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Fashion

Meet Ottolinger, The Berlin-Based Brand Influencing The “Subversive Basics” Trend

The Swiss designer duo presented their Spring 2022 collection at Paris Fashion Week.

Even if you’re not immediately familiar with Ottolinger’s work, if you follow fashion, you’ve undoubtedly seen the influence of the Berlin-based label. Subversive basics may be everywhere in 2021, but Ottolinger has been doing them well since the early days when it first launched in 2015. And as evidenced by the designer duo’s Spring 2022 collection, which debuted during Paris Fashion Week on Tuesday, Sept. 28, they’ll be sticking to those same motifs — plus, expanding with a less-than-basic twist.

A few things that are intrinsic to the Ottolinger brand? Artsy, abstract prints usually created in collaboration with artist friends; bodycon dresses with cuts, slits, and awkwardly good openings; and very distinct accessories, like rubber-dipped crystal necklaces in bright colors and neon hues.

“This collection is really moody,” explains Christa Bösch, one half of the Swiss designers behind Ottolinger, the day before the Spring 2022 runway show. “I think it's like what we experienced the past months, that we would go through all these different kinds of moods and it is also really exciting, but then we go through a storm. It has a lot of that going on, playing with the excitement to actually go out and have fun because we always think if you’re going to wear things like this, you’re going to have a fun time for sure.”

When Ottolinger first started, Bösch and co-designer Cosima Gradient became known for their predilection to destroy. Think: clothes that are constructed with precision, then burnt and ripped. Today, the tight, strappy dresses they’re most well-known for have made them a favorite of fashion-forward celebrities, like Dua Lipa, Kylie Jenner, Gigi Hadid, Cardi B, and Barbie Ferreira, just to name a few.

But even with the growing celebrity following, the designers refuse to name a style icon or even a single, specific person who inspires their work. Instead, they are more concentrated on characters, explains Bösch. “The people that surround us, not specific one person, but those that come and go. They have a big influence in how we go through today and how we create things.”

Barbie Ferreira in Ottolinger.Instagram/@barbieferreira
Cardi B in Ottolinger.Instagram/@iamcardib
Gigi Hadid in Ottolinger.Arnold Jerocki/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images
Dua Lipa in Ottolinger for Jean Paul Gaultier.Gotham/GC Images/Getty Images
Kylie Jenner in Ottolinger.Instagram/@kyliejenner

During Ottolinger’s Spring 2022 show in Paris, models walked the halls of an abandoned ornate building, its walls in disrepair with glittering chandeliers and cloudy latex curtains hanging from floor-to-ceiling. That kind of slightly off-putting, disruptive, and jarring atmosphere is similar to the feeling Ottolinger brings to fashion. Just take the bags for example: Chunky little totes covered in rubber and errant string originated from ceramics that the designers were working with, and have now become a signature of the label. For spring, they evolved further into almost comically long clutches — “It’s like a weapon!” joked Gradient — and top-handle baguette silhouettes, others lined with strands of pearls. “They're morphing into classic shapes, but they still have this weird texture. They're out of this world a little bit. It’s a science-fiction aspect,” adds Bösch.

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And while the clothes weren’t quite as deconstructed in a literal sense this season, the designers decided to look at the overall concept from a different point of view, integrating wire into their trademark strappy dresses. Some wiring went above the neckline and veered out into space, or around the back of the neck, perhaps a little nod to the socially distanced culture under which the collection was designed. Though the designers are hesitant to name a direct inspiration for this particular collection, they cite nature as their biggest all-time influence. “We like how trees look growing or just the whole mood from nature,” says Gradient.

“Maybe it's not only about deconstructing, but being hands-on with things and we still do that,” adds Gradient. “We’re still doing things that look handmade, but we try to give it this luxe texture and the luxe look with the idea that we actually know how it's made. Sometimes we take things apart in order to do that.”

“It's more about a continued process,” says Bösch. “It's not a restart. Each season's it’s like, ‘OK, what do we do?’ It's more like we start working on something or what we didn't finish last season. And then it's like an ongoing project.”

Sunglasses that are 3D-printed and twisted, lace-up shoes that wound up the models’ legs, and swimwear were all brand new categories introduced at the Spring 2022 show, too. With a hefty (and famous) fashion following that will only undoubtedly grow, plus an emphasis on the cut-up dress as a wardrobe staple that feels intrinsically 2021, there’s only a few things Ottolinger has left on its list to tackle. That includes finding a way to integrate glass as a material in upcoming collections, launching furniture, and working with more artists for print collaborations, which has become a recurring fixture within the designers’ work.