Gemma Gambee on Trend Forecasting, Sustainability and Who You Should Be Following on Instagram

Gemma talks about Trend Forecasting, Sustainability and Who You Should Be Following on Instagram

By Cassandra Paré

August in NYC is not exactly known for its cool and breezy weather and yet, on a recent Brooklyn morning, with temperatures already climbing towards the 90s, we had little problem envisioning crisper climates. That is thanks, in large part, to our vibrant discussion with New York City-based Trend Forecaster, Gemma Gambee, who already had us dreaming up what Fall will hold. Gemma’s not only worked for some of the biggest fashion names in the business, she also has a behind-the-scenes perspective on fashion, thanks to her former runway modeling career (killer legs included). We sat down with Gemma over tea in her dreamy urban garden to learn just what it is that a Trend Forecaster does and where she sees the future of fashion heading.

P2P: Gemma, what exactly is a Trend Forecaster?

Gemma: I’m a strategist on the design side of fashion. I spend a lot of time reading, researching, looking at what people are wearing, listening to what they’re talking about and, in general, just really observing and making connections. I then share those insights with fashion designers and brands to help them create a visual and verbal direction based on colors, fabrics, silhouettes, etc. I am interested in uncovering the newest ideas and what impact they will have on the future. It’s really all about helping designers and brands innovate.

P2P: Do you get any of your inspiration online?

Gemma: I really love Instagram for style and inspiration. I am really into the California Mystic Hippy Movement, Afropunk, and the wave of minimalism that is percolating streetwear at the moment. I mostly follow my friends, but some of my favorite handles also include: @Virgilabloh, @corinneloperfido, and @tasyavanree.

P2P: What are your thoughts about fashion AND technology. How do you see those two things merging and/or not merging in the future?

Gemma: There is always going to be a duality between the desire for high tech experiences and just wanting to be un-plugged. Technology is great when it provides opportunities to engage with each other in new ways, but I believe that when technology interferes with the ‘organic-ness’ of life, that’s often when we reject it. For example, with wearable tech, it’s great when that technology allows us to be more engaged and in touch on a really natural level. But if, for instance, wearable technology is constantly bombarding or alerting us with text messages and tying us to even more technology instead of back to our own relationships and environments, I think that is when we can really start to dislike it.

P2P: How do you describe your process of creating a mood board? What’s the hardest part? Would you ever create mood boards digitally or do you prefer to do them by hand?

Gemma: I learned how to create mood boards physically at Melet Mercantile (a world-renowned vintage and creative studio for those who aren’t familiar with it). All the biggest designers get inspiration from there. I would collect objects from vintage houses, swatches, paintings, twigs, and nature. When the economy sort of fell apart, I had to start transitioning to do this practice digitally. Right now I use Pinterest as the beginning part of collecting my ideas, but mostly I have a bunch of folders on my computer and I either work in InDesign or PowerPoint.

P2P: Do you think people should be sharing and commenting on each other’s mood boards?

Gemma: There are certain stylists and editors that go from company to company and are whispering things they are thinking and seeing – that is a piece of intelligence that is strung through the entire process. The other element is the observation of society and its culture. But yes – I definitely think those things should be kept private. It takes the excitement out of it. I believe it should be kept sacred and personal and then you should share it with the public when you are ready.

P2P: Any thoughts on what’s happening in the fashion industry towards sustainability and how brands and designers can be more eco-friendly?

I believe that in fashion, we are really starting to see the first significant sustainable wave ripple through the industry. But I think that the means of sustainability is still very unclear. The general market understanding of sustainability is off. Most people don't understand that the fashion industry is the second most polluting industry next to the oil industry. Fashion is one of the hardest industries to disrupt because it’s one of the highest grossing in the world, and what’s happening is then natural subtle and will take time! But what's important is that it’s definitely starting to take shape.

What concerns me right now is some of the green washing that is happening – that is, brand’s marketing their products as being greener than they are. For instance, there is a movement towards vegan materials which at its core is smart, but oftentimes these vegan replacements can be more destructive to the environment than the non-vegan materials.

I am looking at ways that we can really open up that dialogue and get this conversation going which I think is the first important step. I want to be able to talk about what transparency really means, you know – what does ‘organic’ mean, how much water are we really using to make certain materials, which companies are doing their part? That’s actually a conversation I will be having with a group of 23 international fashion bloggers in Germany. I believe that bloggers are a bridge between the industry and the public, so I am really encouraging more bloggers to get involved in this conversation. They have a platform to help spread intelligence.

There is a fantastic documentary that came out this year called, The True Cost. I highly recommend that anyone who buys and wears clothes watch it!!

P2P: Are there any causes that are important to you?

I support CAPP – which stands for the children abuse prevention program. They go into schools and use puppets to explain child abuse in order to help get kids to speak up and talk about child abuse. This spring I was a hosting committee for The Billion Oyster Project, which is an ecosystem and restoration project aimed at bringing one billion oysters to the NY Harbor. Oysters actually help clean and filter the water, and the project partners with local schools as well as encourages education and dialogue.

P2P: How would you describe your personal style?

Gemma: Oh, that’s a hard one! I feel like my style always references different styles. I am really interested in creating something new with my style. I enjoy blending limits of traditional and modern. Right now I am wearing pants that I got when I was 19 and a contemporary Balmain blouse.

P2P: What are some of your favorite things to do in New York?

Gemma: Honestly, I love to just go to a park and lay under a tree. It’s one of my favorite things to do in the city. Fort Greene Park, Madison Square Park, and the Brooklyn Bridge Park are some of my favorites.