Top image: top by COTTWEILER SS18; vest, waistpack, shorts and sneakers all by COTTWEILER FOR REEBOK SS18
With the right keywords on YouTube, we can all delve into the lo-res subcultural realm of sportswear fetishists. Cameras quietly zoom in on outfits of boys in parks, streets, bedrooms, studying the shininess of their Adidas trackies and the pristine whiteness of their Nikes. It’s this visual that’s fundamental to Ben Cottrell and Matthew Dainty’s menswear brand, Cottweiler.
How this intrigue of sportswear obsessives and the rituals of uniforms, of collectives, of competition and heroes manifests at Cottweiler is through subtle, coded, conceptual designs. (At times, they err on awesomely weird – those FW17 hairy trousers, inspired by ghillie suits.) It’s earned them the support of NEWGEN, a London-based platform for emerging designers, plus collaborations with Reebok, and fans such as FKA Twigs, Skepta and Jamie xx.
Kinza Shenn: Sportswear fetishism is a recurring source of inspiration for your work. What’s your fascination with it?
Matthew Dainty: For each of us it comes from a different place. I grew up training as an athlete and played a lot of sports, so sportswear was very much a part of my life. From Ben’s point of view, he had a very different upbringing, he was more inspired by football and terrace culture, and the kinds of labels and names and brands that sat alongside that kind of lifestyle. Then, together, we started discovering the YouTube fetish videos, which were interesting for us because to an untrained eye it could just look like an adoration of a material object, and it’s not necessarily sexualised. That’s what we’re interested in: making people feel confused about what they’re viewing. And also appealing to an audience for different reasons. For people that don’t get the references, they just really love what they’re seeing, they love the visual.
Kinza: What qualities do you think are fetishised in sportswear fetishism? Masculinity?
Matthew: Yeah, definitely masculinity. But I think people really obsess over material objects. There’s a lot of different sides to it, like, I don’t think you can really talk about both gay fetish and fetish and generalise it.
Ben Cottrell: I think a lot of it, especially with sportswear, is to do with the touch. The materials. The more sensual side of the clothing. How it shows the body, or reacts with the body is probably one of the main things.
Kinza Shenn: Can you talk us through your FW17 collection?
Matthew: We were doing a lot of research on classic British outdoor sports like fishing and bird watching, and we wanted to modernise it in some way. That’s where the utilitarian detailing comes from. The show itself tells the story of a group of guys who are camping out in one of those fake garden landscape areas in a shopping centre. That’s the crux of it. Basically, it’s a story about boys robbing a shopping centre, and camping out in this artificial environment.
Kinza: I’ve heard the word ‘rave’ thrown around in relation to the show. Is that a word that came directly from you?
Matthew: Ben’s dad used to work doors on a lot of the old raves in the 90s, so in a lot of ways it’s very much part of him. This collection wasn’t necessarily about that, but rave culture – stuff like European forest raves – is definitely part of our spirit.
Kinza: What are your other cultural references?
Ben: We’re always looking at subculture.
Matthew: We’ve always been interested in finding inspiration that’s not directly related to fashion. Like, over the past few years we’ve grown this fascination with home and car interiors. We try to reproduce certain environments in the fabrication of the garments, and in how the show staging plays out.
Kinza: There’s a big emphasis on materials.
Matthew: We use a lot of sportswear fabrics because they’re really good at what they do and we like things to be functional. But we’re also quite conscious of integrating more natural, organic fabrics and textures. We like to blend fabrics that aren’t used for sportswear into, for example, a tracksuit. Or making a tailored suit from transparent linen, which is a traditional cotton-linen threaded with see-through nylon. So it’s a totally new way of reproducing a traditional fabric. That’s something that we’re interested in, melding those two aesthetics
Kinza: That melding of natural and synthetic comes up a lot in Cottweiler. I remember a really cool video for your SS15 campaign with lots of holiday-resort interiors. It looked kind of vaporwave or MMORPG-ish.
Matthew: Yeah, that was a video that Daniel Swan made, and screened at the ICA. He had taken mine and Ben’s holiday photos – we kind of took a ‘research holiday’, to a seaside resort.
Kinza: Research holiday?
Matthew: [laughs] Yeah, it was at like, a cruise ship planted into the side of a mountain, and we documented our whole journey and the environments we were in; objects, wall textures, anything that we found interesting. Then Daniel rendered them into 3D objects, so there was this blurred line between producing work that was real and stuff that was 3D animated.
Ben: We basically wanted to show a boy that potentially went on a holiday, or potentially didn’t. Was it all in his head? Was it a fantasy or did he actually go on a trip?
Kinza: Did you go on a research holiday for this new collection?
Ben: We actually created a really synthetic indoor campsite in the studio.
Matthew: Like a mini show set. And everywhere that we’d been travelling for the four or five months previous to that, we’d gone to every single shopping centre we could possibly find and just photographed people sitting in those little communal gardens.
Kinza: How did you guys start the brand?
Matthew: Me and Ben were spending a lot of time together, we had a little studio and we were making clothes for each other and always shooting each other in certain pieces to create imagery that we thought was interesting. We started building up our own mood board on Tumblr. It was a really long time ago so it wasn’t something we thought anyone would ever see. That also relates to the sportswear fetishism, when we were talking about that kind of aesthetic and YouTube fetish videos. When me and Ben first started shooting things on each other, we didn’t want anyone to see it was us so we’d always shoot from below, or crop the head off and stuff. Part of the reason why we became interested in the sportswear fetish community was because that was exactly what they were doing – uploading pictures of them in a pair of Nikes and a tracksuit with their head chopped off. There was this common way of doing things between us and them, but for different purposes. So I think that’s a big relationship to the fetish side of things: that sometimes it’s not that deep, but just really about a visual, an appearance. And we just carried on.
Kinza: What’s the next stage for the brand, how do you see it evolving?
Ben: I think we’re just going to keep expanding what we’re doing, introduce more products, create more of a lifestyle brand rather than simply a clothing brand.
Matthew: We’re still working with a lot of musicians, but we’re working on treatments for videos, art direction for videos. We’re also doing some exhibitions, more art related, but as for the brand itself, we’re conscious of growing slowly and of brands that are overexposed in a really short space and time. We feel that it adds value to take our time. And we need to just release stuff that we’re happy with, and not to feel pressured to have constant content.
Interview published in HERO 18.