Exploring Tensions. GmbH SS23

Though launched as a menswear label six years ago, GmbH is actually more like an ecosystem. Fashion is the baseline, of course, but its network spans artists, musicians, DJs, writers, muses, and friends of every stripe who resonate with its message of “decolonizing” attitudes. The spring-summer 2023 collection, called „Ghazal”, after the ancient form of Arabic poetry, officially marked the first time the designers focused on fleshing out a woman’s wardrobe, but it played more like an exercise in continuity. Exploring the tensions between religion, morality, freedom, and sex offered ample fodder – and given that Benjamin Huseby and Serhat Isik are simultaneously easing into their new role at Trussardi in Milan, they managed to pull the whole thing off with flair. “Blurry boundaries were always kind of interesting to us,” Isik offered backstage about a collection billed as “beach to ballroom, and maybe club, opera, and ashram.”. Spirituality – specifically protection and healing – was a leitmotif. Evil eyes cropped up as buttons, and prints developed with Java-based Indonesian artist Muhammad “Rofi” Fatchurofi were inspired by the transformative properties of water. On the runway there were continent-hopping, gender-fluid ideas about tailoring: a draped skirt with a matching shirt conveyed glamour with the ease of pajamas, while a similar one slipped under a crisply constructed leather jacket fused a European construct with the lungi worn by men across Asia. Another, worn alone, was accessorized with a shell necklace by the Berlin-based designer Nhat-Vu Dang, who lent several striking pieces to the show. GmbH also revisited last season’s talisman prints in Arabic calligraphy by the Berlin-based Syrian artist Abdelrazak Shaballot, transposing the affirmations “safe from harm,” “wisdom,” and “knowledge” onto lasered denim or slip dresses in blue and white. Not so long ago, shorts in denim or vinyl worn with or without a two-pocket apron belt – or perhaps a fur stole – would have skewed more club than night at the opera. Which was the designers’ point: nowadays, anything goes.

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.
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NET-A-PORTER Limited

Excavation. Trussardi SS23

Serhat Isik and Benjamin Huseby‘s vision of Trussardi takes shape with the designers’ second season for the Italian heritage brand. Presented in the gilded salons of Palazzo Clerici, the spring-summer 2023 offering gave hints of how they’re easing into their role, after a strong first outing which was a break with the past, clean to the point of subversion. “This time it was more about trying to develop a wardrobe that makes sense for Trussardi,” they said backstage. “It may sound boring, but we’re bringing our own vision, mixing modernity with history.” Digging into the brand’s archive was “excavation work,” they explained. “There’s lots of richness there – the exceptional leather work, the ’80s and ’90s sexy and cinched silhouettes, the sensuality, the femininity, but also a masculine glamour.” Some of these elements were brought back for spring. Sensuality was played out in fluid dresses in liquid jersey with twisted necklines and cascading hemlines; floor-length satin gowns were wrapped around the neck, draped and ruched; slits and cut-outs opened to reveal bare skin. The best representation of leather work was a faux embossed crocodile bomber, round-shouldered and cinched, paired with a ruched miniskirt. The designers also tried their hand at denim, one of the house’s signatures, offering sculpted pieces glamorized with crystal appliqués. “It’s a learning process,” they offered. “Absorbing and adapting to the Milanese culture is a sort of anthropological exploration. We’re learning to work with things that we don’t always like, or which make us slightly uncomfortable. Our view of history isn’t linear, rather it’s often chaotic“.

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.
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NET-A-PORTER Limited

Back To Black. Trussardi AW22

This Milan Fashion Week, it’s renaissance time for a number of Italian brands that in recent years fell into oblivion. First was Diesel, where Glenn Martens has his triumphant runway debut. Then, all eyes were on Trussardi – a brand that until Serhat Isik and Benjamin Huseby‘s take-over had pretty much no identity. Isik and Huseby have made their own Berlin-based brand GmbH a platform for commenting on the moral, philosophical, and ethical quandaries of our era, from race to religion, through fashion. Of course, the designers tried to bring some of that to the sleepy Italian label. The designers began by taking Trussardi’s signatures and making them their own. Rugged, embroidered piumino jackets opened the show, a nod to the anonymous but ubiquitous outerwear of European city life. Then the pair cast their eyes back further, to the complexities of Medieval and Renaissance dress, building armor-like shearlings and stuffing bustles under foxy black minidresses. Each garment in their 40-look lineup had either a curiously compelling texture – especially the holey knits that appeared mid-show – or a grand-scale elegance, like the coat-gown hybrids for models of all genders. The emphasis on a mostly black palette, Isik said post-show, was to reinforce the strength of their silhouettes. The sober ambience of the show (co-incidentally) felt humble and respectful towards the protests in support of Ukraine in the piazza just outside. Models did walk outside the show space within a barricade to give the crowd a glimpse of what was happening within fashion’s elite walls. It was the only direct clash of fashion and reality; the only acknowledgement of what is happening in Eastern Europe officially on the Milan calendar, along with Giorgio Armani’s silent show and social media posts published by an outrageously small number of Italian designers.

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.

Men’s – Extraterrestrial. GmbH AW22

If Prada started the topic of statement outerwear for men this season, then GmbH joins the conversation with a major tailoring moment. Serhat Isik and Benjamin Huseby are perfecting the cuts of coats and blazers to a couture-level dimension. Take away the wonderful and brand-identifying regal strapping and fur and we are left with a soft 1.5 breasted jacket with a high lapel that fell loosely and beautifully down the body. When worn against the thigh-highs, these jackets’ skirting generated kink, but worn against pants they were differently but no less potently seductive. Let’s not forget about the extraterrestrial elements of the offering, like the disturbing alien shoulders and this sort of out-of-this-world drama conveyed by the garments (very “The Fifth Element“!). But the collection as well covers something much more personal to the Berlin-based designers. As Isik explained, it was the experienced tension between power and constraint in the atmosphere of their religious schooling as queer teenagers that prompted this season’s examination of wearable Islam-specific pieces such as the taqiya. The calligraphic Arabic was adapted from the talismanic exhortations, notes seeking protection that Ottoman soldiers would wear under their armor: Isik’s grandfather would write these out for the men of his village. “I think it’s all the codes we’ve been playing with since the start, just amplified. So you have the club kid, the flasher, the man who looks specifically Muslim. It’s the most formal collection we’ve ever done, but I feel it’s also the kinkiest and sleaziest in a strange way.” This collection definitely proves that Isik and Huseby’s first collection for Trussardi, which will be presented at Milan Fashion Week next month, is one to look forward to.

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.

Organic Forms. GmbH AW20

We wanted to go back much further than just our heritage for our inspiration: to the birth of the universe, basically, when all matter was created.” GmbH’s Serhat Isik and Benjamin Huseby don’t pick one-dimensional inspirations, that’s for sure. They called their autumn-winter 2020 collection Ylem, after a term for the primordial sludge of the universe pre-Big Bang. What they did in the first half of this collection was present coat and pant shapes that had been very laboriously cut not to follow any precedent, the proportions of the human body apart. The shapes they came up with first in seam and drape and then with an interplay of mixed materials were interesting – a warped arm shape was impressive and apparently took three months to achieve. The jewellery, made in collaboration with Panconesi from different mineral stones, were a matching accessory to those organic silhouettes. In the second half of the show, the line-up expanded into colored patches and versions of the mixed link chain print (reminding DNA spirals) that had been monochrome in the first. Silk zodiac prints well addeed up to the scientific-slash-magic mood.

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.