developed the piece together with our denim partner, Isko, with our team in Berlin doing the finishing touches and delivering it to Olympia Stadium. Two hours later, Beyoncé was performing in it.
Having shown in London and Paris, and with social media recognition from fans including Bella Hadid, where do you see your label in five years’ time?
In five years’ time our work still has to be full of love and passion. We’d love to have our own Ottolinger stores. Also, there’s this one table we both really want to build but never find time for. Maybe designing and creating furniture for our store would be a good excuse to finally work on it!