In their wake of their Paris Fashion Week debut, GmbH co-founder Benjamin Huseby opens up about the label and this season’s personal inspirations
When it comes to the arts, and to clubbing for that matter, Berlin is arguably the capital of Europe. So it’s surprising that the city’s presence on the global fashion stage has always been quite limited, restricted to a couple of style titles such as 032c and Dust Magazine. Emerging fashion label GmbH is fast on the way to changing that, though. Founded last year by Benjamin Alexander Huseby, who has already made a name for himself in the industry as a photographer, and menswear designer Serhat Isik, the brand has successful channelled the style and spirit of Berlin’s techno music scene into clothing. Inspired by their community, who met in the city’s nightclubs, and their own multicultural heritage, their designs have sustainability at their heart and are often made from deadstock.
After presenting their first collection in July via a lookbook, this season they made their Paris Fashion Week debut with a full-blown presentation. Here, Huseby and Isik showcased a new line of what has already become their signature: a clubwear-sportswear-workwear hybrid. More than their last, though, this collection felt personal – it features recycled Helly Hansen jackets, a brand that they both have fond childhood memories of, and shirts embroidered with the words “Randomly chosen”, referring to their experience of going through passport control as men of colour. Here Huseby tells us more about this collection, the energy and ethics of GmbH, and how their interest in peoples’ perception of them as men of colour informed their just-staged presentation.
What is GmbH all about?
Benjamin Alexander Huseby: GmbH started out as a collective of people who met through the techno music scene in Berlin. The name is a generic legal term for any company in Germany. It’s playing with an idea of something quite industrial – an industrial aesthetic and of German quality. In a way, we’re somehow subverting that idea too by using a lot of things that are very handmade. The new collection in particular has a lot of complex, artisanal elements. It’s the same mixture of clubwear, sportswear and workwear, but it’s more complex in the way we’re using old clothes, reclaiming old materials and making them into new garments.
What else is going on in the new collection?
Benjamin Alexander Huseby: Like last season, we named the collection after a track that felt like its theme tune – “When A Thought Becomes U”, which is a very dark techno track by Blake Baxter and one of our favourite songs ever. It sums up all these different elements that we’re bringing in together – personal interests, obsessions and fetishes which we’ve gathered together like a collage. The collection itself relates to our backgrounds and identities in many ways.
For instance, we’ve used lots of old Helly Hansen puffer jackets – spliced them up and made them into totally new kinds of biker, puffer jackets. I wanted to work with Helly Hansen jackets because it’s a Norwegian company that I have childhood memories of. At the same time, Serhat had these very 90s memories of the brand from Germany. We’re mixing it with both Turkish and Pakistani elements, but then there's also very German workwear elements.
You didn’t want to use new animal products like leather and feathers – why is this?
Benjamin Alexander Huseby: I’ve been a vegetarian since I was 12 years old. For me it’s about animal welfare. We know that animals in industrial farms – whether it’s leather or feathers – are not treated well and it’s not an industry we’d like to support. We work a lot with deadstock we’ve found, or second-hand materials because we're also interested in the ecological aspect. Ethical fashion is almost considered a bit uncool, or unsexy – you know? But for us it’s important.
“Ethical fashion is almost considered a bit uncool, or unsexy – you know? But for us it’s important” – Benjamin Huseby
What is the relationship between GmbH and Berlin’s techno music scene?
Benjamin Alexander Huseby: I came to Serhat and said I wanted to do a clubwear line and asked if he would help me make it. He was doing his own line at the time, with his own name. We don’t really design specifically for the dance floor anymore, but I would say music and the music scene here in Berlin are both important inspirations for us. There a social aspect to it too – all of us met somehow through going out.
How would you describe the energy of Berlin?
Benjamin Alexander Huseby: It’s a bit of a cliché but Berlin offers a sense of freedom and possibility. If I was living in London, I don’t know if I would have dared to start a fashion label, but in Berlin it feels possible.
Can you tell us about your community and how it relates to your label?
Benjamin Alexander Huseby: Yeah, I feel like we’re a collective or family. It’s like a framework for our clothes. Instead of models, we get people from our community to wear our clothes. And when we design, we don’t imagine models wearing them, but friends. We also think about their personal style. I feel like what we do is very realistic. It’s very much rooted in reality and everyday life, rather than some kind of fashion fantasy.
Do you think your reality might be other people’s fashion fantasy, though?
Benjamin Alexander Huseby: Maybe we’re living the dream!
“We’re aware of the fact that we’re brown people showing in Paris. We’re not presenting a monochrome universe, but one that’s multicultural and multifaceted” – Benjamin Huseby
That’s what I mean!
Benjamin Alexander Huseby: What’s inspiring for us is what’s around us. It’s always been like that for me. My photography and GmbH are both something very rooted in our reality and everyday life.
Your casting reflects your reality too, doesn’t it?
Benjamin Alexander Huseby: Yeah it reflects our friends, community, neighbourhood and ourselves. I think it’s important to show multiculturalism in a positive light – especially now. Plus, Serhat and I are quite interested in how we are perceived as brown people. It’s something that we and our friends talk about quite a lot – like going through passport control and being ‘randomly chosen’, as we call it. We’re aware of the fact that we’re brown people showing in Paris. We’re not presenting a monochrome universe, but one that’s multicultural and multifaceted. We think it’s important that we do this in Paris because the city, and fashion, has severe issues when it comes to race and class. We’re not just bringing Berlin to Paris, we’re also showing a bit of our perception of Paris. We’re also street casting in Paris and using our friends, both from Paris and Berlin.