Cottweiler’s Pool Party
From their first catwalk show to being shortlisted for the third LVMH Prize, so far 2016 has given sportswear alchemists Cottweiler much reason to celebrate
Ben Cottrell and Matthew Dainty first met more than a decade ago, as classmates reading fashion at the University of West England. The two became friends on a school trip, consorting on a coach leaving cloudy Bristol, set for the bright lights of Paris. Upon graduating, both accepted roles within larger brands: Cotrell joined the Savile Row atelier of contemporary tailor Ozwald Boateng, while New York born Dainty worked with Kim Jones on the designer’s capsule collections for sportswear giant Umbro.
Throughout those years the two quietly persevered, creating limited runs of tailored garments in technical fabrics. Gaining momentum, the duo was first invited by the British Fashion Council to present their designs during LCM for Fall 2015, since then their static presentations have morphed into must attend appointments. In the past, their tracksuit’ed models (more often than not dressed solely in whites or blues) have used filing cabinets as plinths (Fall 2015), gathered in a Brutalist inner city leisure centre (Spring 2016) or played futuristic farmers employed in artificial cornfields (Fall 2016). Time to take their wares to a real catwalk then, and hard graft paid off, culminating in their first catwalk show this season supported by the British Fashion Council’s NewGen Men umbrella.
Cottrell and Dainty chose to do celebrate their success in an empty, anonymous office block at the back LCM’s official venue, just of London’s Strand. The collection notes described the Cottweiler Spring 2017 wardrobe as worn by ‘a future community of a new Mediterranean’, and the show’s staging followed suit. Up winding concrete stairs and past flickering halogen lights exposed cabling, guests including Wolfgang Tillmans were seated on long benches flanking a catwalk strewn with broken pottery. For coming spring, Cotrell and Dainty took a family heirloom as a first reference, more precisely an antic Cycladic sculpture once owned by Dainty’s grandmother, who hailed from a small Aegean island.
Their first reference lead the designer’s find inspiration in the Mediterranean, seen best in the collection’s colour palette; single tone outfits in bleached whites, sky blue and sandy beige. Cottweiler has garnered a loyal following and commercial success with their take on sportswear, and this collection provided several (very upmarket) lockerrooms’ worth of performance wear. There are zipped cardigans tucked into tailored trousers made of tech fibres, shorts worn with matching over-sized field jackets, Lycra trouser and cagoule like smocks.
A key prop were towels – in the show, this poolside necessity turned accessory tucked into garments and carried by the Cottweiler lifeguard. The duo has long focused on textile research; for Spring 2017, tracksuits are made of loose-weave linen exposed through layers of bonded transparent material, knit tank tops are woven with a combination of cotton and nylon.
Now that their first show is over, the duo is surely focusing on their next challenge – the third edition of the LVMH Prize for Young Fashion Designers. The brand has been selected as one of the 23 semi-finalists, out of 1000 entries from fifty countries. Cottweiler is one of the six entries solely specializing in menswear, joining fellow Londoners Astrid Andersen and Alex Mullins amongst others.