Ask anyone – particularly those who seek a comfortable/stylish/practical method of dress – and they’ll tell you, by some means or another, that denim is king. Whether it’s visually, via their immediate uniform, or from the comprehensive brand list they’re able to reel off on request, the same level of recognition is rarely given to another clothing piece (and certainly not so universally), as Jessica Gebhart, I AND ME’s creative director, knows well.
A former head of buying at Topshop – where she specialised in denim, obvs – Gebhart broke away from “the man” two years ago, launching boutique label I AND ME with a view to delivering contemporary solutions for men and women that bypass traditional trends. Two collections in, to date the label’s aesthetic has focused on loose silhouettes and dark shades of indigo. Already a proven hit at the Wonderland shop, where you’ll find cotton tees, socks and pins in addition to jeans, we grabbed five with Gebhart to hear more about the process behind the pieces.
How and when was I AND ME born?
I AND ME was born in 2015 off the back of spending 10 years in the fashion industry working for the man. I decided the time was right to do my own thing and we launched officially last April. I always wanted to establish my own fashion line and felt that it was the right time both personally, and marketwise – I saw a gap in the affordable premium denim and casual wear market so set about building a brand that, above all, I wanted to shop.
You worked at Topshop before launching the label, and Miss Sixty prior to that. How has either influenced the way you work today?
Working for two very well respected denim producers has been invaluable. Every experience and opportunity I’ve had, whether it was during my work experience years or as head of the denim buying team at Topshop has influenced and inspired where I find myself now; I explored every corner of the fashion industry before falling for denim. All of these experiences have played a part in I AND ME and will continue to do so. We’re a small team so we’re utilising every experience we can!
And what initially drew you to denim? Is there a specific era you’re particularly fond of?
I’ve always been a jeans and T-shirt kind of girl; I own way too many pairs. My favourite era is antique denim, like early 1900s pieces. The older and more worn out and ripped up the better for me – I get an adrenaline rush when I see an amazing vintage piece. My Mum is actually a printed textile designer specialising in natural indigo dye, so it was always around me from an early age, and then spending so many years on the Topshop denim team saw my connection skyrocket.
The label was launched with the aim of ‘delivering contemporary solutions for both men and women’. How does this translate to the garments you produce?
I always start with fabric and functionality. I focus on ‘go-to’ pieces that people will wear again and again, like their favourite wardrobe staples; the garments are simple and well constructed. Fabric and fit will always drive the collections, and in turn, our silhouettes appeal to both men and women.
Can you talk us through the idea of “One Thing Well”? And the significance of Tadao Ando’s work on the collection?
“One Thing Well” was born from a road and rail trip across Japan. I got lost in the endlessly inspiring culture clashes between Japan’s metropolises and rural hubs, but most significantly, their overarching brilliant way of life. Tadao Ando’s work is awe inspiring. His buildings provoke intense peace and his use of space is quite unlike anything I’d seen before. I knew little about him before travelling around Japan but he truly is a master of his craft and that’s why he was such an inspiration for ‘One Thing Well’.
You recently shot the collection against Ando’s work, in Manchester. How did this physical proximity highlight the influences present?
Yeah I paid a visit to Ando’s only UK work in central Manchester and we shot a bunch of images to pay homage to the site. If anything, it highlighted the magic of Ando’s work even more for me, when situated in such different settings as his homeland, the magic of his work is still totally undeniable. It felt like a bit of a pilgrimage. They’re tearing it down soon which I find completely mental.
And what, if any, influence has your London base had on the label?
We love London. It’s been our home for over 10 years and has provided us with endless inspiration from basically every angle, pretty much every single day of the week. Being surrounded by so many enterprising and enlightened people and in tune with so many fantastic projects/movements has of course inspired us no end. Having said that, we do dream of owning four dogs and being surrounded by fields on a fairly regular basis…
Obviously the Wonderland shop is one of your current stockists, and you recently held an event in-store. How was that?
Wonderland is a brilliant publication and we love being a part of their debut adventures in the world of retail. The Wonderland shop is beautiful, the location is a dream and the staff are all lovely. Our late-night shopping event was great and we hope for many more in the future.
And what does the opportunity to shop the collection IRL mean, both to the consumer and the label, do you think?
It is always great for people to get their hands on I AND ME. The fit, fabric and silhouettes really shine when face-to-face with the product, there’s nowhere to hide and we like that!
Finally, who is your ultimate denim hero?
No one wears denim better than Patti Smith IMO.
I AND ME is available at the Wonderland shop now, 192 Piccadilly.