2018 Is The Year of BOTTER: Gender Fluid Clothing Rooted in Caribbean Culture

Dutch designers Rushemy Botter and Lisi Herrebrugh are producing multi-sensory experiences from their clothes to the catwalk.

Image: BOTTER, SS18. Photography: Ruth Ossai. Styling: Ibrahim Kamara

BOTTER is a new label from the Netherlands producing multi-sensory experiences through clothes and shows. Designs eschew the current catwalk trend for streetwear (“It’s a bit superficial and there is no depth in it, no feeling,” says Botter) The brand has been a growing movement since Rushemy began studying at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts, Antwerp, and teamed up with Lisi who was then interning at Viktor&Rolf in Amsterdam. Their work takes a leaf from the playbook of John Galliano. “In the early years, [his] shows were spectacular, insane, they were like story-telling. That’s what I’m missing. Nobody is taking fucking risks.”

Botter and Herrebrugh take risks. A prime example is “Fish or Fight”, BOTTER’s debut collection showcased at Amsterdam Fashion Week in July. Featuring androgynous men of colour models wearing designs adorned with fluorescent netting, Shell logos minus the ‘S’, plastic bags and inflatable toys, the show was presented alongside traditional Caribbean dishes Botter made with friends. This wasn’t simply a gesture of excess, however, but an intentional reference to the designers’ heritage. Botter traces his own family back to Curaçao, the Dutch Caribbean island, while Herrebrugh is of Dominican descent. Thus, the culture of this region isn’t merely a motif in their work, but intrinsic to it.

Image: BOTTER, SS18. Photography: Ruth Ossai. Styling: Ibrahim Kamara

“The culture is really rich and our label is based on that,” Botter explains, discussing a visit to Herrebrugh’s mother in Dominican Republic. “[While there], I saw a similar culture to the one in Curaçao and that’s where I got my inspiration.” Other details in “Fish or Fight” reveal this influence. The plastic bag scarves, for instance, are emblems for those found polluting the ocean, affecting the livelihoods of local people involved who rely on fishing, while the floral prints are yet more personal nods. “When I think of floral prints, I think of my grandma’s table back on Curaçao,” says Botter. “She lays down a tablecloth and over these floral prints the whole family is coming together to eat, to tell stories and laugh.”

Elegance is at the heart of BOTTER. The label’s eponymous designer claims it as the frame through which he views clothing, hence his indifference to streetwear, and his preference for the “sharp lines of made to measure suits.” Those sharp lines are executed by Lisi who provides the technical expertise. While the two of them design together, Rushemy is responsible for sketching out their imagination and dealing with colour choice. This approach also inform’s the label’s emphasis on gender fluidity, both in terms of the beautifully made-up male models and the actual garments themselves. “People from the Caribbean can be seen as really masculine but often at heart they are really feminine,” continues Botter. “They wax their brows, they polish their nails. The way they dress, the way they act, the way they stand is just elegant.”

Image: BOTTER, SS18. Photography: Ruth Ossai. Styling: Ibrahim Kamara

Having only just entered the industry, the future is looking bright for the brand. Beyond collaborations and work with superstars such as Naomi Campbell, Young Thug and Sampha, Herrebrugh mentions that two stores have just bought their collection and decided to stock it as womenswear. Despite conflicting with her original idea for the range, the designer is nevertheless elated. “We just look at the lines and the cut and don’t mind if it’s [sold as] men or womenswear,” she says. And what of their next project? The duo are tight lipped, but if current form is anything to go by, expect more of the same with a little twist.

Image: Rushemy Botter and Lisi Herrebrugh. Image: Sean P Murray
Image: BOTTER, SS18. Photography: Ruth Ossai. Styling: Ibrahim Kamara
Image: BOTTER, SS18. Photography: Ruth Ossai. Styling: Ibrahim Kamara
Image: BOTTER, SS18. Photography: Ruth Ossai. Styling: Ibrahim Kamara
Image: BOTTER, SS18. Photography: Ruth Ossai. Styling: Ibrahim Kamara 4
Image: BOTTER, SS18. Photography: Ruth Ossai. Styling: Ibrahim Kamara

 

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