Cottweiler get spiritual with anti-fashion show in Berlin

In this video, the FKA twigs collaborators pay homage to the Hare Krishnas

This year, more and more designers are refusing to be confined by the fashion calendar, choosing to go off-schedule to show in cities beyond London, Paris, Milan and New York or in other ways than the traditional (and let’s admit it, slightly tired) runway. NEWGEN recipients and FKA twigs’ costume collaborators Cottweiler are the latest to go their own way – after a successful presentation back in June for London Collections: Men, they travelled to Berlin to create a one-off live installation.

Staged in front of an intimate audience within the minimal tiled interior of new art and commerce space Trust Ltd, their performance openly referenced the Hare Krishnas, whose spirituality and uniformity underpinned the SS16 collection. For the piece, three models with shaved heads sat bathed in warm light and smoke, cross-legged on a square of terracotta carpet. They all wore SS16’s jersey sweatshirts and trousers, with matching sweaters tied across the body mimicking the draping and shapes of the Krishnas’ garments.

Ceremonial tropes were repurposed – holi powder was brushed over a metal engraving of the conch shell, which holds great importance in Hinduism and Buddhism; incense burned, singing bowls and gongs reverberated through the space. The effect was powerful and meditative, and the pace slow, like an anti-catwalk show. It was a contemporary take on age-old traditions, but through Cottweiler's studied approach it honoured rather than mimicked spirituality. 

“When we present something outside of seasonal collections there is much less focus on the clothing. Although it plays a part, it’s more about the environment” – Cottweiler

The presentation was typical of the brand, whose shows often blur the lines between art and fashion, installation and performance, always considering the symbolism and meaning behind their creative output. “When we present something outside of seasonal collections there is much less focus on the clothing,” the designers explain. “Although it plays a part, it’s more about the environment. Definitely the type of space dictates the feel of what we exhibit. It’s also interesting for us to show ‘a look’ in a different context.”

As Darryl Natale from Trust Ltd puts it – “We give our collaborators carte blanche. Our only stipulation is that they do something new and outside of their comfort zone. So Cottweiler took their vision of a cult-like group, which they first envisioned when designing the SS16 collection, and expanded it into an immersive exhibitory experience.” With the likes of 69 ditching New York for LA and Darkdron choosing to show in a Moscow bunker, it seems certain that we’ll only see more designers ditching their comfort zones to place their work in bold new contexts.