Posted by steven yatsko | April 3rd, 2018

Berlin’s newest heroes of the anti-fashion underground: OTTOLINGER

Ottolinger, the just 2-year-old brand from Swiss-duo Christa Bösch and Cosima Gadient, is the Berlin-based project now under the same public relations roof as Vetements and Y/ Project, if that says anything about the promise of buzz. Bösch and Gadient’s frayed and reconstructed designs call to mind what your cooler, incorrigible older sister wore in her dystopian, poster-caked bedroom while she rattled the house slamming doors. That sister is also a pyro–the designers frequently turn to blowtorches to scorch holes in their fabrics, a signature of sorts, but just one of the ways they uniquely handle fabrics. So when Misha Hart, rocking an induction cut, put on one of Ottolinger’s burned looks their two narratives found common ground in a similar motif: identities shaped through distress. If you weren’t following Misha’s instagram, @Mishahartbreak, last year the Scottish model revealed she struggled with depression; its severity had nearly ended her life. Emboldened by a newfound candor, Misha faced the stigmas surrounding mental illness and began her year-long process of healing. In 2018 she made a defiant return ready to start anew. You can read our full interview with the badass Misha here, and an interview with Cosima of Ottolinger below, accompanied by a dreamlike story by Laetitia Negre.

Photographer : Laetitia Negre for
Stylist : Priscilla Kwateng
Make up : Dele Olo
Set: JR
Special Talents: The Humanimals
Photo Assistants: Thomas Chatt Burgess, Sebastian Boettcher
Special Thanks: Susie Babchick, Frank Merritt, Kate & Alex and Roy

Model: Misha Hart at Viva London

Interview by Steven Yatsko for

Why did you and Christa decide to start a line together? What made you both compatible?
We just really admired each other’s work and also as people, we truly like each other and we always got along really well. We have a lot of respect each other’s work and we thought it would be nice to do something together. Especially as a young brand, any project we started, it’s always good if you have someone else’s back.

Could there be downsides to that?
We never did our own thing so I can hardly compare, but it’s been a really interesting and nice experience so far. It goes surprisingly very well. We really like working with each other

It’s kind of like picking a roommate, you just kind of don’t know until you’re living with that person.
Totally. Exactly. It’s an arranged marriage.

Who are your clothes for? Is that a question you ask yourselves a lot?
We always say that Ottolinger is this woman that goes out a lot, but still manage to get her life together. Just like paying her taxes, basically. It could be a cool older sister you never had, you could be that person, the clothes and the vibe. We’re based in Berlin, but she doesn’t have to be Berlin, she can be anywhere. We do ask these questions as it helps us navigate through certain questions in regard of shapes and stuff and, of course, in terms of our direction: What our target could be or what the target is. You can just narrow it down so it makes more sense.

What can you tell me about the inspiration behind your design approach?
I think something that’s really important is the way we work, it’s how Christa and I communicate about a design: We don’t draw, we usually drape on a doll or on ourselves. We actually also wear them on ourselves all the time. These lines are super important. I keep what we have going through draping so it’s really about body consciousness. All of the colors we have we have developed them ourselves. We work with a dye house together we have our own color cards. We like to treat fabrics, we burn them sometimes, or do tie dye, or braiding. We like to give them our own texture.

It sounds very tactile. What sort of inspirations do you draw from as well? Are there certain things that exist that have inspired you both as designers?
This feeling when there’s someone you really admire and can we translate that into our clothes is something that we’re interested in.

How do you translate that feeling?
We’re still working on it. I don’t know, we overthink how this person could look like. What it just feels like. It’s an emotion, the comfort, the coolness. It’s some basic words. It’s really about the feeling you get when you wear stuff and it doesn’t fit in that well, yet it’s really cool.

The cherished hand-me-downs from the cooler older sibling…
Exactly, yes.

What techniques define you as clothing makers?
It’s hard when you have your own brand to get the right fabrics because your quantity is so low. So we have to be creative about how you get your fabrics and so we started to get really basic fabrics and treat them so they become more luxurious or more “us” in terms of color and finishing. I think that’s where we started. Then it became kind of a signature and we dug more into it. Something that we’re super into is finding a weird texture that goes really well with a shape or even doesn’t go really well and just because of that it’s really amazing.

What is the most unusual fabric that you’ve used?
There is the burning thing. So, if you burn a fabric in multiple layers it becomes this new fabric; It’s almost like a lace, but it’s burned. I thought was pretty interesting, it has been of interest enough that we have kept doing it. We started to burn all the fabrics. It’s interesting how they react, how you can still wear it, or can you even wear it. Sometimes I don’t know. You find out how you can work with that.

Yes. I love that question: “Can you even wear it?”
I mean, you can actually, but they’re delicate, of course. Some are easier to wear, but the ones burned more heavily are more delicate, obviously.

We started to burn all the fabrics. It’s interesting how they react, how you can still wear it, or can you even wear it. Sometimes I don’t know.
Are you nervous every time you start to burn the fabric? What do you use, a blowtorch?
Yeah, a blowtorch. Blowtorches–multiple.

Getting more existential, what is, or is not, the role of an emerging designer in the state of the industry?
I think it’s really important to have or to work on your own language, your signature in terms of what the brand looks like, what the clothes looks like. I think it’s really important to find that language and I think it’s really hard. Also, socially, all of France looks the same, if you can unlock this, it is the key to your own language. I think that’s really important for young designers.

How much are you paying attention to other designers, scrutinizing them and comparing yourself?
In a healthy dose. I mean, of course you look around to see what’s going on. It’s also mostly just really really positive people. You see something and find it really, really nice and we get inspired. We’re also happy to see others doing really well. I think we’re in a process where we really work hard to the end of the season so we don’t look around that much. We really focus on our own work.

If you start your own brand it’s the biggest risk you can basically take.

I think it’s a modern problem in a way that it’s so easy to be bombarded with what others are doing. Where you used to have to seek it out. Actively go and see the clothes and go to the gallery. I think it is a problem for some people, social media and homogenization for example.
I think on one side social media has helped us a lot in the fact that both of us came from this really small town with this really small school. It’s not a famous school or anything. We didn’t have that surrounding, so there weren’t a lot of eyes on us. So I think it helped us a lot when we started. Instagram gave us a lot of attention in this way.

In the same vein, are brands tasked with being more sensitive and more conscious than designers before? Because this kind of transparency that exists on social media?
I think if you stick to what you’re aspiring to do you’re sensitive anyway. So I think that just comes naturally.

You’re inherently sensitive if you’re doing something you care about. What about risk-taking?
If you start your own brand it’s the biggest risk you can basically take. That’s what I feel like, you gave it everything and it’s everything you do. It’s our lives.

Are there any particular challenges that you’ve already faced? Ottolinger is only two-and-a-half years old…
We grew quite fast for our expectations so we weren’t aware of what it would mean in regards to production and things like that. We are fast thinking people, I would say, but we really had to adapt fast so we would be able to, for example, deliver at the right time to shops, timing production to arrive at factories. It’s not that we weren’t aware of it, it’s just we grew fast and our quantities got much higher and we now have to keep up with it.

And you’re handling the fabric so intimately…Have you found a solution to that?
For the prototypes we do them in house, we don’t do them further down the line in production because there wouldn’t be time for that. It’s not possible. The burning we still do. We have a burning team, we are a burning team.

What hopes do you have as two emerging designers in charge of your young brand?
It kind of goes together with the question about taking the risk. Since we took the risk it would be nice if we could grow more, sustain what we are doing and become better. It would be nice to keep doing it for a while.


2 Comments to “Berlin’s newest heroes of the anti-fashion underground: OTTOLINGER”

  1. She looks really beautiful. I like you, honey. Your all style is awesome.

  2. Magaly says: