Benjamin Alexander Huseby and Serhat Isik founded GmbH in 2016 in Berlin, having met on the city’s nightlife scene a year earlier. Built on the principles of a collective, and with multiculturalism at its heart – Huseby is of Pakistani-Norwegian descent, Isik Turkish-German – the fledgling brand set a blueprint for a new kind of label, away from fashion’s mainstream. Their clothes drew from the industrial landscape of their home city; uniform and armour were central, melding a tough utilitarian silhouette with the abandon of the queer nightlife community of which they were a part. Early signatures were carpenter pants and deadstock puffer jackets, compression tops and vegan leather pants. It was sexy, liberated, and smart. It felt new.
Four years on, the GmbH project feels as vital as ever. This past week, as part of Paris Fashion Week’s digital platform, Huseby and Isik revealed their Autumn/Winter 2021 collection, titled Welt am Draht (which translates to “World on a Wire”, the name of a Rainer Werner Fassbinder 1973 sci-fi mini series). Combining the beauty and excess of mid-century couture with the label’s utilitarian signatures, it captured the drama of dressing up, the physical sensation of fashion which can never be translated to a screen – clothes for “escape, full of beauty and fantasy”, as Huseby and Isik tell AnOther over email. It spoke of the desire to be out in the world again, to be surrounded by the community of friends and collaborators from which the label was first born. “Sometimes it feels that our community is as much GmbH as we two are,” they say.
Here, coinciding with the release of the new collection, six of that close-knit community speak on Huseby and Isik’s “sensual, subversive” clothes and what it means to be a part of the GmbH family.
Donna Huanca, Artist
“GmbH makes clothes that are meant to be lived in, and in my case worked in, as many of their pieces have become my studio armour and uniform because of their practicality, and the way the high-quality materials can sustain abuse. Their pieces make me feel protected when working in very physical ways. But the tailoring also makes me feel sexy, strong yet safe, which is a hard balance to achieve. I wear their pants with heels and feel elevated and sexy. I would say my style is androgynous worker by day and club hoe by night. GmbH gives me all that and more.
“I met Benjamin and Serhat on separate occasions in nightclubs, as brown people living in Berlin we gravitate towards each other. I didn’t know they were building GmbH until later as unlike New York, we don’t discuss business in the club.
“My real love for the brand grew from their creative vision and that goes beyond fashion trends and seasons; from their commitment to diversity and inclusivity when casting models, and their desire to go beyond and tell a larger story of the immigrant diaspora experience – a story they understand on a global level. This resonated greatly with my own work. It’s clear GmbH are bringing a fresh, much-needed voice to fashion with an uncompromising vision in reaction to the superficiality and flatness of Eurocentric beauty standards and wasteful hype.
“I love so many pieces, but if I had to choose my favourite, It would be A/W18 Kipset trousers made from recycled leather – inspired by Turkish oil wrestlers – with traditional embroidery stating: ‘My Beauty Offends You’ laid on the tail of my behind. It’s the perfect balance of poetry, history and modernity.”
“I would say my style is androgynous worker by day and club hoe by night. GmbH gives me all that and more” – Donna Huanca
MJ Harper, Dancer, Choreographer and Performer
“It has been an honour and a privilege to bear witness to the creative growth of Benjamin and Serhat. Building a world within a world that is rapidly shifting and highly charged is no small feat. The integrity, care and love that they channel into not only the work but into the communities from which they come from and are present within, demonstrates what it means to walk an honest path. I look forward to all the beauty they have yet to share with the world and how lucky we are to have such forces helping to guide and shape the future.”
Lyra Pramuk, Artist and Musician
“I first met Benjamin in my busiest raving days at Berghain. Benjamin asked me to shoot some photos for a feature in Dust magazine, and we became friends through this collaboration. Serhat and I also met in the club, I don’t remember exactly when. We have always shared a deep vulnerability with one another. We were born together out of those club spaces, with all of the cross-pollination of backgrounds and styles and cultural influences that Berlin embodies and represents.
“I have always felt this strong sense of camaraderie and support and love in our circles. We have collectivity, and GmbH has become a brand that celebrates community and difference. Benjamin and Serhat understand the power of sensual, subversive bodies, souls and beings who emerge from all these intersections of energy, migration, and movement. They also understand the very real relationships of power, capitalism and identity which fuel our world, and they make elegant statements that point toward a different one. Benjamin and Serhat are brilliant, sensitive, have refined taste, and they bring their political imagination to the brand in a totally holistic way.
“In form and in spirit, GmbH makes clothing that honours the tender, sensual warrior in me. Dressed up or dressed down. Whether I am wearing my favourite patterned denim trousers or performing onstage in a bright red, recycled plastic dress, GmbH has in many ways become my second skin.”
“In form and in spirit, GmbH makes clothing that honours the tender, sensual warrior in me ... [It] has in many ways become my second skin” – Lyra Pramuk
Emman Debattista, Consultant and Curator
“When I first met Benjamin and Serhat we instantly connected over our mutual love for fashion history and our favourite couturiers. Coming to Paris each season was more than just walking in the show, it became a family reunion for all of us and a celebration of those collections. Each GmbH piece I own is sentimental; I kind of think of them as family heirlooms that make me feel confident and sexy. The A/W21 show is very special to me as this time our collaboration grew creatively and I came on board as artistic consultant.”
Luca Guarini, Founder and Editor-in-Chief at Dust Magazine
“I met Benjamin several years ago in Berlin when we started doing the magazine, and met Serhat when they started GmbH in 2016. I loved the project from the very beginning. It was really refreshing and felt like it was embodying everything that was interesting about Berlin. It had a strong message and defined identity.
“I love the whole energy around the brand, it’s very powerful in all its aspects: the fabrics, the very structured almost sculptural silhouette, the cultural clash, the sense of inclusivity, the vision of an empowered human being. And the final result is always sexy and sophisticated.
“I love to wear it because it talks to me and the fit is perfect. I have some pieces, like the blue PVC trousers from the S/S18 collection, the military green puffer jacket with the red embroidery from the A/W18 collection, the navy blue puffer jacket and beige PVC trousers from A/W19 and a couple more pieces from S/S20. I wear them quite often, except for the PVC trousers!
“I think I’ve been to all the GmbH shows and I remember all of them quite clearly, but one in particular – A/W18 – felt quite extraordinary. It was outdoors, in a sort of car park on the outskirts of Paris, on a windy and rainy winter evening. The models came out on the runway to this loud soundtrack, walking against the wind with their eyes becoming red and wet. It looked so dramatic and epic.”
“I loved the project from the very beginning. It was really refreshing and felt like it was embodying everything that was interesting about Berlin” – Luca Guarini
Samuel Pereira, Dancer and Model
“The first time I met Benjamin and Serhat was when they asked me to do the A/W17 campaign. Ever since, working with them on the shows, we became more of a chosen family. S/S20 was definitely a memorable show for me – not only was the collection vibrant and evocative, we all hadn’t seen each other for a while and somehow the collection became a celebration of our friendships.
“My favourite piece is definitely the double-zipper jeans from S/S18. They’re a staple piece and I still love wearing them. In general, their silhouettes and cuts always fit my body and give me a sense of self-confidence and assurance.”