You’d be forgiven for not recognizing the label GmbH yet. A sly reference to the suffix following many companies’ names—the German version of LLC—it is intended to mask the identity of the label’s designers. “We wanted a sense of anonymity in a name so generic it means nothing and anything,” explains Benjamin Alexander Huseby, who co-runs the line with Serhat Isik. “I’ve never been interested in a celebration of genius. That’s an old-fashioned idea of how creativity happens. You can’t make anything in a vacuum.”
But it’s becoming harder and harder for Huseby and Isik to keep their names under wraps. GmbH—whose recent first-anniversary party was held in a Berlin speakeasy and soundtracked by DJs who have modeled for the brand—has garnered a cult following and praise from outlets like Vogue and i-D.
Of course, it helps that the brand’s designers have been working in the industry for years. Huseby, who helms the line’s visuals, is a professional photographer, having contributed to W and Interview, among other publications. On the other end of the spectrum, Isik has worked as a designer and design consultant for labels like the Berlin-based Bless. “We both have a background in fashion but from opposite [sides],” Huseby says. “He has the technical training, and I worked as a fashion and art photographer for many years. We meet in the middle and can expand the process of how clothes come to life.”
It also matters that, at a time when consumers are demanding more from the labels they engage with, GmbH is using clothing to create conversations around sustainability and identity politics. For the former, that entails sourcing many of their materials from deadstock—Helly Hansen coats and bags were reimagined into artisanal puffer biker jackets and anoraks—and using recycled plastic bottles for filling. “It goes beyond just having organic cotton T-shirts,” Huseby says of making a fashion brand eco-friendly. That approach trickles down to every aspect of their business, even the daily vegetarian group lunches cooked by the design team in their Kreuzberg workspace—a former paint factory—on a rotating basis. “It’s a little daunting when we have new people in the studio because they have to cook for 8 to 10 people,” Huseby says. “But it’s a nice way of getting everyone together and taking a break.”
That sense of community is also part of the design process. “We’re putting clothes in a wider context and talking about issues that are important, like diversity—not just in fashion but in the world in general—and representation of people who aren’t as visible.” Their Spring 2018 collection, presented at the Institut du Monde Arabe in Paris, took inspiration from their immigrant and Muslim roots, as well as the origin story of the beautiful Phoenician princess Europa. As Huseby says, “It was the new and old, East and West, represented in our utopian vision of the world.”