Friday 22nd January

| BY Paul Toner

Botter: Menswear AW21

This season, Botter swapped show notes for a manifesto. “We care about fashion, as the golden daughter of all arts. We care about nature, as the golden mother of all arts,” it read. “Without nature, no arts, nothing. Without the sea, no human, no us.”

When Dutch couple and design duo Rushemy Botter and Lisi Herrebrugh founded the label in 2017, they caught the attention of the fashion press for their exaggerated volumes and exuberant takes on sartorial menswear codes. They made headpieces from inflatable dolphins and tied fishing rope, plastic and other forms of debris around swollen suits and slouched tailoring – using design to raise awareness on ocean pollution. 

The brand’s latest collection is a product of something the pair have been secretly working on for quite some time: a Botter coral nursery off the coast of Curaçao (the Caribbean island where Rushemy is from). The Caribbean’s coral reefs are quickly deteriorating because of mass tourism, the fishing industry and overall climate disruption. “For us, it’s not the time to be just making garments when there’s so much going on in the world,” explains Rushemy over a crackly phone line as the pair travel from a fitting at Nina Ricci – the duo have been creative directors of the house since 2018 – back to the Botter studio to watch the final edit of their audience-less catwalk film that premiered yesterday evening.

With the pair unable to travel to Curaçao to oversee proceedings, Rushemy’s uncle is acting as the middle man, working alongside a local diving club which is neutering the coral. Instead, Rushemy and Lisi have been buried in research, discovering what garments and technical fabrics are needed to work in the sea. “There’s not one thing that’s there for decoration,” says Lisi as she giddily explained her findings from looking into the history of the diving suit.

Their shared fascination with underwater garb was translated into the collection, captured in a dimly-lit space by a swarm of drones. Models wore louche tailoring over wet suit hoods; blazers appliquéd with fishing tackles; baggy trousers that pealed back at the waist like a scuba suit; and jumpers adorned with handsome sprouts of coral and other aquatic features. Some wore goggles, too.

Most of the pieces were made from a material not too dissimilar to taffeta, which was created using recycled ocean plastic. (Windbreakers came upcycled from an umbrella installation that once hung over Paris.)

Two major accessories cropped up this season. Alongside the label’s signature loafer-Nike Vapourmax hybrids, there was an oblong clutch upcycled from boat floaters – which the pair says is super lightweight – and a leather cross-body bag designed to house an afro comb. “You have these very luxury combs for European hair, I wanted to apply this to the afro comb,” says Rushemy. “Something you can be proud of.”

It goes without saying that Botter has achieved an incredible feat this season. It’s a label that should be celebrated more. Not just for its devotion to innovation, but for the tenderness in which Rushemy and Lisi approach everything they do. Botter has purpose.

Photography courtesy of Botter.