It’s not enough to just make clothes anymore,” Rushemy Botter said on a Zoom call. That’s a radical statement from a fashion designer. Let’s call it a sign of the escalating climate emergency that is 2021, and the changing nature of ambition among the emerging talents of today. The two things are intertwined. It’s not unusual to encounter people the age of Botter and his partner Lisi Herrebrugh who say that they aren’t planning to have kids, that the world isn’t safe enough to bring children into it. Really, what’s the point of discussing hem lengths when that’s the kind of crisis we’re dealing with?
During the pandemic downtime, the Botter designers worked to set up a coral nursery off the Dutch Caribbean island of Curaçao. For spring 2022, they took their commitment to the rehabilitation of the world’s seas a step further by working with the nonprofit environmental organization Parley for the Oceans. Sixty percent of their fabrics were produced by Parley from recycled ocean plastic. Even though some of the materials were stiff and others too soft and they were forced to do wash tests and other experiments, “it was quite liberating to work this way,” said Botter, “to work with what we had.”
When they won the Festival d’Hyères Prize back in 2018, Botter and Herrebrugh were talking about ocean pollution. As they settled into Paris the lure of capital-F fashion steered them away from that, but it makes sense to come back around to the subject. Positioning themselves “as an aquatic brand,” as Herrebrugh put it, gives them a unique selling proposition in a crowded market. And it doesn’t hurt to take pointers from scuba design when sport is such an essential influence on contemporary menswear.
Two key pieces are a blazer with an optional dive suit double closure at the neckline and a bomber that’s built on a neoprene vest so it can be slouched off the shoulders. A hookup with the umbrella manufacturer Piganiol resulted in upcycled rain jackets whose strange angular shapes were informed by their source material, and a collaboration with the artist Ibby Njoya resulted in a couple of quite cool spray-painted jackets. Lots to think about, and plenty to wear too.