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“If I can dream, I hope that a significant share of each consumers’ shopping budget will go towards renting fashion or buying second hand instead of supporting fast fashion.”

Above: Make it last co-founder Emma Elwin wearing rented pieces from Gemme. 

Just like it’s hard to imagine life before Airbnb, it’s very possible that in not too long, we’ll all be asking ourselves whatever we did before Gemme. Emelie Gustafsson Maistedt is the founder of this new Swedish clothing rental service that is launching today, February 12th, and the brains behind the techy solution that will allow us all to rent out our wardrobes with the same ease as we rent out our homes. 

What sets this clothing rental service apart from others then, is that it’s consumer-to-consumer based — just like Airbnb. So say you have this really great party dress that you love but rarely get the chance to use; then you rent it out on Gemme and make some extra money off it, instead of just letting it sit in your closet. And it works the other way around, of course. Make it last co-founder Emma Elwin tested this out recently by wearing rentals to Copenhagen Fashion Week, elevating her outfits with the highly coveted Bottega Veneta bag and Totême boots.

Now, before we get to the interview part of this interview, we should probably state the obvious: that compared to the linear fast fashion model where clothes are badly produced and barely worn before they’re discarded, renting (or second hand) is about a billion times better for the planet. In fact, just by wearing a garment three times longer than we do on average today, we lower its total environmental impact with about 65%. (Pause for reaction.) So as we need to elongate the lifetime of our clothes, and get our kicks somewhere else than at the high street, Gemme might just be the perfect place. 

Having spent most of her professional life in fashion — working her way up from the store floor at H&M to a position as key account manager and product owner for the marketplace platform at Afound — Emelie Gustafsson Maistedt tells us how she’s witnessed an industry in desperate need for improvement, and how she wanted to make her own contribution towards a much needed change. 

“I’ve learned that if you want change, it must start with you. I wanted improvement and new thinking, and asked myself: ‘How can we find new smart ways of working sustainably and make it fashionable to be sustainable?’ It’s much more complex and tougher to change major companies than to start from scratch. A big motivation for me is that we, as a small, agile company can outrun the giants while they must change huge organisations and entire business models to become truly sustainable.”

A rental Bottega Vegeta pouch next to Gemme founder Emelie Gustafsson Maistedt.

“At Afound I stumbled upon tech, and thought it was amazing how we could improve the fashion business with technology. In the end, it was more the technical solutions that supported the fashion that fascinated me, rather than the actual fashion product, so with that skill I went on to help another large retailer start up their marketplace business. Finally, I saw a few parts coming together: tech, fashion, and the topic everybody in the industry was talking about — sustainability. Now is the right time to start a company with those three components.”

The vision behind Gemme is to offer the consumer a chance to be fashionable, wear new outfits every day, and access luxury while also dressing at a good price point without harming the environment or supporting bad working conditions. Coming from a circle of friends that regularly borrow from each other’s closets, Emelie had experienced first hand the benefits of expanding one’s fashion repertoar that way; and once concepts like sharing economy, end-of-ownership and sustainability started becoming massive trends, she felt it was the right time to put ideas into action.  

“I started by myself, then found a co-founder, hired a bunch of developers and finally employed a tech lead and a head of growth. It’s been a bumpy road of course as there were no other companies to copy, no good enough platforms available off the shelf, and no insurance covering consumer-to-consumer renting. We had to do everything from scratch. Hard but good, ’cause now we’ll be able to build the platform exactly the way our users want it.”

“Our model doesn’t require production of new fashion, which makes us more sustainable. Other rental services own their inventory and still put orders to fashion brands, which drives production.”

Exactly how is Gemme different from other clothing rental services? 

The biggest difference is that our model doesn’t require production of new fashion, which makes us more sustainable. Other rental services own their inventory and still put orders to fashion brands, which drives production. The other big difference is that at Gemme you can, as a private person, rent out the items you’re not using at the moment; as you’d do with your apartment on Airbnb, but with your clothes, shoes, bags, accessories. The third is that we as a company do not decide the assortment — it’s provided by our users, which allows us to offer personal style and diversity. 

How will it work practically?

You’ll simply choose what products you want to rent out, upload a photo of the product, decide a daily rental price and list the item on gemmecollective.com. You choose if you want to meet up with the person who wants to rent it, use Instabox, let the renter pick it up at your office, use fossil-fuel-free delivery via the platform, or another way you prefer to deliver the product to the renter. 

You’ll receive an email and SMS when someone wants to rent your product, and have 24 hours to accept or reject the request. When it’s time for return, you and the renter will get a notification, and the delivery method will be the same as chosen for out-delivery, unless you agree on something else. 

During the rental period, the item is covered by insurance, which is included in the commission fee (20% of rental value). When the rental period is over, your earned money will be directly transferred to your bank account. The owner is responsible for taking care of laundry or dry cleaning if needed. We prefer steaming to give the product a longer life.

Finally: What are your dreams for this company?

If I can dream, I hope that a significant share of each consumers’ shopping budget will go towards renting fashion or buying second hand instead of supporting fast fashion. I hope to be a part of reinventing the industry, to turn around the downward spiral we’re in right now. 

 

Click here to be one of the first to get on Gemme! 

Balenciaga, The Row, Bottega Veneta... A taste of what will be available on Gemme.

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