Luxury is about meaning and emotion - not status

The duo behind Hyères-winning Botter on redefining creativity in a post-luxury world.

Botter menswear show at the 33th edition of the Festival d'Hyères. Photo: Courtesy of PR.

Neatly tucked away on the Côte d’Azur between Toulon to Saint-Tropez, the annual Festival de Hyères operates on the same infallible formula: obscene amounts of sun, mesmerizing views, and rosé wine consumed at ungodly hours. Throw in the crispiest jury you could possibly think of (this year think no less than Tilda Swinton, Haider Ackermann, and modeling legend Farida Khelfa), and a small armada of jolly, if occasionally tipsy, fashion writers.

This appropriately sets the scene for a series of young designers to present their first ever collections to what are probably the most distinguished (not to say terrifying) judges they could encounter in their virginal careers.

Yet, the festival never fails to provide a window into tomorrow’s generational concerns and dreams.

This year was no different: the winners of the Grand Prix du Jury were a perfect example of using fashion as a space for escapism just as much as raising political questions. Rushemy Botter, 31, and Lisi Herrebrugh, both Antwerp Academy graduates, presented a collection hailing from the Caribbean Island of Curacao, where Botter is originally from. Inspired by local fisherman and the way found materials are reclaimed, they showed a collection of menswear with pleated plastic bags, Shell logos transformed into “hell,” upcycled fishnets, and blow-up beach toys used as hats.

“They actively seek to denounce the impact globalization has had on the planet and on local cultures; their vision is a holistic, 360-degree one,” said founder and director of the Festival Jean Pierre Blanc, referring to the duo’s quest to integrate diversity, transparency, and local production into an overall horizontal and respectful process.

Nowfashion met the pair and discussed cultural appropriation, changing beauty standards, and the evolving notion of luxury.

Botter menswear show at the 33th edition of the Festival d'Hyères. Photo: Courtesy of PR.

Congratulations on winning the Grand Prize! What do you think appealed to the jury?

It’s always hard to analyze yourself – but we think that the lightness of the collection, which nevertheless sends a message, is what appealed to the jury. We didn’t want a show that took itself too seriously, but rather, looked to subtly bring in serious topics without being too literal, and leave room for interpretation.

Your casts are always very diverse; do you consciously strive to point out the lack of multiculturalism in fashion?

Everything we do is done in a very organic way; it is never calculated. This said, we are very aware that the current modeling industry is very much dominated by white and very light-skinned models, and there is little to no room for black models, especially at top jobs. Also, regarding the models, just like anyone we work with, it is important to us to build a real relationship. After events, (Botter’s) mom comes in and cooks for the whole team – we want to build a sense of community, respect, and equality in everything we do.

Do you think the new generation is looking at the world in a more conscious manner?

New generations seem to want to change things, see and participate in a real evolution. As for ourselves, we try and do things differently, in all aspects of our work: we make sure to never overbuy fabric, we use local textiles, and make everything from our own ateliers.

Does this consciousness redefine your sense of elegance?

Absolutely. There is a message in our use of recycled plastic bags, typically found in giant department stores. They carry an odd sense of poetry and lightness. This questions what society considers precious or not, valuable or not, and of course is reminiscent of all the obsessive, polluting consumerism round the world.

So, what is luxury to you?

Luxury, as former generations once defined it, was logos and obvious wealth. Luxury today is being actively redefined: to us, it can be something you find in your grandmother’s closet; something that has history, depth. Luxury can also be just sitting with your whole family for a meal. It is about meaning and emotion rather than status.

Is the issue of cultural appropriation something you think about?

Yes, it is definitely something we think about a lot in our work. If something inspires you, make sure to do excellent research about it, experience it, meet people that are part of it, and work with them. We find it pretty superficial and disrespectful to just pick up “Africa” as something cool and disconnected, without showing any true interest or knowledge about it. Cultures and parts of the world aren’t trends!