Born during a road trip to Japan, new denim brand I AND ME is all about slowing down the pace in fashion and focussing on doing one thing well. The label was launched in 2014 by Jessica Gebhart, and focusses on genderless, durable designs: this is denim you invest in for life – and you’ll love their ceramics too. Culture Trip catches up with Jessica to talk about sustainable fashion and the risky business of launching a label.
How did I AND ME happen?
I AND ME was the result of a life long dream to have my own fashion label. With a ten year career in the denim and buying industry it was the right time to launch my own brand and do things my way. We are enjoying evolving as we grow, it’s nice not to have constraints against what we can and can’t be. I’ve never really had a strict business model and that has allowed me to be very creative with the brand.
Why was it important to slow things down in fashion?
I think the whole industry has spun a bit out of control. The expectations on brands to produce four seasons a year doesn’t leave much time for the creative process, or even for the product to have any shelf life. Product is launched at the wrong time of the year so is almost immediately marked down, because that is not how people shop anymore. I AND ME is season-less meaning the product can be worn at any time of the year. The key focus is on fabrication and function, and the collections are released when the time is right. We respect the slow-made process and move at our own pace.
Do you a conflict between creating a sustainable, slow fashion ethos and making a brand commercially viable?
We believe you can be both sustainable and commercially viable. Our customers are willing to pay for the premium product knowing they will wear it over and over. The slow ethos is a great industry model with customers returning to buy the same product again in different colour ways. I AND ME focusses on wardrobe favourites, updating key shapes and silhouettes in new fabrics and styling tweaks.
What have been the biggest challenges of launching your own label?
There has been a few, but I would say the financial challenge is probably the biggest. Unfortunately managing cash flows and accounts is as important to the business as creative development. You can’t do one without the other, its just getting that balance. Whilst you are starting out in a business there is nothing that doesn’t feel like a risk. Some decisions will pay off and some things just will not work. It’s scary at times but also so so rewarding when everything comes together and you get the results.
You also make ceramics, how do you see this aligning with your design aesthetic?
I am inspired by all sort of things and the lifestyle element of I AND ME is a great way for us to collaborate with other creatives We have worked with two local artists on the lifestyle collections so far and they have been really popular. It opens up a new dialogue for the brand too. The lifestyle concepts compliment the clothing really well and it makes for stronger brand content. Denim is our backbone but we work hard to layer with it inspiring product too. There are a million denim brands out there but I think the lifestyle collaborations make us stand out in that indigo sea.
If Culture Trip were to spend a day with you in London, where would we go, and what would we do?
We would start at my new favourite brunch spot called ‘Legs’ on Morning Lane in Hackney, amazing small plates that are just so good. We would stroll it off through Victoria Park to ‘The Peanut Vendor’ to perve at their latest furniture and homewares offering and then jump on the overground and end up in Kings Cross at the ‘Gagosian’ where the new Richard Serra exhibition is on. I ABSOLUTELY LOVE his work, the scale and materials are amazing. I have seen his pieces at various museums around the world. I always leave very inspired. Following that we would head back East for cocktails in ‘Bistrotheque.’ I never get old of that place. 🙂