I & ME.
The pop-up concept has become so instilled in the retail landscape now that the opening of a new one in Shoreditch isn’t really much of a surprise – or anywhere in London, for that matter – but sometimes, just a few manage to stand out for all the right reasons.
After a road trip across Japan last autumn, Jessica Gebhart – who formerly played in an integral part in the successful denim range at high street giant, Topshop – picked up inspiration that we would later see come to life in the AW16 collection of her brand, I AND ME, which launched in 2014. Titled ONE THING WELL, the collection of predominantly denim pieces gained unlikely inspiration from Japanese architecture and life seen from bullet train windows and museums.
“The Lee Ufan museum and Tadao Ando buildings on Naoshima island took my breath away,” explained Gebhart as we met her in the small store on Redchurch Street. “I’ve never felt so inspired by space before; the materials, the light, shadows, the air, so white and grey and sun bleached, smooth yet raw. Ando’s architectural style inspired the fabric and design of the garments.”
ONE THING WELL embraces considered details and sharp silhouettes to accentuate a direct, driven aesthetic designed to make each piece timeless and signature. The collection is also entirely unisex, which seems quite implausible at first, but the lookbook images put end to any speculation.
As well as the impressive collection of Japanese Selvedge denim jeans, jackets and shirts – our favourite being the raw denim slim leg jeans – premium Italian Merino wool in a charcoal pinstripe and cotton joggers and a sweat have a tactility that really tells the true story of the authentic and quality materials. They feel amazing. The brand’s Essential tee reads, in Japanese, ‘TO ME AND I’ – an unintentional play on words when translating I AND ME from English to Japanese.
The space occupied a tiny unit on Redchurch Street, bespoke splattered concrete effect rails – designed and made by Joel Muggleton of Listen Studio – atop its wooden floors carrying the product. The collaboration with Listen also resulted in a lifestyle partnership on a series of concrete-effect resin vessels act to accentuated the space and the collection’s roots.
We sat down with Gehbart to get to know the hands and brains behind the brand. Turning shop girl for the month that the store was open, she was on hand in-store too, to explain the makings of the incredibly diverse and accomplished collection that every man and woman needs to know about.
With the ONE THING WELL collection, you have very much gone with that approach, offering one style of the perfect jeans for both sexes and a very limited and considered collection. Do you feel the market is saturated with too many options?
Absolutely, yes. It is definitely quality over quantity for I AND ME. We offer smaller runs of premium garments. Our customers like that they can shop a more considered offering, it feels exclusive and you can justify the purchase easier.
How long did it take to perfect the offering and launch I AND ME?
Launching my own brand was always my dream so I had been working on I AND ME for a long time before I launched the brand with the first ‘Off Season’ collection in March ’15. It took a while to get to the point where I was happy with the concept, branding, manufacturing etc. I AND ME is evolving as we grow and we are enjoying finding new inspirations along the way.
Coming from a background working for a massive retail brand, was that experience important in shaping what I AND ME is?
I learnt a huge amount from working in a fast fashion high street brand. From product development to range planning and all the contacts I have made, I wouldn’t be able to be running I AND ME without it. Having said that, it is certainly nice to slow things down and think more conceptually.
With such a strong focus on details, fabrication etc. was it important for you to have a physical store so that people can see/feel/try on the clothes?
Yes! Customers really fall in love with the clothes when they can feel and try on the product. No matter how great your online content is, being able to talk face to face with people is so valuable. A physical store is great for raising the brands awareness. It’s a very fun process.
Tell us about the pop up.
It is our second pop-up and we are open for a bit longer this time. We have a beautifully curated collection of our very best product and also our lifestyle collaborations.
I AND ME’s was open until 4 December 2016. The collection is now available at i-and-me.com