While it may not have been the most hyped show in New York Fashion Week's expansive roster, buzzy newcomers Ottolinger stirred up quite a scene in more ways than one during their first SS17 solo catwalk presentation.
As you may or may not recall, the Berlin-based designers made their NYFW debut last season during VFILES FW16 lineup, a show that's become notorious for predicting which brands will be making waves in the seasons to come. (Fun Fact: The design duo behind Ottolinger, Christa Bösch and Cosima Gadient, were actually the head creatives for YEEZY Season 4, which was the most hyped show in New York Fashion Week's roster. Sums it up, really.)
The show was something of an "industry insider" affair. Kardashians didn't pull up with hordes of paparazzi following suit. Kanye fanboys and "But I'm on the list" types were kept at bay. Instead, the function attracted an eclectic mix of seasoned fashion industry personnel that included everyone from 032c's Marc Göhring and Instagram "It" model Sita Abellan to LA's leading style consultant Aleali May and retail temple GR8 Tokyo's Mitsuhiro Kubo.
With guests like that, street style photographers had plenty of swaggy getups to give their shutters a rigorous workout. Check out some of the best looks above (shout out to homegirl in the camo/cowboy boot ensemble).
With some time to kill before the scheduled showtime (which is never prompt, by the way), I decided to peep backstage to get a preview of what was to come.
The first thing I noticed were these ridiculously long, ratty hair extensions that were being woven into the models' hair. Some of them were styled as pigtails, while others were crafted as just one big Rapunzel-like braid that dragged along the floor. Luckily, no one tripped.
Each model had a very statuesque, striking quality about them (a common catwalk trope). A few carried themselves like angelic milk maids whose names could've easily been Heidi or Renate, while others had much harder features (the Gertrudes and the Helgas). The Germanic vibes undoubtedly traced back to Bösch and Gadient's Swiss roots; both grew up in Basel, a Swiss-German city located in the country's northern region.
When I made my way towards my seat, I noticed that the catwalk had been transformed into what looked like a scene from a Gaspar Noé film. Blood red lights basked attendees' faces. Ripped white tarps were haphazardly taped onto the floors and walls. A droning ambient filler track seeped out of the speakers. I couldn't tell if I was going to be experiencing a fashion show or a club night at Berghain.
Without warning, blaring florescents turned on and brutal sounds of gabber techno pierced through everyone's eardrums as the models stomped onto the runway. I was thriving (pour one out for my teenage rave years), but some editors were so shaken that they immediately whipped out their headphones as a means to prevent tinnitus.
"We like to incorporate everyday mishaps that happen to clothes such as crinkles, rips and stains and make them sexy," Bösch and Gadient told me. "The collection is flowy and fluid and about exploring sexiness."
The clothes' deconstructive aesthetic, while aggressive, did manage to spit glimpses of femininity on par with couture. Skirts and trousers appeared as if they had been stuffed into a blender. Elegant silk slip dresses were slit and ruffled at the bottom. Pant suits were crafted out of black PVC leather (giving them a fetishistic flair fitting with the show's kinky narrative), tees were emblazoned with photographs of cows and stiletto boots were mummified with duct tape.
If you haven't been to Berlin before, experiencing Ottolinger's show gave a pretty accurate portrayal of the city's defining characteristics: a punkish non-conformist attitude, unorthodox sexuality and, of course, techno. In the '90s, Berlin's mayor Klaus Wowereit tried to attract creative types to the city by declaring "Berlin ist arm, aber sexy" (poor but sexy). Clearly, he has.
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