The practiced imperfection of Ottolinger

Swiss designers Christa Bösch and Cosima Gadient first met whilst studying in Switzerland at the Basel School of Design and joined forces in 2016 by founding their brand Ottolinger, with both of them serving as co-creative directors.

Through scrupulous experimentation within the realms of fabrics, finishes and materials – some more unorthodox than others, Ottolinger has become a brand that values the imperfect nature of handcrafted clothing. By reconstructing the deconstructed, Ottolinger’s approach to ready-to-wear has resulted in clothes that are burnt, ripped and silicone-dipped, and in unison present an innovative blueprint for notions of luxury. Madeleine Holth spoke to the duo on arts and crafts in the digital age, handmade goods in the post-Covid-19 era and seeking out perfection in the imperfect.

How would you best describe your brand ethos? Is there a common signifier between the two of you and your preferred aesthetic?

Our vision is very free. Humanity is the key – to be able to work so closely together, to be honest with each other and to trust each other demands a lot of strength. It starts with accepting ourselves, our strengths and weaknesses, so that we are able to accept the other person and each other’s opinions. This is a message we want to spread. For our work, it means that we discuss a lot and once we both agree on something we know it will work out.

From looking into your social media accounts it appears that both of you are still very hands-on with the construction of clothes and accessories. How important is your own personal touch in the collections? Do arts and crafts still have a place in fashion in 2020?

We both love the beauty of the handcrafted. It’s something we trust and also something we enjoy a lot. It makes everything more human. Arts and crafts are a mirror to humanity and creativity, which are and always will be driving elements in our society. The power of reinvention and innovation are realised through creativity. Arts and crafts are always the start of something new.

What are your thoughts on handmade goods today versus three seasons ago? Considering the Covid-19 outbreak, will people fear handmade goods or embrace them?

It’s important that handmade goods can be reproduced and function as real garments. Even if we come to want more clinical and AI-based products after this outbreak, in the end we are all humans looking for love and humanity.

Your collections steer clearly away from trends, why have you chosen to swim against the current rather than giving in to the fashion zeitgeist?

It’s not a decision to swim against something, but to be honest with ourselves and to everyone around us. Our collections are made from our hearts. It’s what we feel and what we aim to be in society.

From afar you appear to be going against the grain on multiple accounts: there are no drops, there are no small-brand-meets-big-corp collaborations. I’m curious to see where you stand on collaborations in 2020?

It has to feel right to collaborate. there has to be a connection. We are very happy that some exciting collaborations will be announced later this year.

You’ve made subtle expansions within your brand into new realms of the industry, like swimwear, evening gowns and even CBD lipsticks. I’m curious to hear what realms you wish to explore?

We would, of course, like to go deeper into all of the fields we are currently in. We would both also love to work on a homeware collection.

There’s a distinct charm in the imperfect, the unfinished and the unpredictable at Ottolinger. This is something you could see in your past pieces including burnt holes, the silicone accessories and artisanal knitwear and gowns. Is this intentional or is this something that naturally happens because of your hands-on take with your collections?

We love the perfection of the imperfect. With people too, we are most fascinated with those who have something special besides perfection.

Your hand paint and silicone dip your accessories in the studio. Where did this idea of dipping already beautiful pieces in tar-like silicone come from? What does it represent?

It’s the imperfection with which we are so fascinated: the line where something is still perfect and yet not. Like umami, not sweet, but not sour. ◉

Written by Madeleine Holth for TANK Magazine

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