cruising in seoul with cottweiler
As the only international brand showcased at Seoul Fashion Week, the London-based elevated everyday reality wear label reimagined its autumn/winter 19 collection on an entirely Asian cast.
Backstage images courtesy Cottweiler
“It’s been a crazy few days,” Matthew Dainty explained from a quiet corner of the temporary studio located inside the futuristic, Zaha Hadid-designed Dongdaemun Design Plaza [DDP] in the hours before Cottweiler’s Seoul Fashion Week debut. “From our Instagram, we knew that we had a growing number of followers here in Seoul, especially musicians and rappers but it’s been hard for us to connect because of the language barrier. When you’re on the other side of the world, it’s easy to lose that connection so this opportunity has been great for us.” After Seoul favourites Blindness and Push Button were invited to show during LFW in recent seasons, Seoul Fashion Week and the British Fashion Council continued their designer exchange programme as Cottweiler became the only international brand to be showcased at this season’s event.
Over the last decade, the South Korean capital has established itself as an international cultural hub exporting the latest in K-pop, K-beauty and K-fashion across the globe. Over the last few seasons, Seoul Fashion Week has been at the centre of it all. So, fresh from presenting their cruising-themed collection during LFWM, the Dalston-based design duo took a tightly edited and updated collection to Seoul Fashion Week.
“This experience is all about broadening the Cottweiler name,” Matthew explained. “Our biggest market, and the fastest growing one, is Asia but I’m not sure that we’ve fully understood it,” he added. Seoul Fashion Week is a unique opportunity in Asia, attracting over 800 journalists representing over 300 media channels across the continent and, arguably more importantly, 600 buyers, with a significant proportion of whom are Chinese. Ultimately, Seoul offers a credible and aspirational platform to showcase to the wider Asian fashion industry. “This is an education process for us,” he noted, “and Seoul’s the perfect place to do it but we didn’t want to repeat what we did in London.”
In January during LFWM, Cottweiler looked beyond swiping right as they reminded us of the “lost art of cruising” as they offered up a camouflage for nighttime wandering. Then, the show venue took the audience twelve floors beneath an east London car park with a catwalk flanked by two moss-covered urinals, water streaming over them, and bordered by park fencing. Post-show, the pair explained that they “wanted to develop a range based on traditional British menswear looks, while challenging both expected dress codes and masculinity overall”. This time the show venue was a stripped back space in the basement of the DDP, the widened Cottweiler wardrobe was even more in focus and it became that bit more complete with added perforated nappa tailoring and the extension of the debut denim pieces introduced earlier this year. “We’ve tried to make this more slick, more evening luxury... think of this show as date-night,” Cottrell explained as he surveyed the rails ahead of the next model fitting. “They’ve met on the streets and now they’re in the hotel lobby,” he added with a laugh. Who said romance was dead?
“When we got here we had an idea how we’d style it but it’s evolved over the casting process,” Dainty noted. Cottweiler have always been driven by the shapeshifting characters that continually inspire the duo. In Seoul, it took them a few days to discover just who their character would morph into. “We just didn’t know what we were going to get but that’s why we had to bring Mischa [11casting founder Notcutt] with us because she’s done every show, she knows our characters just as much we as we do ourselves.” The starting point was boys they’d already cast in London and then they widened their world. “We’ve been using Juno since Pitti and it’s good to keep a few familiar faces and then introduce new ones,” Notcutt explained. “Even though it’s a full Asian cast, mostly Korean, we still managed to find a spectrum of characters,” she added. Many of these characters were exclusively cast by Cottweiler and the result was a demonstration that K-beauty is becoming less homogenised. “It’s so interesting because this is our interpretation of what we categorise as our boys, through the lens of Seoul,” Matthew explained.
In addition to this the duo assembled a few Seoul-based assistants who had interned at their Dalston-studio while studying at London fashion colleges. This home away from home environment, alongside the opportunity to connect with their international tribe has opened their eyes to taking advantage of opportunities beyond LFWM. “We know how important it is to work on projects, across different formats, throughout the year,” Matthew explained. “This Seoul show is a test. It’s about showing outside of our home turf, seeing how people react and how we manage.”
Judging by the reaction of the crowd packed into the Seoul, Cottweiler aced the test. So what’s next? “We’ve just started working on a new ballet, Shobana Jeyasingh’s Staging Sheila,” Matthew explained. After the success of their collaborative costumes got dance company Rambert2’s debut performance last year, the duo were approached by the Jeyasingh to work with three dancers for the Chennai-born, London-based choreographer’s latest piece will premiere in the autumn. From far flung fashion weeks to dance companies, Cottweiler is on the move.