Lazy Oaf founder Gemma Shiel on her vision for their punchy sister brand G.E.M, the punk women who’ve inspired it and her new AW19 collection.
Lazy Oaf founder Gemma Shiel (affectionately known as Mr Gemma Boss Lady) is taking the kind of loud, unapologetic approach to life championed by her favourite punk bands and translating it into clothing. Lazy Oaf’s sister label G.E.M is her avenue for doing so, providing an avenue for the designer to experiment, create freely and celebrate ‘girlhood and guts’.
AW19 is a statement against all things bland and pliant: there’s a heady dose of audacious leopard print and plaid, a reclamation of barbie pink and flashes of neon green held together by strong, classic silhouettes. In other words, the kind of pieces that make you take up space.
Fronting the campaign are Charli XCX-backed punk-pop group Nasty Cherry, a band who embody the G.E.M values with every song they shout and the girl gang we could only dream of joining.
In line with the release yesterday, we spoke with Gemma about her inspirations and hopes for the collection, and exactly how fierce she wants us to feel whilst wearing it.
Hi Gemma! Can you tell us a bit about you, your design background and why you started G.E.M?
I come from a printed textile background – I started printing my designs onto T-shirts and selling them from an east London market stall at a time when The Spice Girls were probably still together. The business has evolved into a full fashion brand with global distribution, a huge social following, two London stores and a studio space that is bursting full of people. The G.E.M label started out as a place for me to push and create a collection that has become more personal to me; a label that affords me the opportunity to put in more of the weirder ideas, be a little bit more experimental, more premium and unleash my creativity in other ways. Maybe it’s the Sasha Fierce to my Lazy Oaf.
Did you feel like a brand inspired by ‘girlhood and guts’ was missing from womenswear right now?
Perhaps. It’s also hard to pin-point your niche – broken down it feels like another feminist marketing line, but for me, this is real. I come from a background of having to fight, get knocked down to get back up again and work triply hard to get where I am. I have been inspired by powerful women that have not prescribed to the norm.
How do these values channel into the collections?
I like to pull a collection together that covers a cross-section of feelings, with a mix of clothing that is going to make you feel like you are that boss bitch, that female frontwoman, and also play with quite masculine pieces reappropriated that have that G.E.M twist. I also enjoy playing with the complexity of feelings about being a woman and clinging onto my own youth nostalgia, having my own personal identity split: being in charge, being responsible, being a girl and being on the outside.
You’ve previously talked about how the brand is inspired by being a teen in the Riot Grrl era – is this something really personal to you?
Yes. When I was a kid, I was obsessed with fashion and was a teenager In the mid-90s. I was desperate to be part of the Seattle music scene, but had to make do with lots of badly applied eyeliner, hanging out in Camden and forming my own band that had one of my English teachers in it singing R.E.M covers. No way near cool…
Is the attitude and ethos of this time something you want people to feel when they wear the brand?
Yes. There was definitely a feeling of sass, assertiveness and angst, which I love and aspired to have. I want people to channel and connect with that when they wear these clothes.
What was your creative process for AW19?
The creative process for G.E.M is always about pulling as much inspiration together as possible, which comes from me trawling through my book collections, listening to old music, getting lost in 80s Japanese magazine covers on Tumblr. G.E.M is creatively challenging, which is why I enjoy it and feel that it is important for me to do as a creative person. It’s going back to sketching looks and working with muses, taking our time to make sure it feels and looks right.
Do you have a favourite piece?
My favourite piece is between the black jacket with the pink fleece lining and the yellow leopard print jumpsuit.
Why do want to work with Nasty Cherry and how do they embody the brand?
These girls are living and embodying my fantasy.
Leopard print or colour block pink?
How dare you! They come as a combo.
Dream person, to wear G.E.M?
Kim Gordon, Miss Piggy, Viv Albertine, Janelle Monae and Chloe Sevigny, although I could go on. I have quite an extensive list actually…
Song to soundtrack the AW19 collection?
Le Tigre, “deceptacon”, mostly because it’s in my head right now. Although we have a few G.E.M playlists on Spotify.
What would you call your own Riot Grrl band?
The No Refunds.
One word to sum up the campaign?
What’s your vision for the future of G.E.M?
I would love for G.E.M to grow into a better, stronger version of itself, but also, to never fully grow up.
G.E.M AW19 is available to buy online and in Lazy Oaf’s Soho and Shoreditch stores.