Designers Rushemy Botter and Lisi Herrebrugh talk to Document about their Spring 2020 collection, with inspiration plucked fresh from the market.
“I’m from Curaçao, a small Caribbean island. And now, they cannot trade with Venezuela because of [the diktat imposed by president Nicola Maduro]. They cannot do the export and import of fruits and for the Caribbean it is very important,” explains Rushemy Botter, one half of the design duo behind Paris label Botter. “For us, [this collection] is like a big ‘fuck you’ to [Maduro] but we do it in a more subtle, positive way.”
The designer, alongside Dutch native Lisi Herrebrugh, took home the Grand Prize at 2018’s Hyères Festival for their retro-varnished, subtly exotic brand of upside-down cool, which also earned them a tandem role as joint creative directors of Nina Ricci. Despite the weight of the collection’s inspiration, the duo and their offerings are breezy and upbeat.
This season, the starting point was, well, you know those stickers you see on fruit? Those, plus the silky paper wrapping you might find encasing mandarins at a Curaçao market. The stickers themselves were collected and hand-embellished onto tweed blazers, and the prints were scanned and reimagined for cotton shirting and silk scarves. (Interestingly, the two designers noticed the same silk paper stuffed into the collars and sleeves of pieces from the Nina Ricci archives.) Silhouettes draw from Botter’s own small archives—including the upside-down-trousers-cum-psuedo-bomber-jacket from their graduation collection for the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Antwerp, which has since graduated into sweatpants-cum-sweatshirts. Textured navy suiting in a wool-cotton blend featured loose threads calling to mind a shirt you’ve worn to shreds, while a colossal gold parka of couture proportions inflated before our eyes before collapsing to be entirely wearable, yet still eye-catching.
I remark, looking at one particular woollen Spencer vest, that despite being given the Botter upside-down treatment, it could have been pulled directly from the wardrobe of my father, or an elder gentleman of any given ethnicity. “When we look at our moodboard, it’s always the older Caribbean man. He has a natural elegance. His pants are ironed but there is an effortlessness. His clothes are a little bit too big. It’s more poetic feelings. A grandpa thing!” laughs Botter. “We always work in a collage way, so we get our inspiration from everywhere,” continues Herrebrugh. “So, we merged our two worlds: being in Paris—a fashion capital—and owning up to our Caribbean roots. Nina Ricci is the sophisticated sister, whereas [Botter] is the cool guy. [Our brand] is a playground.”
It’s true that the two take a coltish approach to their pieces, beginning with combined research, sketching, 3D collage and the manipulation of flat patterns. “We’re obsessed right now with couture shapes and translating them to our world,” says Herrerugh. “We love playing with the seams.”
Almost all the pieces are articulated with transformable elements, unexpected details, and new ways of wearing. An extended panel of fabric tethered to the neckline of a parka can be rolled up and wrapped around to create a roll collar, and a classic black blazer comes with seams that have been massaged out, disappearing into the back panels. “I think [our clients] always appreciate very much when something is multi-functional, like the pants you can wear like a sweater,” says Botter. “It’s these little secrets that you find out when you’re wearing it.”
But if you’re concerned about the collections being too tricky, rest assured. It’s up to the wearer to interpret each piece. “It’s a constant question we ask ourselves, I think,” says Herreburgh about possible overcomplexity of the garments. “In the end, people just want to wear it. And we’re not the kind of designers to design clothes for the museum, let’s say…We like to see it from [the wearer’s] point of view and to be surprised, like, ‘Oh, we didn’t see it like that.’ It’s nice that everybody has his interpretation with it.” However you do it, it’s all good vibes.
Models Mamadou Lo and Daniel Laros at Elite. Hair Olivier de Vriendt at The Wall Group using Mod’s Hair Products. Make Up Celine Exbrayat at Call My Agent. Lighting Assistant Talos Buccellati. Casting Director Abi Schwinck at Made Casting.