Informed by founder Jennifer Williams' background in vintage clothing, Gemme Atelier blends all art forms and brings stories of the past to present. Born in Vancouver and now debuting in Berlin, the immaculate tailoring of these timeless slow fashion pieces reminds us of the importance of the ethereal human touch in quality, luxury clothing. With SS18 inspired by Greek mythology, recollecting frames from the Reneissance era and fusing the themes of 'rebirth' and 'Primavera/spring', Gemme Atelier invites us into their mystical, mythical world...
Words: Hanna-Amanda Pant
The term 'sustainability' differs within the realm of eco brands. What does sustainability symbolise for Gemme Atelier?
It means having the softest impact on the environment, while creating the utmost value for our customers. We buy surplus material regionally, create minimal waste, re-purpose our fabric scraps for other projects, all while creating the most timeless and well made garments possible. These pieces will stay with you and remain relevant for years and years to come. I’m also a tailor, so I believe clothing can always be re-sized and repaired over time, so that nothing in your life is ever ‘disposable’. Creating jobs locally for other artisans and skilled tradespeople by hiring them into our small team is also important for us. Sustainability for us is any way we can possibly sustain our earth, sustain our communities, sustain craft, culture and tradition...
Looking into the past, what inspired you when creating the SS18 collection? Who is the woman you imagine wearing your pieces?
Each collection is driven by our ‘one size fits most’ approach to design and tailoring. We have to design very carefully to make sure each piece has the right fit, drape and is flattering on every body. Apart from that, the inspiration truly came after salivating over the Renaissance-era Botticelli paintings at the Uffizi Gallery in Florence, Italy. Primavera, ‘Spring’, is in itself a rebirth. We were also going through a rebirth after moving the company to Berlin, Germany last autumn. Our customer is typically a self-assured woman. There is always an understated elegance to her character. I would describe a multi-faceted woman who considers carefully before she acts.
"All forms of art should breathe together."
Is there a city Gemme Atelier breathes in the same rhythm with? If your brand was a city, where in the world could we find you?
We draw a lot of inspiration from Edwardian Britain, Art Deco France, Scandinavian minimalism and functionality. So no, there isn’t just one.
Is there anything you definitely wouldn't bring to the market, because it doesn't correlate with your value system?
"I’ve spent around 10 years in this industry, and to make clothing that should have the privilege to grace a woman’s body, well, it must take time."
You initially launched in Canada, but are now ready to conquer the sustainability market in Berlin. What encouraged the debut in Germany?
I met some nature-loving Germans back in Whistler, Canada, a few years ago while skiing. These three guys became like family and now we all live here in Berlin. I had always planned on moving the company to Europe, because of the history of design and architecture, and the origins of the ‘slow lifestyle’ movement. Berlin is a hub for so many types of creatives, I felt I had to come here to see what was happening with the global mindset of the upcoming generation. So far I love it here, the people are what make this city what it is, and it feels quite liberated. My German is still horrendous, but I’m working on it.
Why is the magical 'human touch in quality, luxury clothing' still important in the production phase? What perhaps frustrates you the most about mass-produced clothes?
I get deeply intimate with each garment as it’s being created, so I know exactly what you’re getting when you invest in a Gemme piece. The qualities we invest in are provenance, tenderness, elegance and durability. What frustrates me the most about mass production is the carelessness, mindless consumption and disposability. Trends come and go, style remains, so learn to think for yourself.
"I get deeply intimate with each garment as it’s being created, so I know exactly what you’re getting when you invest in a Gemme piece. The qualities we invest in are provenance, tenderness, elegance and durability."
You have also incorporated other art forms into the presentation of your clothing. For example, in June you curated a multimedia exhibition and recently presented SS18 through contemporary ballet. What informed these presentations?
Movement. Collaboration. Ideas flowing. Silk flowing. All forms of art should breathe together.
Where do you source your materials from and what makes your production still considered slow, artisanal?
This year we worked with a stellar new supplier in Italy (Fabric House, Prato). It's a lot to do with the fact that we specialise in silks. We have to be slow, have you ever worked with silk?! I’ve spent around 10 years in this industry, and to make clothing that should have the privilege to grace a woman’s body, well, it must take time.
In addition to your online presence, where can we currently find Gemme Atelier clothes?
Gemme is available in select boutiques in Vancouver, CA, and coming soon to specialty retailers across Europe in Spring 2018. Private appointments can be booked to view the Spring/Summer 2018 collection and other designs at our atelier in Berlin, Germany. Please make your bookings via email.