5 Minutes with Gem&I

by Emma Foreman

Gemma Henry and Lauren Barnett met whilst working in New York and immediately hit it off. They would spend hours talking about starting a clothing line together and bouncing ideas off each other. The pair were inspired by the can-do attitude of the women of New York and when they returned to London they decided to put their ideas into motion. They were both working full-time and would meet up every evening to make plans and ended up quitting their jobs in May 2014, to dedicate their lives completely to building a leisurewear brand - Gem&I.

What were your first steps when building the Gem&I brand?

Lauren: I was in finance. After University I worked at Thomson Reuters in New York in the Hedge Fund department whilst studying for my MBA. I returned to London and worked at a Hedge Fund. I have always wanted to be self employed and was yearning for an opportunity to create something. We founded Gem&I in May 2014 and launched in May 2015.

Gemma: Whilst at London College of Fashion I spent 6 months in New York as a design intern for Marchesa. After graduating, I worked at Burberry as a designer in the childrenswear department. From there I went to Marie Chantal where I was a designer. What I learnt from these experiences was invaluable to being able to start Gem&i.

Have you always been interested in fashion?

Always! We are perfectionists when it comes to trends. Vogue and Style are our Bibles.

What have been the highest and lowest points on your journey so far?

The highest point is seeing someone in the street wearing a Gem&I piece or being tagged in Instagram by someone loving their new purchase. The lowest point was before we launched, having no physical product and working long hours from our homes. We were so passionate about our collection and just had to remain positive that people would love it.

What was the inspiration behind your latest collection?

We are obsessed with leisurewear! Soft materials, enticing colors, flattering shapes. We spend most Sundays in Selfridges on the contemporary floor feeling t-shirts and sweaters and trying on tracksuit bottoms for inspiration. We wanted to create a collection of luxuriously soft clothes that can take women like us through the many different facets of our busy days.

Do you ever struggle to stay inspired?

Never. We take inspiration from all aspects of our life. From funny things we say to each other, family, art, other designers, sometimes even the smallest things such as a pretty cupcake can inspire us.

Where is your go-to meeting spot?

We love The Riding House Café for afternoon meetings. It is always buzzing and full of life with a great selection of hot drinks and juices.

How would you describe your customer base?

The Gem&I customer is fun loving with a sense of humour. She wants to be comfortable but also stylish. We have such a wide variety of women who buy into our brand. The slogans sweaters and tees appeal to a younger, playful customer whereas the plainer items with silk or lace details are perfect for a smarter, slightly older clientele. Many of our slogans centre around holiday destinations so the Gem&I girl definitely loves to travel!

Is there anyone you would love to see wearing your designs?

Kendal Jenner or Cara Delevingne. We love their style so it would be a huge compliment!

What are the morals you run your brand by?

We have learnt never to give up at the first hurdle. A year ago we would take rejection very personally, we now understand this industry much better and we have learnt never to take no for an answer. We know our goals and our vision and we will do anything to achieve them.

Do you have a mentor?

We run everything past our father’s. They both started their own business from nothing and their advice is always very strategic and calming.

What apps keep you sane?

8 tracks for when we are working in the office all day. We need music to keep us smiling and we definitely couldn't live without Instagram! We are constantly thinking of ways to build our brand on social media and engage with our customer base. We draw a lot of our inspiration from other Instagram accounts as well.

If you could only wear one piece from your collection, what would it be and why?

We both really love the tie back sweater. The silk tie at the back is really cute and the shape is extremely flattering. It can be worm during the day with slouchy pants or for a smarter occasion with jeans.

What’s the biggest style mistake you’ve ever made?

The Juicy Couture velour bright pink tracksuit tucked into UGG boots was definitely a major low for both of us.

Is there another designer whose work you particularly admire?

We love the classic yet edgy style of Rag & Bone. Their collections are enduringly cool and extremely easy to wear.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?

We have been given a lot of great advice from really admirable people along the way. I think the most valuable advice we were given was to make sure we have a great brand story with clear brand messaging and imagery in order to stand out from the competition.

What drew you to Wolf & Badger?

We love the unique concept of Wolf & Badger as a brand platform. It is a privilege to be stocked alongside such successful and interesting brands.

Where do you see the brand in 5 years?

We hope that in 5 years time Gem&I will be stocked in department stores and boutiques worldwide. We hope to have several new collections a year and to be recognised as a successful leisurewear brand with a loyal customer base.


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