Gemme Atelier captures ethereal fashion with upcycled fabrics

By Alli Hayes
@allihayes16

Jennifer Williams at Gemme Atelier has created a world of her own. A native of Ladysmith on Vancouver Island, she brings a wealth of light and love to the community and to her women’s collection of airy colours and textures that speak to elements of nature at home.

Loose Lips caught up with the bubbly blonde a couple weeks back to talk about her capsule collaboration with South Granville’s Zebraclub Boutique, which launched June 18.

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This time last year, Williams was launching her first capsule collection through the city’s iconic Mintage Vintage. A lot has come full circle since then.

In 2015, the designer had the opportunity to travel to LA and shop for surplus fabrics and silks to create her collection. Williams discussed the amount of beautiful fabric that sits in giant warehouses, and their reusable value.

“This warehouse was like a million square feet, it was three or four stories tall, scaffolding floor to ceiling of silks…all unused, it was crazy. The amount of silks still on the bolts…they have knits, they have wools, they have velvets…it’s insane,” she says.

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She continues to dish how it was inspiring to not be contributing to more waste in the fashion industry, and revitalizing these beautiful textiles into concepts and collections. Williams opened up about her childhood inspiration, saying she “grew up kind of as a poor kid, thrift shopping and collecting fabrics and clothes from thrift stores, buttons and more… and eventually had this grand collection of second-hand supplies.”

Williams has been deeply inspired by fashion movements happening in California, where whole companies are basing all of their apparel off beautiful surplus fabrics that became the works of art they deserve to be.

“I saw that The Reformation, a company down in California, was reworking vintage fabrics and making small collections. They have shifted since then and have an amazing online platform, they bought out this old bread factory in LA and now it’s this big open space: a west coast, contemporary design studio. They do some of their sewing and all of their designing in there, it’s so beautiful… and it’s all surplus fabric. They do dresses, bridesmaids collections…I saw them grow, and I saw that there was a possibility there. I saw that Vancouver didn’t have a lot in terms of surplus materials, but in LA in the fashion district, they did. So I bought materials last year.”

So how have Gemme Atelier’s collections grown?

“Last year’s collection was silk based, I had a lot of the stuff to work with. This year’s collection is a lot of really fine wools and recycled rayons, and some silks,” Williams says. “Still all really drapey and beautiful…pastels and warm jewel tones, it’s really beautiful”.

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Williams explored the idea of the collection’s consistency, and how she has kept similar styles in her previous looks to this capsule collection and beyond.

“I want to focus less energy on pumping out styles and to focus on the variation of recycled materials I can obtain.”

For this collection, be prepared for some really fun concepts that are just as unique as the designer’s warm nature.

“This collection is definitely a little bit different. I released a jacket, a beautiful early 1900s-style duster jacket, collared, thin and long sleeved with little tabs: very simple. I have three dress styles: a blouse, and pantsuit romper as well. It’s very minimal but the fabrics are amazing. Just imagine the colours of the sunset. A bright apricot, an ice blue, a taupe. I’ve done the photo shoot at Wreck Beach. I always wish I was at Wreck for every sunset on that friggin’ peninsula.”

Williams tries to bring a blend of attitudes towards her pieces, something that’s not gawdy, not structured, vintage inspired but simple. Expect to see sweetheart necklines and delicate piping at the shoulders, which enhances the beauty and power we all have, she proclaims.

“The brand is all about trying to convey what I’m seeing with girls our age: we’re empowered and we still want to have this quirky voice. We’re still trying to discover who we are but we are so knowing of the world. Therefore…we’re a little existential and depressive at times. There’s so much beauty that comes with sadness, too. Trying to convey simple, feminine designs that try to lift you out of the sadness. They’re not trying to be anything, they’re just simple and quality. Life is fleeting, so why not say ‘f*ck it all’ in a dress?”

Check out Gemme Atelier’s capsule collection on now at Zebraclub at Granville and 15th Avenue

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Alli is a wildcard. Faux fur is her wingman. She is constantly moved by art, cool parties, and independent film, and continues to create her own projects. She wishes her photographic memory did her Instagram more justice.  Check out her blog at http://www.thewildcardwins.com