Pretty Deadly and Sample-cm’s #GB2021Club Collection: Self-defense Meets Empowering Fashion

Female aggression – even within sports! – is still heavily stigmatised, and the fact that women present themselves in a boxing or martial space is highly political. That’s why it’s a natural fit for designer Margot Charbonnier to collaborate with self-defense studio owner Susie Kahlich, and talk about the ways women can take back the spaces around them.

self-defense
Photo by Lucia Jost

In an exclusive for Girls Are Awesome, and led by fashion designer Margot Charbonnier, the @Sample.cm team produced and shot a series of portraits with the students of Pretty Deadly Self Defense in Berlin, styled with the #GB2021Club designs, vintage martial-arts sportswear and the students’ personal pieces. Below is the first in our two-part series looking at reclaiming female anger and strength, and capturing it in pieces that empower the women who wear them. Click here to read the first installment, and continue reading below for round two.

Words by Anna Ptasinska, Photos by Lucia Jost

Pretty Deadly is a female-owned defense class in Berlin that focuses on women’s perceived weaknesses and vulnerabilities in society and turns them into strengths. Susie Kahlich, the founder of Pretty Deadly (and a weekly podcast interlacing self defense and self care, which we can’t recommend highly enough) has pushed the message that it is about “encouraging people to rearrange the way they think about self-defense instead of being fear-driven”.

And while we think about how to be less fear-driven, she goes onto explain that “self-defense doesn’t have to be frightening! It doesn’t have to be something that you only do when it is the worst-case scenario.” By understanding our own daily movements, even the slight movements, we come to realise that self-defense is something we do every single way, even in the most minor ways.

Hearing these analogies, you cannot imagine a better alliance than designer Margot Charbonnier of Sample-cm and Pretty Deadly. Each of these two entrepreneurs have made it work by analysing the dichotomy of how men and women consume public spaces. Men, as children, often play fight, which makes them understand and process their environments and their physical contacts differently from their femme counterparts. On the other hand, women have usually moved from point A to B in this society, making them more strategic and contained in their wandering pursuits. 

The conception of awareness from childhood is conditioned within a space. How we think about it even remains a pertinent question to society and the gender spectrum. It has determined how many people have interacted within spaces and with each other and existed through self-defence tactics. “We are very conditioned to accommodate space, and we change our bodies in these spaces,” explains Susie Kahlich. This is no new thought for Margot and Sample-cm, as her garments have continuously analysed the human psyche and their social engagements. 

To consider the fact that women present themselves in a boxing or martial space is highly political. It is disruptive, and it showcases a roughness and unexpectedness that urges women to demand individual freedom within these realms without adjusting to a conditioned environment. Within these realms, it is often urged that an individual takes up space, but mindfully so. So mindfully, that Sample-cm has taken on the onus to eradicate gender binaries when creating this collection. 

Aggression within sports is still heavily stigmatised. Margot and Susie, working together for this series, have managed to debunk this notion. Being a woman and entering a space that has often been considered unexpected can be a political act. Women’s political actions, to be in spaces that are often regarded as male-dominated or incidental, showcases a hunger for power and can be (un)expectedly nuanced. Margot’s collection highlights the innate human act of walking into a room, especially one where your presence is unexpected and demands mobilising power. 

Margot’s seasonal drops have always showcased scarves. She designed the #GB2021Club scarves with patterns that replicate the movements of trans and non-binary athletes, as well as atheletes of color, within their arenas of sporting. She has done this as an attempt to introduce and amplify figures who are often forgotten as role models and strong individuals within their respective sporting industries. 

The entire collection is inspired by the act of hand-wrapping before putting the gloves. In boxing, this ritual is how an opponent prepares for a fight. This is a ritual that Margot, through her sociological lens, has incorporated for instance into her “bodysuit” design. This garment has been hand-crafted and is a signature piece utilising soft velcro to construct a corset-bra shape that connects through these velcro pieces and merges satin boxing shorts into a powerful and sensual look. There’s more, though… all of her garments are carefully crafted to ensure individual experiences with the signature #GB2021Club embroidery and experience. 

Keeping true to her knowledge, Margot has communicated her new collection through dynamic (and interactive) web design and the physical interactivity of her clothing. Through the grey area of feminism, sports, sociology and fashion, Margot’s collaborative nature has continued to raise questions (instead of giving answers) and ensures that people think and debate when they consider Sample-cm as a fashion go-to. Thoughtful (slow) fashion, there is no doubt we need it!  


Creative direction. Margot Charbonnier for @sample.cm
Photography. Lucia Jost
Styling. Greta Natalia Tettamanzi
Beauty. Gabriela Matuszewska
Talents: Pretty Deadly Self Defense
Special thanks to Susie Kahlich
Header image: Ilya in Sample-cm fighter scarf, wrapping gloves and all-in-one tracksuit styled with vintage bra, boots and belt.

Shop the #GB2021Club Collection here

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