“Put my robe on right, huh?”
– Robert de Niro in Raging Bull by Martin Scorsese
How did you get started in fashion design? Is having your brand something you have always strived for?
After completing studies in social sciences and fashion (Central Saint Martins UK, Duperré FR), I founded the label Sample-cm in 2015 along its luxury line ‘GrandBassin’, weaving together my dual background. “GrandBassin” is indeed designed around a concept of interactive clothing, incorporating daily rituals and physicality into the design. Sportswear naturally integrates aesthetic and cultural symbols with usability through progressive technology, and has been the perfect opportunity to merge social questions into fashion creation. The label answers the necessity to prompt radical shifts in the industry and to reclaim singularity in our relation to clothing (interactivity, call to action, and resistance) and our relation to its lifetime (long lasting tailoring, slow fashion).
Your latest collection, GB2021 CLUB, has many layers. We want to highlight that the taboo of women’s anger and rage inspired you. You transformed those negative emotions into something bold and inspiring to watch. What challenges you to push boundaries?
Yes, women’s anger is very stigmatised and we all learn to repress it from a very early age. It can lead to specific mental and physical health issues for women and girls. Aggressive behaviours, demonstrative physicality in a boxing gym, for instance, are also still very unwelcome for women. Martial arts are particularly male-dominated environments. In the #GB2021CLUB collection, we used references to female martial arts (judo, MMA, boxing… ) as opportunities to open up a conversation about gender expectations in sports and in fashion. These expressions of rage and this deployed physicality are (when mobilised by women) very disruptive, provocative, rebellious and, we believe, deeply political in this sense.
We used these provocative tools also to engage with our audience and the industry.
The collection was, in that sense, particularly personal for me, as I needed to express my rage towards a very privileged and male-dominated industry as a working-class woman designer. It was a very vulnerable, transparent and cathartic experience as martial arts can actually be for many women, and it has been an example of social mobility. It is urgent and it is healthy to speak up, reclaim space and open conversations about uncomfortable matters raised by intersectional feminism. It is crucial the industry looks into, blast and reinvents luxury and not simply limits itself to changing the label to ‘eco’ or ‘feminist’.
What is most fascinating for you regarding sports rituals or sport in general?
We have always been fans of sport aesthetics and sport technologies and with Sample-cm, we love to confront these references, more specifically to smash them somehow with the tailoring craft and vintage classics. Each season we work on exploring a new sport and its cultural background (so far: gym, soccer, climbing, swimming, tennis, motor sports and the last collection – female martial arts). Our research goes through specific techniques, equipment or material used in our sport of focus but also through very subtle tiny gestures and how they are building up the perception we have of the athletes, their performances and of the sport industry. Of course, as we established already, sport is a pretext to illustrate wider dynamics in the society and display how tiny actions can work as acts of resistance and make the difference towards personal liberation. With the label, we try to offer different devices of interactivity and conversation where all genders can feel the possibility of their own power and participate in change.
Our bodies are the only things we truly own throughout our lives. So what does the body mean for you in your work?
Owning your body is a privilege but it is not obvious to many people and again, specifically, women, non-binary people, persons of colour or someone from the working class, for instance. Sports, self-defence, meditation, or psychoanalysis can work sometimes as an experience of reconnection, healing or re-appropriation of our bodies. The recent affair involving Britney Spears (not allowed to have her IUD removed) is again proof that, unfortunately, women’s bodies are still the matter of everyone else but not the women themselves.
For us at Sample-cm, the body is definitively a social subject. At the boundary between public and private spaces, it works as a very relevant indicator of the challenges going on between those spaces. Our fashion uses clothing in the same dynamic as testimonies and as resistance tools.
What are your plans for the future?
We want to keep conveying sports as the great insightful vessels into our societies they can be, with the racial and gender prejudices they carry. We are currently working on a new collection, which should be launched this autumn. The collection will explore a new sport, which is kind of the opposite of martial arts but, at the same time, brings a very complementary layer to these questions about gender expectations. It will take a further risk and will embrace vulnerability. On the other hand, we are also planning to launch a second line of sharp design objects as some fun Ersatz of sports gear this year.
In one of your Instagram posts, you mentioned that we don’t have enough female role models in boxing and fashion. Who is your female idol?
Each season, we develop new scarves in relation to our seasonal sport. The pattern of each is designed by tracing the path of one athlete on the field during a historical match. For 2021, we tracked six historical and contemporary women fighters (judo, MMA, boxing… ) during remarkable fights. Christy Martins who participated in the legitimation of female boxing, MMA fighter Rika Ishige nicknamed ‘the smiling assassin’, Clarisse Agbegnenou with the best palmares in French judo, 21-year-old Russian wrestler Natalia Vorobieva, trans-woman Muay thai fighter Nong Toom known for applying makeup during her introduction dance, and cinematographic ‘Dutch destroyer’ Lucija Rijker. They are our idols. The medialisation of female martial arts still has a long way to go. We are doing our part in rewriting the complex feminine identity, which involves, among others, clothing designed by women and the activities women are more widely endorsed to perform.
BIO / Sample-cm was created in 2015 by Margot Charbonnier who graduated in sociology and fashion from Central Saint Martins. Sample-cm’s Grand Bassin* kits are made exclusively in Berlin-Neukölln Germany. Exploring martial arts and breaking through the taboo of women’s anger, the GB2021 CLUB by Sample-cm supports awareness and fulfillment. Women’s rage is celebrated and embraced as a competence leading to a revolution in the industry.
The GB2021 CLUB collection is designed around the original concept of all-in-one full suits. Inspired by boxing hand wraps, the pieces can be strapped on full-contact with the body, tops and bottoms attached together. A collection of accessories in collaboration with the De Ubieta shoes from Barcelona and the Yccij jewellery from Berlin completes the catalogue as variations around the classic boxing props.
All GB2021 CLUB pieces are handcrafted in their Berlin atelier according to up-to-date luxury standards. With hand stitching, aging recipes, natural dyeing and brushing techniques, Sample-cm have created a classic vintage effect on the materials. Reshaping the way of consuming and practicing clothing, they stand for a decelerated fashion with a meaty story line and a yearly collection. They use end-of-roll materials, produce fewer than 2% of waste and source locally.
GB2021-CLUB by sample-cm
MARGOT CHARBONNIER / CREATIVE DIRECTION
DEUBIETA. SARA DEUBIETA / SHOES
YCCIJ – FRANZISKA VOGT / JEWELLERY
ANDERS BIGUM. DANIEL SGAN COHEN / VIDEO
MARGOT CHARBONNIER . DANIEL SGAN COHEN / 3D
ZOE PHILINE / SHOOTING ASSISTANT
GUILHEM BARBOUX / WEB
PABLO CHARBONNIER / SOUND
NATALIA VERMEER / BEAUTY
SAMIRA LORENE – TWO MGMT / MODEL
ANNA PTA / MARKETING
INTERVIEW / Kateřina Hynková @khynko