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Ottolinger AW19 collection Paris Fashion Week 6
Backstage at Ottolinger AW19Photography Nadine Fraczkowski, Courtesy of Ottolinger

Ottolinger is the Berlin-based brand serving sci-fi with a side of sexy

As part of her Dazed guest edit, Charli XCX spotlights the designers bringing post-apocalyptic vibes to Paris Fashion Week

Charli XCX is the sound of pop right now. For September 2019, the prolific auteur is guest editing Dazed. Head here to check out the fashion brand she’s spotlighted, her list of dream collaborators, a visit to her home in LA, a video of her reacting to fans’ memes, plus way more.

“When I’m getting dressed on tour or on photo shoots, Ottolinger’s clothes are always the ones that stand out on the rail: the textures are delicate but there’s also this hard, futuristic vibe about them. They sort of bring to mind this super romantic version of the Fifth Element, but they’re sexy too – when I wear them, I feel like a superhero. Someone once described their clothes as being ideal for a post-apocalyptic rave and I think that’s pretty accurate. The second I put anything by them on, I feel totally cool like I’m ready to shoot a wild music video set in space with a load of pirates or something.” – Charli XCX

Ask Christa Bösch and Cosmina Gadient where they find their inspiration and it’s likely they’ll reply, emphatically and in almost-perfect unison, “sci-fi!” 

Though really they’re only just finding their feet in fashion, the Berlin-based duo behind Ottolinger have already stitched a strong opening to their story through a series of subversive, cinematic collections, each with a distinctly dystopian vibe. Think Hackers – only it’s 2019 and its protagonists are rolling out of about:blank at 9am on a Monday morning – and you’re pretty much there. 

Having first met while still at fashion school in Switzerland, the two connected when Gadient enlisted Bösch to be her fit model. As big advocates for each other’s work, when they graduated they set out for the German capital and began making moves to start something from the ground up. Soon, they became one of the most exciting labels showing on the Paris Fashion Week schedule. 

Initially based out of a studio in Kreuzberg, last year the duo made a break for Moabit, where things are a little more relaxed and they can really focus on their work. “Being over there was crazy, our friends were always dropping in for coffee or to say hi,” explains Gadient. “Up here, they have to be a lot more determined to come see us!”

With the likes of Arca, Dua Lipa, SZA, and even Kim Kardashian all on the seemingly never-ending list of those who love Ottolinger’s cut-out mesh minis, skin-tight see-through kick flares, and barely-there bikini tops (some of which are so complicated they come with instructions), it’s no surprise that they needed a bit of space to breathe. 

Here, ahead of the label’s SS20 show in Paris, we catch up with Bösch and Gadient to talk their fave obscure sci-fi books, whether or not their astrological signs are a good artistic match, and why ‘sexy’ doesn’t even begin to explain what Ottolinger is about. 

What’s your first ever memory of engaging with fashion?

Cosmina Gadient: When I was a kid, I was totally into flamenco shoes. I loved heels when I was little but my mum wouldn’t let me go to kindergarten wearing them and I just remember being like “I really want to wear them!” They were red with white dots and I wore them with a flamenco dress, because I was dancing flamenco. I felt fabulous. 

Christa Bösch: I always wanted to have something different, so I used to stitch and decorate my clothes. I was living on a farm in the countryside, where there was no access to fast fashion or cheap fashion, so I just did my own thing.

When did you start to think ‘this might be a career’?

Christa Bösch: I was studying law and was not so happy with it, so I did an internship at a fashion company and was like ‘okay, yeah, I’ll do fashion!’

Cosmina Gadient: I was really interested in fashion from a young age. I grew up in a really creative family and it was clear that doing something like that was an option. I remember looking at all the runway pictures in the magazines in the 90s and I was like ‘yeah I’m totally going to do that’. It was something that was very fluid, there wasn’t just one specific point. Actually I think I wanted to be a musician for quite a long time but when I hit puberty I was like ‘okay fashion!’ (laughs) 

“I think I wanted to be a musician for quite a long time but when I hit puberty I was like ‘okay fashion!’” – Cosmina Gadient

What was the first thing you noticed about each other when you were at design school and how did you become friends? 

Cosmina Gadient: Christa was my fitting model! But we were always admiring each other’s work. We were a year apart but we would hang out a lot after school and talk. It was a really small school, very family-like, so people were very close. But we just happened to hang out the most.

What do you each bring to the Ottolinger table? 

Christa Bösch: I think it’s really about the mix. One day it can be one thing and one day another, but there’s a constant discussion about everything that’s going on.

Cosmina Gadient: We also don’t design on paper, our drawing is all 3D, so I think there’s very much a physical dialogue between us. 

What are your astrological signs? 

Cosmina Gadient: Pisces.

Christa Bösch: I’m a Gemini.

Do you believe in astrology?

Christa Bösch: Yes! We have this app on our phones now, Co-Star. 

Everyone in the Dazed office has that too, its advice is so weird sometimes...

Christa Bösch: Yeah exactly! Mine was actually really strange once, it just said: “You should get food today”. I was like okay… thanks?

So how do your signs match up? 

Christa Bösch: We don’t match perfectly. There’s a lot of discussion, but they say it can be a powerful combination if we manage to get on. (laughs) 

Do you disagree on things when you’re putting together a collection?

Both: Oh yes!

Cosmina Gadient: I think actually when we do it make things a bit more interesting. If we agreed all the time, it might be… I don’t know, not ‘too easy’, because it’s nice when we agree, but also when we don’t it’s interesting to work things out. 

“With Ottolinger, you can be sexy and you can be smart. You can be both, you don’t have to choose. We like to empower people to feel better and stronger” – Christa Bösch

What does Ottolinger stand for as a label?

Cosmina Gadient: I think we really try to have a bigger meaning beyond some of the very superficial fashion out there. And of course our stuff is quite sexy but also we try to be very smart about this, there’s not just one way to be sexy. 

Christa Bösch: With Ottolinger, you can be sexy and you can be smart. You can be both, you don’t have to choose. We like to empower people to feel better and stronger.

Cosmina Gadient: That’s also why we pack these fantasy stories into our collections, to make it accessible somehow. We try to merge fantasy and reality and make everything more playful.

How would you sum up Ottolinger in a couple of words?

Christa Bösch: I think like... fantasy posh.

Cosmina Gadient: We often get told there’s something about our clothes that people can’t quite describe, actually. 

What’s it like living and creating in Berlin? 

Cosmina Gadient: It’s super vibrant. There are a lot of people from all over the world which makes it a really unique place, and it changes from day to day. The people we surround ourselves with are very diverse. We’ve come from art, music, fashion – it’s not only fashion because we don’t really think fashion’s the strongest point of Berlin. But it’s a mix of all these different fields that merge into a very strong energy in general.

You’ve talked a lot about finding inspiration in science-fiction books. Do you have any recommendations for Dazed’s readers? 

Cosmina Gadient: Yes! We use them as references and mythologies in order to create new worlds through our clothes. We read the story, or watch the movie, and then we write and rewrite it in our heads or in our collections. 

Christa Bösch: The first one we’d point out would be The Three-Body Problem by Liu Cixin, because it’s really interesting and combines a lot of cultures together, with like the Chinese view of sci-fi and the European one. Then The Waste Tide by Chen Qiufan, which is a futuristic story that looks at society and the class system. Plus Folding Beijing, by Hao Jingfang. It’s super abstract. (laughs)

You have fans in the form of Arca and SZA and you’ve collaborated with Charli XCX. Who would you love to work with next?

Cosmina Gadient: Honestly it’s not just the person, it’s also the occasion. Say there’s a great artist but they wanna do something for Coachella… but then you’re like ‘how often can you do Coachella?!’ 

Okay… say it was the Met Gala? 

Cosmina Gadient: Like... Rihanna?! (laughs). No no, I don’t know. She’s a style icon, but it’s too tough to say.

What can we expect of your SS20 collection?

Cosmina Gadient: Oh, you’ll see!