Helmed by designer Margot Charbonnier, Berlin-based clothing label Sample-cm, founded in 2015, create bespoke apparel and accessories exploring diverse sports each season, embracing a decidedly slow fashion positioning. For their latest collection, GB2021-CLUB, Sample-cm brings together the worlds of boxing and luxury fashion, exploring the realm of martial arts as a means to break through the taboos associated with women’s rage. Functional pieces are inspired by the hand-strapping technique in boxing, sleekly wrapping around the body, while jewellery riffs on knuckledusters, and hats appear like protective headgear. Through Charbonnier’s vision, women’s anger is embraced and celebrated as something that is vital for change, prompting radical shifts in the industry. To learn more about Sample-cm, the latest collection, and how Charbonnier is managing life in lockdown, Something Curated spoke with the designer.
Something Curated: Could you give us some insight into your background; how was Sample-cm born?
Margot Charbonnier; After studying social sciences and fashion, I worked for a few years as an artist through performance, textiles and video. In 2015, after moving to Berlin, I founded Sample-cm as a fashion label. Its first collection of active wear was called ‘Grand Bassin’ in reference to a big leap/risk to take. Since then, ‘Grand Bassin’ became the name of the luxury main line of Sample-cm, exploring each season a new sport and its cultural background – gymnastics, soccer, climbing, motorsports, swimming and this season: female boxing.
‘Grand Bassin’ has been designed around a concept of interactive clothing, incorporating small gestures and highlighting daily rituals into the designs. How do we practice/live with our clothes? Luxury sportswear has been a perfect manifestation to explore this question of practicality, and this is how ‘Grand Bassin’ was born. Sportswear naturally integrates aesthetics, cultural and social signs, with usability, through progressive technology. These elements work together, they merge naturally and it has been my way of incorporating social questions into fashion creation.
SC: How do you think about female identity and the reclamation of power in relation to your practice?
MC: I have been trying to fit into the very privileged world that the fashion industry is for a long time, and I felt the great urge with this collection to be honest, to talk about my personal struggles as a female designer, as a designer from a working class background. I wanted to stand for what I am, to show myself as vulnerable, to reclaim my independence, release my roughness, my toughness, and to stop pretending I’m part of a world I’m not part of. I believe it is important and cathartic sometimes to speak up, to maybe even yell, as a woman. The choice of the sport for GB2021-CLUB (boxing and more broadly martial arts) came very naturally, as it’s a sport often assimilated to social mobility, with a fantasied working class history, a tough way to make money and surpass injustice and traumas.
And for a girl, for a woman, practicing boxing is also deeply political, it is investing in a space where you are not expected, as its also very provocative, embarrassing, disruptive to demonstrate violence physically, to get muscular, and potentially threatening. I felt, as a designer, the same need to disturb, to shake up a fairly sleepy industry where luxury women’s clothing is still largely designed by men. I found the opportunity to create a collection out of this energy. So the boxing collection came alongside a reflection about gender inequality in sports and in fashion, and was joined with an interactive lexicon around women’s anger – a selection of empowering and still disruptive words and expressions when used by a woman.
SC: Can you expand on the collaborative ethos underpinning your latest project, GB2021-CLUB?
MC: This is the first time I have collaborated on accessories with two other designers – Franziska Vogt from YCCIJ Berlin and Sara De Ubieta from Deubieta Barcelona. We designed with Franziska a jewellery piece, a ring as an elegant twist on a knuckleduster, and two styles of high sneakers with Sara. The website and concept for the campaign were challenging for this project as we decided to launch a specific platform with an interactive lookbook. I had the chance to collaborate with several very resourceful creatives on the video’s concept and the 3D as well as the sound design. It has been a lot of researching, experimentation and mixing of techniques to make it finally exist.
I want to keep collaborating in the future, if possible even more, and also work with non-creatives such as social workers, feminist platforms, sports clubs and academics. It is something I’m starting now to do with two upcoming projects around the same collection. It is very important to me with Sample-cm to keep standing for slow fashion, a fashion which takes the time to write a complete story as an opportunity to make people think and debate. That’s why in my aesthetic, I am also very interested in mixing references, in staying out of a category, in covering the tracks, to raise questions instead of giving answers.
SC: How has the pandemic affected your way of working?
MC: It influenced mostly our business strategy this year. It confirmed and strengthened our direct sale positioning, as it was particularly difficult to get new distribution partners during this period. As we also wanted to offer the GB2021-CLUB collection on measurement, we logically focused on direct sales via our e-store. We set up pre-orders for the first time, we got quantities of fabrics according to these pre-orders and we are now bespoke tailoring. It is very exciting to be in direct contact with our customers all along the making process, to tailor pieces specifically for them, for all those different and unique bodies. In a way it has reinforced our independence and has greatly limited our waste.
SC: What do you want to learn more about?
MC: I want to keep improving the sourcing aspect of the label and learn further how to track material. We are working mostly with deadstock at the moment and its not always easy to track the origin of all the fabrics. This will be one of my main goals for 2021. More broadly, each season has been a great opportunity to learn about and explore a new sport, its culture, its background, the racial, gender and social prejudices it carries. Every year it is a learning and sharing experience and that’s how I want to keep doing it. It is one, even maybe the most important aspect for me in creating a collection.
Feature image: GB2021-CLUB / Courtesy Sample-cm