On trend without the expense
Gemme founder Emelie Maistedt on becoming the ”Airbnb of fashion” and the future of physical and digital clothing.

Emelie Maistedt came up with the idea of Gemme Collective as a poor fashion business student at Marangoni in London. She wanted to stroll the Shoreditch streets clad in a pair of Balenciaga sneakers just like the locals did, but there was no way she could afford it. What if there was a way to borrow her neighbor’s leather Marlene Birger trench coat, or her classmates’ Chanel bag? 

— We want to make it easy and fun to consume fashion in a sustainable way. Gemme is like one big digital shared closet where you can rent a designer bag, a vintage blazer, or the newest trend in sneakers from one to fourteen days, wherever you are from your favorite closet.  

How do you pronounce it, to start with.

— It really depends on what you are associating it with, you can choose! It’s either ‘’gemmy’’ which sounds like “give me” or “gimme”. You can also use “jemmy”, which refers to the word “gem”, because our users can find a lot of gems on Gemme.

You came up with the idea of Gemme as a poor student. What people do you think will use Gemme?

— The core user would be an inner-city girl, between 22 and 30 years old, that wants to wear all the latest trends but doesn’t want to commit fully. Of course, she has the knowledge that fashion isn’t something that she wants to promote because the industry is so bad in itself. 

And for what occasions? Do you think Gemme will see an upswing on New Years Eve when people want to exchange dresses?

—  Absolutely. What we think, and what we’ve experienced, is that people mostly borrow clothes and accessories for birthday parties, new years eve or weddings et cetera. At the same time, we can see that other major companies like Rent the Runway are noticing a shift between starting to rent clothes for a specific occasion, to actually renting clothes for everyday usage. 

I guess some people might rent a piece of clothing just for an Instagram post.

— Yes, of course. There are already services that let you buy digital clothing. You’re never going to wear it or touch it, it doesn’t even exist in real life! And if that is the future that we’re heading for, and if you just want a nice outfit for a picture this is the perfect service. I don’t think a lot of influencers actually want to buy some pieces, they just need it for a picture.

”You’re never going to wear it or touch it, it doesn’t even exist in real life!”

So Gemme is basically like that older sibling that you borrowed clothes from before a school disco, but a bit more sophisticated?

—  Haha yes, we have been talking about this quite a lot. Not only the sibling comparison, girlfriends that go on trips or get ready for a night out usually lay all their clothes on a bed, and then everyone can pick and choose. But instead of only borrowing from your friends and family, we want everyone to be able to rent clothes from the cool girl on the block too. Gemme is like your expanded circle of friends!

Most girls between 22 and 30 are already used to borrowing clothes, I guess.

— Yeah, exactly! When we talk to men in their forties or fifties, they can’t wrap their heads around our business model for the life of them. ”That’s not going to work, I would never borrow a piece of clothing from my friend’’. And that’s fine, they’re not the core customer. 

Gemme is another great fashion initiative towards sustainable consumerism. Do you think fashion heads value trends more than sustainability, in general?

—  I think that you would never consider sustainability over the actual product. The most sustainable piece of clothing is the ones that have already been manufactured before, so if everyone wore used clothes, trends wouldn’t exist. People will continue to spend money on new products. If you don’t need a car, you’re not going to buy a Tesla just because it’s sustainable. 

Emelie underlines that Gemme is a great way of being on trend and sustainable. But Gemme can fill the needs for a big variety of people, and not just the 22-30-year-old inner-city girl that wants to be trendy and sustainable. One Gemme consumer might get a kick out of the tech part of it. Getting a hold of trendy clothes through a social app and not a physical or digital store is a fun way to experiment with fashion. But the most frequent user will be the one that’s in it for the money – you could save and earn money through Gemme.

You have earlier said that you want Gemme to be the Airbnb of fashion. Is it solely a consumer-to-consumer service, or will Gemme be a platform for the sought after brands to rent their pieces as well?

—  We started by being solely consumer-to-consumer because there is no way to make money off your clothes if you’re not willing to sell them. But people always want to make money. Gemme allows you to make money on your favorite clothes without selling them, you can eat the cake and have it too. I mean, no one is renting out their apartment on Airbnb just because it’s fun, they’re in for the money. With that said, it’s not only going to be a peer-to-peer platform. We are aiming to attract brands, retailers, and e-commerce. Because they have pieces that they’re not selling. So we want to gather the consumers and the companies. And the product can also be used by stylists or brands that need to borrow some accessories or pieces for a shoot, it’s not only for the consumers. 

You are starting with Stockholm as your test market. What are your plans for the international market?

— Stockholm is a great city to test in, not only because we’re based here, but also because Swedes are very sustainability forward, tech-forward, and fashion-forward. But with that said, Stockholm is not our target market. We want to exist in every trendy city in Europe, and that it is kind of a glocal assortment. If you’re in Paris, you will be able to rent from stores and people that live there. It’s like Foodora or Uber Eats, you wouldn’t order food from a Copenhagen restaurant if you’re in Stockholm.

She elaborates. 

— And within a year we’re hoping to get started in a new city. Right now we’re leaning towards Copenhagen or Paris. But still, it’s challenging to start a new service where we can’t really copy anyone… We can’t really look for inspiration anywhere. We have to listen to the consumers and understand how they would use a fashion renting service. Would they rent something for a day, or do they prefer for two weeks? We have to be vigilant. •