Exclusive: A Video Interview with Gembalies

A small faux pas in my calendar and suddenly,for four hours, there I was, sitting in Das Stue Hotel in Tiergarten while a select group of nice women visited the Gembalies label’s Salon Priveé. There couldn’t have been better fodder for my secret field study of what the perfect relationship between customer and label looks like, and yet my observations confirmed exactly what we already knew: Both women behind the label, Frauke Gembalies (focus on design) and Ekatharina Iliadis (focus marketing and sales), do a lot, even if they don’t always get it exactly right. Months ago we accompanied them with a video camera as they designed their latest Collection No.5.

The two friends, who commute between Germany’s capital, Paris and Dusseldorf, meet in a wonderful historic building in West Berlin to discuss individual designs with the dedication of professionals. I looked into their lively eyes and they told me about their latest achievements, saw the heartwarming tenderness with which they stroked individual fabrics and indulged in stories about their inspiration. “Is it possible,” I asked Veronika when I called her after we left the interview, “to be so nice and so successful at the same time?”

And how one does it. Since the beginning of the projects the two of them have adhered to a bold principle that’s proved to be worth it: swim against the current. The summer and winter seasons discreetly dissolve – when it’s warm, there’s cashmere. When it’s cold, there’s linen. Yes, it’s really like that! They have a dialogue with their customers who they communicate with directly (via a mailing list ) regarding appointments, without a middleman.  Customers order their favorite pieces, and it’s quickly clear that the weather outside at the time of the order has an influence on the pieces chosen, which will be delivered a few months later. In hand-packed parcels.

And another point: everything is hand made. No assistants, no outsourcing, which relates to the small, internal organization. Production takes place in Paris, in a factory that otherwise delivers for high-ranking labels. Thereby, years of experience in the fashion industry are brought into the business relationship and perhaps also a bit of the assertiveness that charming professionals seem to possess. Despite claims of expert status, stillstand is a foreign word.

Instagram is playing an increasingly greater role and their online shop will be a project in the near future. First valued as an exchange with friends and family, today new customers also come via this channel of communication. Most recently a wearer of the famous Karo coat was the editor in chief of Tank Magazine: Carolina Issa. Because so many customers from abroad ordered via e-mail, last year’s roadshow also had a stop in London. A complete success, as it turns out. And another confirmation that the set of classics (timeless coats, (men’s) shirts, and comfortable pants, tops with a designated twist and a dress here and there) was reliably effective. Conclusions for the next round are drawn from their dialogue with buyers. While the tour is still in full swing (see below for dates), the creation of the next round is slowly underway. But until that happens, we will continue to briefly marvel over the successful current campaign and remain impressed by so much stubborn determination.

There’s more about the creation process and about the two wonderful ladies in the video:


Gembalies N° 5 Campaign



GEMBALIES Salon Privé N° V Tour:

Düsseldorf 28.1.-29.1.2016 | Galerie Sies + Höke

München 3.2.- 4.2.2016 | The Charles Hotel

London 9.2.-11.2. 2016 | Location will be confirmed

Zürich 15.-19. 2. 2016 | Location will be confirmed

More information via gembalies.com.

Salon Privé N°5 in Düsseldrof
Translation: Alicia Reuter
translation (Video): Melissa Frost