Drawing on the design duo’s personal experiences as children of Muslim immigrants in Europe, GmbH has quickly gained a cult following for its brutalist silhouettes, cut to both enhance and protect the body. From migration, ecology and club culture, GmbH engages with global topics through the designers’ own lived experiences, unapologetically intertwined with politics, heritage and their multicultural community.
GmbH was founded in Berlin by Serhat Isik and Benjamin A. Huseby in 2016 as a project to use the medium of fashion to respond to current events in the world. At the core of the label is storytelling, using the craft of garment making to explore where we come from and where we are going as a community, as a family and as humans.
Both Isik and Huseby have been environmentally and socially responsible since the label’s inception. Their earlier collections were made entirely from materials that would otherwise go to waste. As the collections have grown, about 90% of GmbH materials now fulfil the label’s ambitious environmental policy goals of being organic, recycled, upcycled or biodegradable.
For the International Woolmark Prize, GmBH embarked on a journey back to the origin of everything, with a collection called ‘Ylem’ “after the epoch that came shortly after the birth of our universe where all matter was created,” explain the designers. “We can still today see the first light of the universe, measured by radio and microwaves of Ylem. Coincidentally Ylem is phonetically identical, a homophone, to ‘ailem’, Turkish for ‘my family’. From dark matter comes light.”
Exploring the versatility of Merino wool, GmbH offers everything from constructed and sculpted tailoring in felted wool, to engineered pattern cutting and elaborate canvas work. They explore plastic-free technical outerwear such as biker pants and trench coats made from 100% Merino wool, spun so tight the fabric becomes repellent to both wind and rain and eliminates the need for chemical finishing. The swapping of wool for traditional fur in its knit dresses means that GmbH stays true to its environmentally conscious ethos.
“Through the whole International Woolmark Prize process, we worked closely with factories to eliminate chemical use and waste.”
“Through the whole International Woolmark Prize process, we worked closely with factories to eliminate chemical use and waste,” said Isik and Huseby. “Whenever possible we made fully fashioned knits, which avoids any offcuts or wasted fabric or yarn. We made a jacquard knit from Merino wool spun with reflective yarn and with a digital print of the zodiac. Digital printing is the least wasteful of printing techniques.”
Throughout the collection are two print artworks, one a graphic chain print, resembling DNA, but taken from a geometric ornament found in Turkey from around the 1400s. The other is a zodiac and starry night sky painting based on historical paintings from Iran. “Astrophysics and astronomy, like mathematics, have much of their origin in the Middle East, and our interest in these sciences is part of our continuous research into our MENASA (Middle East, North Africa and South Asia) origins and non-Eurocentric history.
“Ylem is both poetry and physics. It’s in the balance between emotion and pragmatism we design our collections. One could say that in our dark times, where the ideas of truth and logic are threatened, embracing science is also a political act.”