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. Don’t forget to follow Design & Culture by Ed on Instagram!
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.
“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.
As Benjamin Huseby and Serhat Isik of the Berlin-based brand GmbH explained, “we have always talked about protection, but this time we wanted to make a gentler collection and focus on spiritual, or intellectual, protection.” Huseby and Isik looked to their cultural heritage (which is fusion of Pakistani, Norwegian, Turkish and German) and focused especially on the Nazar, also known as Evil Eye. Wearing an evil eye is a form of superstitious protection from misfortune at the hands of fate, and GmbH’s models were heartily armored in beautiful brocade evil eye shirts, flowing many-eyed silk shirts and trousers, T-shirts, and gorgeous dresses in intense blue and pink. Good energy is always welcome. The designers as well impressed with their clever tailoring that was just the right balance between formal and sporty. GmbH gets better and better with every season.
“There’s this melancholy that comes from always being told we’ve gone past the point of no return,” said GmbH’s Benjamin Alexander Huseby and Serhat Isik’s, minutes after their autumn-winter 2019 collection for men and women. The Berlin-based brand, that shows in Paris, referred to planet Earth and irreparable damage the humanity causes to it. The designers frequently refer to the topic of migration, and their conclusion – “leaving this planet is the ultimate migration, right?” – was starkly contrasting with fashion’s common sense of being distant from world problems. So, what will we wear at the moment of the global exodus? Grey jersey dresses and knits, military bomber jackets, tie-dyed, worn-looking denim. But, if you’re an optimist and think that we’re staying on Earth for a while, you’re more than welcome to turn to GmBH for the office-wear – made fashion, of course. Hammer and pick logo appeared all over the pants and puffer jackets (nothing says ‘work it!’ as this one…). Boys wore shirts with ties under sporty jumpers, while the girls walked the runway in cinched-at-the-waist blazers and masculine coats. The navy, grey & black colour palette was brightened up with a pinch of beige. While the utilitarian toolbox clutch might seem the next big accessory for men, GmBH surprised their female customber base with two evening dresses, intricately ornamented with floral and metal motifs.