“Both of us have had salt therapy. We’ve been talking about salt for months now.”
This isn’t quite the sentence you’d expect to hear when talking about a fashion and sportswear collab but Cottweiler isn’t the usual fashion brand and their work with Reebok isn’t a typical collection.
First it’s based on, of all things, what happens after you play sports. “We’re looking at sport aftercare and how garments through manufacturing techniques and fabrics can have a therapeutic effect on the body,” says Matthew Dainty, one half of Cottweiler. In real world terms this means copious use of memory foam, taking the cushioning usually found on the trainers insole and using it throughout the collection, even on the cushioning straps of the backpacks.
Although Cottweiler has often been labelled as a sportswear brand due to its love of a tracksuit, a deeper look into the clothing reveals a love for the technical side of things. Beyond memory foam, the collection uses copper fiber in the seamless knitwear “because it has anti-microbial properties,” bonded seams, rubberized zips and it takes a lacing system that’s previously only been used on footwear and used it on jackets. When Ben Cotrrell, the other half of Cottweiler, walked us through the collection, he pointed out a memory foam embossed jackets that had fully welded seams and seam tapes. “The luggage is pretty important,” he says, picking up a backpack/holdall made from memory foam to show us. “This incorporates the entire collection – all of the fabrication, all of the detailing – it’s the concept piece for the accessories.”
Dainty notes that the brand has “a tailoring approach to sportswear,” something that likely derives from Cottrell, who spent five years working for British tailor Ozwald Boateng on Savile Row. In a recent SHOWstudio interview Cottrell noted that those five years helped his appreciation for the finer points of menswear.
This knowledge helped make Cottweiler what it is today. Initially seen in the same vein as other London fashion brands that take sportswear as an inspiration, people eventually began viewing the brand in a different light, taking note of the more technical aspects of the clothing. For instance, the brand’s spring/summer 2017 was filled with use of bonded linen and other fabrics that wouldn’t be completely out of place in an ACRONYM press release. So does it irk the brand that it’s seen as sportswear? “From our perspective we take a lot of information from not just sportswear but also workwear and utility wear,” says Dainty. “We’ve been working with chemical production companies on providing footwear. All of those things have something in common that is about ease of use and comfort. I think people naturally label that as sportswear but for us it’s universal in a lot of ways.” Cottweiler is far more comfortable calling itself performance wear because as Cottrell says “The fabrics do something. It’s not just a jersey or a T-shirt.”
But, for a label looking to get away from the sportswear label, a collaboration with Reebok can be seen as an odd move, so why now? “This is a way of showing our sports influences in a more literal way,” says Dainty. Dainty notes that there’s a line drawn between the Pitti Uomo presentation and the brand’s London show, which was based around artificial nature, while the Reebok collaboration was based around Reebok’s history. “We spent a lot of time with Reebok going through their whole archive – so some of the looks are inspired by some of their 1980s and 1990s styles, but we wanted to bring them up to date and re-fabricate them.”
The collaboration is specifically with Reebok’s U.S. performance division and, in Dainty’s words, is “supposed to bridge the gap between sportswear and high fashion and that’s why we develop the things like the copper fiber knitwear – something that would be great for sportsmen but also, in terms of lifestyle, would aid and help anybody that was wearing it.” One question we’d wondered was how the collaboration came around at all.
We spoke to Corinna Werkle, Head of Design & Apparel Excellence at Reebok, who said “We were creating fitness and athleisure [clothing] but then Cottweiler came over and said ‘we think you’re the original fitness brand and we would like to work with you because you’re not flooding the fashion market.’” Cottweiler explained the seeds of the collaboration in more detail, noting that Reebok first spotted the brand at its 2016 spring/summer presentation at Machine-A. “Anastasia [Franquillo, Reebok’s Global Cultural Connector Collaborations] came down and saw the collection at Machine-A and got to see the fabrics that we’re using – the cut, detail, and subtleties of the way we develop the tracksuit and the conversation just started there.”
The collection itself started out with a trainer that was rather out-of-step with what Reebok usually create. “We developed new running shoes which have a totally different silhouette,” says Werkle. “It has cover lacing and everything is sleek and clean.” That sleekness has long been a hallmark of Cottweiler, who are known for disliking visible logos. Not being a fan of logos for your own brand is all well and good, but for sportswear brands, the logo is the main point of difference. So how did Cottweiler combine its dislike of logos with a sportswear brand reliant on them?
“We found Reebok came to us for that reason, producing something with a bit more subtlety,” said Dainty. They also pointed out they had created some external tags, a piece of dual-branded toweling cotton that’s stuck between transparent rubber and pinned to every garment. All of the branding, including the neck labels and inner labels, is removable. Corinna Werkle noted that “I think the interesting part is that there’s zero branding. There’s embossing, which is very typical for the functional materials, but nothing actually disturbs the surfaces.”
On Reebok’s side the collaboration was a smooth one. “Nobody actually took the lead in the collaboration, everybody gave their point of view, so it was fun to work with them. They’re very normal people.” And, for Cottweiler this meant implementing its unique way of working into the Reebok process. The brand are known for creating its own imagery for its moodboards with Cottrell noting that the amount of self-made imagery has increased from 40% to 95% over the last few seasons. The duo’s inspiration has often been from the fetish world and has included everything from showering fully clothed to stomping around in muddy boots.
For this collection the duo immersed themselves into the collection’s influences. “Both of us have had salt therapy, both of us have been talking about salt for months now,” says Dainty. “As always we like to experience what we’re doing first hand and we always will.”
“They’re not the kind of designers that just put their logo on top of somebody else’s logo”
So why did Reebok think the collaboration worked? “They’re not the kind of designers that just put their logo on top of somebody else’s logo, they wanted to work with us properly and it was very collaborative,” says Werkle. “They’re very down to earth, they try to find out where we’re coming from, they explained where they’re coming from and it’s been a very natural way of working together.”
For Cottweiler, the collaboration is part of the plan to move the brand forward. “We’ve started to put less restraints on ourselves with the design process,” says Dainty. “We’ve always had a lot of rules, which is to obviously define the brand, but we’re starting to be a little bit freer because we don’t want to get stuck in any kind of rut. It’s important for us to push ourselves and this is what we’re doing now.”