What do you do when both founders of a collective are suffering from the virus at the center of the ongoing pandemic, suppliers and textile mills are closed, and you still need to get a spring 2021 collection together? According to designer Serhat Isik and photographer Benjamin Alexander Huseby, who founded the Berlin-based fashion collective GmbH in 2016, you pivot.
GmbH’s Spring 2021 collection, which premiered (in a sense) at the online Paris Fashion Week, started as a rather pragmatic project, they say, “in our attempt, at first, to make a small commercial collection with the limited resources and time we had.”
While running a business during a crisis, they renamed the collection Spring (as opposed to Spring/Summer) to indicate “both a sense of abruption of time, but also a new beginning.” And their collection “Rituals of Resistance” was nowhere near a traditional one, which might be expected from a collective founded on the principle of using fashion to address issues of race, beauty standards, and the struggles of marginalized people.
Instead, there were three linked projects that experimented with fashion as a progressive force. It included two films: A Guest on Earth and artist Lars Laumann’s A Season of Migration to the North, which was shown at the same time as the new clothing in the collection. Season Of Migration is the true story of Eddie Esmail, who with a group of friends staged a fashion show in Khartoum, Sudan, in 2010. An LGBTQ+ activist, Esmail was arrested by the police for being gay along with other members of the group shortly after the show. Esmail had to flee Sudan, and is today a political refugee in Norway, where he met Laumann.
A Season of Migration to the North is at the intersection of race, LGBTQ+ rights, asylum, and fashion, Isik and Huseby said in their collection notes, showing “how the innocent act of a fashion show can be both subversive and fiercely political.”
Making this small collection in quarantine with limited resources forced a sense of focus on the designers, and this season’s styles are based on GmbH staples, mixing their cultural heritage and the city of Berlin “with formality, uniforms, fetishes, and stereotypes. The collection is unashamedly ungendered but plays with codes of performed identities such as butch and femme, no matter how you identify.”
The things fans love about GmbH are back, like the double zips from German carpenter uniforms and utility pockets that add unexpected touches on their menswear designs. The color-blocked intarsia knits have peek-a-boo holes, there’s lots of baby blue and black vegan leather, and flowy satin shirts knotted above the waist. Some shirts are simply made from GmbH logo jacquard lining materials, exemplifying the new use of resources. The classic GmbH Chappal loafer, inspired by the cross design of traditional Pakistani sandals, are reimagined as mules in signal red and black velvet, perfect for tossing off under your home desk.
All images courtesy of maker.