GEMMA

FASHION: REPURPOSED - REDESIGNED - REIMAGINED

Growth + Consumption, Pt 1

Jenna Davis

So.

Here I sit--blogging in the Houston Airport.

I love airports.

I don't love long security lines, layovers, stop-overs and general germ-factories that airports contain.

But I love airports for the people-watching, and the amazing technology that allows us to basically sit in a chair at 30,000 feet in the air, and travel from one city, country, or continent to another in a matter of hours.

Technology has made the world such a different place in the last hundred or so years. The growth of some cities in certain parts of the US is also helping to shape the new and ever changing world we live in.

In Nashville, (where I live) for example, the rate of growth and industry and new businesses is changing all the time.  People seem to be moving here in droves, especially just in the last 6 or 7 years since I've been here. The real estate market is booming, and it's not limited to outlying residential areas. The urban housing market is thriving, and there are always new housing or business complexes being built.

A couple of months ago, my friend Aimee invited me to be a part of a concept photo shoot that she and her friend Dottie were developing. 

The concept was "Growth & Consumption": the juxtaposition of the "new growth" of man made vs natural.  

I was super excited to get in on the fun, especially because the location was a rooftop patio overlooking the lovely (ever-changing) skyline of Nashville.

I've been dreaming of hanging out on a rooftop patio for the loooongest time, and well....dreams do come true, my friends!

We planned everything out and decided I would need to create 4 separate looks for our models:

Greenery.

Floral.

Concrete/Metal.

Wood.

I started out with some sketches, and then, as usual, went thrift shopping.

I'm realizing that what I do--taking pre-loved pieces of clothing and using them to puzzle-piece together a new, one of a kind creation--is proving to be a lot harder than just making a pattern, cutting it out of fabric, and sewing it together.

Each piece has to be selected and adjusted to fit another.

This is especially challenging when you're making it for someone specific.

I had our two models come over to the Gemma workspace so I could get their measurements and they could try on a couple of the thrift items I planned to use.

It was tricky, but I was determined to make it work! I also happened (as per usual) to be going out of town and then super busy the weeks leading up to the shoot, so I had about two days to get all the pieces finished and ready for our 8am call time!

This piece I created for the "Metal" started out as two different dresses.....

 

I combined them to be one crop top, but after trying it on myself, it ended up being just a little too small. Because I had already taken the zipper out...I needed a different way to make it fasten, but also be adjustable to easily slip on.

Enter the grommets.

A few weeks ago I bought some gold metal grommets to use for a DIY canopy for my gazebo on my back patio.

I remembered I had them lying around, so I grabbed them and attached them to the crop top, then used strips of black fabric from one of the dresses to tie them together.

It worked perfectly, and I was so excited & proud of how well they represented the "metal" aspect of that theme! Totally unintentional, happy accident.

Aren't these photos captured by Dottie Beasley so fun and beautiful?!

I also decided (because, apparently, I'm an overachiever) to make one extra piece for the Concrete theme, so I took a simple black dress with some cool triangular construction detail at the top, added a fun, cream colored fabric to some of the triangles and made it a crop top as well! It fit our lovely model, Nina, like a glove--and I love how it turned out.

If you're interested in owning some of these one-of-a-kind pieces I feature here on the blog, they can absolutely be yours! They will be posted for sale in the website store in the next few weeks!

Thanks for reading, and stay tuned! Next week I'll dive into the making of this floral-inspired beauty!

Art and Fear

Jenna Davis

In my life, I try to do the whole vulnerability thing, so here goes:

In my life, I try to do the whole vulnerability thing, so here goes:

I'm afraid.

 

There. 

I said it. 

It's out there.

 

A group of friends and I were chatting last night about life and what we're currently struggling with--my biggest struggle being self-discipline and procrastination.  One friend had some particularly good insight, which then became the inspiration for this blog post.

I was sharing about how I really enjoy making & designing clothes and want my Gemma business to succeed, yet I always end up putting off projects or finding other things to do instead of what I know I could be doing to help my business grow.

Then he asked the question, "Where do you think that resistance comes from?"

I immediately knew the answer was fear.

So I said, "It's fear. I think I'm just afraid."

Then, he dug a bit deeper with, "What are you afraid of?"

I again, immediately knew the answer.

"I'm afraid my dream is too big. I'm afraid it won't succeed. I'm afraid no one will like or want to buy the things I make."

Fear is an interesting thing.

There have to be about a billion and a half inspiring quotes out there about overcoming fear- and I've probably pinned half of them on a Pinterest board somewhere.  There are tv shows that revolve around fear, being scared, or taking risks, and entire movie categories related to fear. There are at least 103 mentions of fear in the Bible(and probably more, but I haven't actually counted).

Of course, each of us have different internal struggles, and sometimes, very personal fears. But, it seems we all deal with our fears in two ways:

We either run from them(they somehow always catch up...fast, sneaky little things!)  

or we turn to face them.

 

I want to be a fear-facer. (Yes, I made up that word.)

I want to look fear in the eye.

Punch it in the gut. 

Knock the wind out of it.

*I'll admit, I'm not always a fear-facer, but I try my best to be.

 

It's easier to run.  It's easier to hide from the fear; maybe even pretend it's not there.  But it really only leaves us more tired and emotionally spent in the end.  That's because it's job is to find you and keep you from doing the things you were born to do.

There's another word associated a lot with fear, and that's insecurity.   Those two go together like charcoal and lighter fluid, and can leave a wake just about as damaging as a forest fire.  When we're afraid and insecure, we act out of those emotions and can end up hurting the people who get close to us, albeit sometimes unintentionally.

When we're afraid and insecure, we aren't the versions of ourselves we're meant to be. We hide our true selves from the world--the world that desperately needs OUR unique voice and our story. When it comes down to it, we are afraid of being vulnerable.

No. Wait. 

Maybe it's NOT the vulnerability we're afraid of.  It's what comes AFTER the vulnerability that's the real issue. And it follows us into every area of life.

Work. Art. Family. Friendships. Romantic relationships.

It plagues us with questions like:

Will they like me?

Will I be accepted?

Do I belong here?

Will they like what I've made?

Am I doing a good job? Does my work matter?

Are they sizing me up?

Am I seen? Am I appreciated? Am I valued?

What happens if I lay my cards out on the table?

Will I be rejected? Will I get hurt again?

 

How will people respond to the most real version of us and what can we do about it? 

That's the burning question.  Because wearing the mask of fear and insecurity only lasts so long, and even then, how we function out of those places won't produce genuine results, or genuine art.

It may be good, and people might even like it...but is it the REAL you? Is it really YOUR art that they like? Are the accolades even worth it if it's not?

I would rather make genuine art, from a true place of security and freedom in vulnerability, and have NO one like it...than create something everyone loves that's only  half-me; created by a hidden & secret me.

So what do we do? How do we live, work, & create out of that place of truth?

The best thing I've found to combat fear and insecurity in my own life, is love.

Love has this wonderful ability to change the seemingly unchangeable.  When we remember we are loved just as we are, the walls can finally start to crack and crumble. The most real version of us has the freedom to emerge without shame or fear of rejection. We can punch fear in the face and tell it who we really are- sons and daughters of a Creator who cares deeply for what He's created and wants to help us make great art, do great work, & have great relationships.

I think the world around us wants genuine.

They want to see our genuine art.

They want to hear our genuine stories.

They want to engage with the genuine us.

They can spot the fake stuff from miles away.

So, fellow humans---let's be real!

Let's let go. Let's live like we are loved.

Let's face those fears and keep working hard, making great art, taking risks, and being vulnerable together.

And speaking of together.....

as we ended our discussion last night, my friend had a great idea:  he encouraged myself, and two of our other small business, girl-boss friends to keep each other accountable. So we now have a text thread going--appropriately named "boss-babes"--and every day we will share one thing we did to help build our business, and send each other affirmation.

It will serve to encourage and inspire us to keep creating-keep hustling- because it reminds us that we are not alone in the fear-fight. We have each other to walk with on the crazy, emotional, often insecure road that is the creative mind.

And I'm just super stoked for what's to come.

 

Family Trees.

Jenna Davis

Baltimore, Maryland. 

1908.

An immigrant named Henry A. Mignini moved his family from Terano Nuovo, Italy to start a new life in America.  His family is one of many artisans who make up my ancestry.

I am particularly proud of my Italian heritage; especially the traditions of Sunday night dinners, large(and loud) family holiday gatherings and the potential for sketchy mob-related activity. (I'd tell you more, but then I'd have to ki....well, you know.) ;)

It also inspires me to think that my ancestors were willing to leave the home they knew, to bravely face the adventure that was before them- living in a new country, speaking a new language, pursuing a career in a new place.

My great grandmother traveled by boat from Italy with her three children; all under the age of 6! That, no doubt, is a special form of bravery!

 My Grandmother, Cesira DeLaurentiis and her family.

My Grandmother, Cesira DeLaurentiis and her family.

I've learned in the last few years that several of my family members were involved in the fashion and garment industries.  My great-grandfather, grandfather, uncles and cousins have been cutters, tailors, & clothing specialists.

(Maybe that explains why I had such a deep desire to pursue this Gemma dream. It's in my blood!)

My mom recently sent me an article written in the Baltimore Sun about my second cousin, Henry A. Mignini, Jr. (the son of the aforementioned Italian immigrant).  Written at the time of his death in 1994, it chronicled his life and the imprint he had on the tailoring business in Baltimore.

At the beginning of his career suits could cost $30... and at the end-- up to $1,000.  His wife remarked that he was one of a dying breed- he cared deeply about the perfection of his work, and found custom tailoring to be an art.

Henry Mignini Jr. worked hard to achieve his success.

He joined the US Navy in 1944, and served with naval forces on Okinawa.  After the war, he returned to Baltimore and began his career as an apprentice cutter to Dominic C. Capezio, who operated Capezio's Custom Tailoring, which boasted a client list that included Franklin D Roosevelt, Winston Churchill, and Jacqueline Kennedy.  When Mr. Capezio passed away in 1967, Henry purchased, and began running the very store he apprenticed in. 

He was also a man of principal.  He had clients from all different walks of life, but he cared just as much about the simple uniform he made for a security guard, as he did the $500 suits for a CEO.

Most people who buy clothes today don't necessarily think about how they are made, or the work that goes into it. The current fashion industry also mostly consists of grinding out more of the same things for the masses. I am, of course, one of those who buys the mass produced. But as I've worked on Gemma pieces, I've learned to appreciate the work and care that can go into making a single piece of clothing, and even accessories like scarves or jewelry. 

I am inspired by, and so thankful for, the generations that have gone before me.  People who worked hard to build a new life in a new, foreign place; to take care of and provide for their families; & to make well-crafted apparel for all kinds of different people. People who believed in leaving a legacy of high standards and strong work-ethic behind them. 

 A young Edmondo Mignini, my Italian Grandfather. (What a handsome dude--& look at that hair!)

A young Edmondo Mignini, my Italian Grandfather. (What a handsome dude--& look at that hair!)

I'm also glad I get to play a part in leaving that legacy.

We have so much opportunity to do so many great things for the world around us; even if it's something as simple as serving a cup of coffee, sewing a hole in a pair of jeans, filing someone's taxes for them, or creating art of any kind- it matters!  You may never know the impact you can make on the world by just being YOU, but being you is ENOUGH. Years from now, you might even inspire your own grandchildren to pursue their dreams, simply by having lived out yours.

Whatever you do, do it well.

Everything matters.

Out of the box.

Jenna Davis

I love weddings.

I always have.

I especially love the planning and design that goes into creating the atmosphere for such an important day; from flowers and backdrops, to lighting and centerpieces.

Of course now, having Pinterest at our fingertips, there is an endless visual smorgasbord of design options to feast our eyes on. 

So, being recently inspired by all of those wedding designs, I decided to pull out a vintage bridal gown from the back of my closet that I bought on a whim over 4 years ago. 

I started the transformation by taking the sleeves off, then changing up the bottom, adjusting here and there to re-design it.  With each alteration, it was fun to see it change and almost look like a completely different dress!

It has more of a “Cinderella” feel to it now, and I love it(and it looks much better ON than in these pictures!).

**Please excuse my messy workroom and "unprofessional" pictures. Who doesn't love real life and authenticity, right?! ;)

Then, a few months back, my friend Aimee and I were having coffee and catching up.

Aimee is a prop-styling BOSS and has such a great eye for design and detail. She was so helpful in the beginning stages of GEMMA and helped create the atmosphere and beautiful backdrop for the first photos taken for the web site!

We sat at one of my favorite little spots in South Nashville, Eighth & Roast, and just talked about life, travel, new job ventures--and, of course, creativity and design.

I showed her some pics of the vintage wedding dress I had been working on, and she mentioned that she had a styled wedding photo shoot coming up, and it might be interesting to add a bridesmaid and groomsman to the shoot.  I jumped at the chance to work with her again!

The location for the shoot, Nashville Craft, was the inspiration, and they were going for a modern, colorful feel.  I looked through so many dresses at the thrift store, but didn’t seem to find the right one. Then going back to my closet(again) I found a few dresses hanging in plastic that I had forgotten about. The perfect dress for this shoot was among them, and it only needed a little bit of tweaking to be ready to go.

I took off the flower on the front.  Then I took some of the sheer fabric I had cut off of the bottom of the vintage wedding gown I was working on, added it to the yellow sash, and a little ruffle to the top of the front. 

I also got to play wardrobe consultant at the shoot when we had a little malfunction with the first bride’s dress we originally had in mind.  We had to find her a different dress, very last minute,  but it worked out great, and everyone loved the new dress even more! Here are a few of my favorite shots....

I've listed all of our amazing contributors and vendors below.  If you, or someone you know has an event coming up, PLEASE consider using these folks; they're the real deal. I'm so thankful to know such talented people in this city, and so glad I got to be a part of this fun, colorful project!  

And, I’m looking forward to doing it again soon, so stay tuned!!

1) Photography - Lotus Blossom Photography (@lotusblossomphotography)

2) Venue & cocktails - Nashville Craft (@nashville_craft)

3) Paper Goods - Wink Wink Paper Company (@winkwinkpaperco)

4) Artwork for place settings - Kateri of Poverty & The Arts (@povertyandthearts)

5) Handcrafted furniture - Hunter+Gatherer (@huntergatherersociety)

6) Hair and Make Up- Lisa Johnson (@nashvillebridalmakeup)

7) Cakes and Cookies - Jess Brown (@brownrysebakes)

8) Bride's Dress - Dress Theory (@thedresstheorynashville)

9) Street tux (@streettuxedo)

10)Bridesmaid's Dress- Gemma (@getgemmaswag)

11) concept/art direction/styling/florals - (@aimeebsiegel)

Models - Bride: Cassidy (@cactusgraves)

               Groom: Ben

               Bridesmaid: Leah (@leahburkey)

               Groomsman: J (@jmorris.co)

 

Welcome to Panem.

Jenna Davis

A few weeks ago, our Student Ministry at Journey Church took about 75 middle and high school students out to a campground north of Nashville for an amazing time of digging into the Bible and healthy competition & team-building.  

The camp theme:  THE HUNGER GAMES

It was an intense and fun week of games, worship, late nights and....of course....a “Capitol” costume dance party!

Of course, the minute I heard we had a chance to dress up, I was stoked! (As a person who owns about 6 different kinds of costume wigs and sometimes plans her Halloween costumes a year in advance, you could say I kind of like dressing up.)

My roommates were involved as well, so I ended up making costumes for all three of us and it was a blast!  Sidenote:  I always seem to start projects with about a week’s time to finish them. Maybe I just like working under pressure?? ;)

I started with a google search of “Capitol attire” and Effie Trinket- she was definitely my outfit inspiration.  The three of us were assigned to a different “district” for camp;  red, green and purple, so I went looking for something along each of those lines.  

When you go into a thrift store, you really never know what you’ll find. But this time, it was SUCH a win! I found the perfect purple dress for my costume, an awesome red satin jumpsuit that I was immediately inspired by and had an instant plan for,  and then found a green strapless dress and a green curtain. 

Starting with the green dress meant cutting apart the curtain and just dreaming as I went.  There were hard pieces of plastic in the top of the curtain (since it was made for hanging on a window) so I decided to incorporate them into a shoulder piece and I made a flower from strips of the fabric.

Next, I started on the red satin jumpsuit. I kept it pretty simple, so I just took a roll of red tulle and made strips to sew together onto the back of the suit. Once the "skirt" was attached, I sewed some red roses by hand sporadically to the tulle.

Then I started working on my costume! I found the perfect lavender dress, cut the bottom half into vertical strips, added a tulle skirt underneath it, also adding some purple and glitter tulle to it as well. Let me tell you...that glitter went EVERYWHERE and is STILL covering the concrete floor of my workroom! 

Then, to give it some extra drama, I made a "collar" of sorts out of purple tulle, white netting, and some scraps of sheer fabric from a vintage wedding dress I have been working on lately(blog post on that coming soon!).

They all turned out great, my roomies were pleased (and looked adorable!) and we had super fun outfits to wear at our costume dance party!

(PS- how amazing is that Hall of Justice set behind us?! Our youth leader peeps did such a great job!)

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From sewing machine to stage....

Jenna Davis

One of my goals when dreaming about starting Gemma, was to create one-of-a-kind garments for my musician and entertainer friends here in Nashville (and beyond!)

Enter Kamber.

She saw one of my pieces on the website almost as soon as it launched, and we met for her to try it on in person and purchase it.  She mentioned she was starting a new band project (they’re called RAVINER--check them out HERE) and she asked if I would be interested in making a piece for her to wear for a showcase they had coming up at City Winery.  Of course I was thrilled and honored to do so!

So, just as any savvy, visually-stimulated creatives would do, we went to Pinterest for some inspiration.  The band was going for a futuristic & industrial, meets elegant yet edgy look.  I sketched out a few ideas and sent them to Kamber for her thoughts.  Then, after setting aside some clothes & material I already had on hand that were the perfect starting point, I went to work scouring my local Thriftsmart and Goodwill for other pieces that would complete the puzzle.

And what a puzzle it was!

I took the collar and zippers from a leather jacket, the back and sleeves of a textured turtleneck, a hi-low cardigan, a long black vest, and a fishnet tank top.

The next few weeks went by in a blur, and before I knew it, the showcase date was almost upon me!  Because I would be heading out of town the week of her show, it was really getting down to the wire.; I also had a couple of other projects going on simultaneously, and,  because I’m the world’s best procrastinator, it was definitely a fun challenge to get this piece just right.  I always want to put quality time, love and care into every piece I work on, especially because they are being specifically designed for an individual and, for the most part, won’t be replicated in the exact same way ever again!

A few days before I left for my trip, Kamber came to see her piece and try it on! I was so glad she was happy with it, and after just a few minor adjustments, it was ready!  I was super bummed to miss it, but the Raviner showcase went great, and Kamber sent me a few photos from the show.  It was amazing to see my work being worn on-stage for the first time--and here’s hoping for more to come! (Photo Creds to Katie Williams and Robbie Hall.)

Sometimes when I have an idea, or I’m putting down on paper the goals I want to accomplish, I don’t really expect to accomplish them.  There’s something in me that is surprised when things actually turn out great! I don’t know why I’ve always struggled with an enemy named "self-doubt", but I’d be willing to bet that I’m not alone in it. 

What would it look like if we lived without that doubt? What if we pursued our dreams with expectations of amazing success and accomplishment? What do we have to lose?  Yes, there is always the potential for failure and disappointment, but those can become some of the best teachers, if we let them.  They can make us stronger, help us grow, and to learn how to roll with the punches.  They teach us a little more about ourselves and how to move forward.  

Let’s all agree to be brave together and expect great things to happen when we move toward our goals.  You might just get more goodness than you ever imagined! 

I’d love to hear some stories of how things you’ve done turned out better than you expected---and bring on the stories about things NOT turning out so great.  Both are an equally important part of the learning process in the grand scheme of life :)

Commision Design

Jenna Davis

There are so many aspects of design that I love:

sketching and formulating ideas, experimenting with fabrics; piecing it all together, seeing the finished product.…

But there is definitely something different and special about designing and hand crafting something with someone specific in mind, or for a special event.

For example, last month my lovely roommate Katelyn was invited to a movie premiere at a local theater in town, and I was so happy to have to opportunity to make a dress for her to wear to the premier! 

We chatted about what she wanted to wear:  the classic little black dress, hi-lo style; edgy but with a touch of glam.

With a dress design in mind, we set out for the thrift store a few weeks before the event, to find just the right pieces for me to put it all together.

We found a black, mid-length, stretch dress, a short black lace skirt, and I had some sheer black fabric left over from another project that would fit perfectly with the other pieces to add some flirty, fun layers.

The month flew by. I had a couple of other projects going simultaneously (you’ll see one of them soon!) and I, like the good little procrastinator I am, waited until the WEEK of the premier to finish the dress. I’ll admit it was challenging; late nights cutting up lace, piecing it all together,  pinning and re-pinning the layers of fabric; but with the good company of Netflix and Spotify to keep me going, it was finished right on time!

She added a cute denim vest to give it an edgier vibe, and I love how it turned out! I just might have to borrow it! ;)

Gemma: Beginnings

Jenna Davis

As far back as I can remember, I've loved fashion.  I would play dress-up as a little girl, wearing my dress-up clothes in all sorts of creative ways, sometimes even taking something so simple as a bath towel and trying to tie it on as a dress.  As I grew up, of course I loved reading fashion magazines and recreating looks, adding my own flair.

I moved to Nashville to pursue songwriting in 2010, I started designing my own clothes & accessories to wear at shows.  When I would wear them, I had a few friends ask me to make pieces for them, and then brought to light the idea of making pieces to sell. Initially, my inspiration came from designs that I liked and wanted to recreate. 

I do a LOT of thrift store shopping(I LOVE bargain hunting!), and one day I bought a cardigan with an unusual design; the front & sides were much longer than the back. I instantly saw potential for a new design, so I took it home, found some scrap fabric I had laying around, and went to work.  A few hours later, (after a little trial and error) I had a new, one-of-a-kind piece that I LOVED.

The next couple of years I focused on music; wrote a lot of songs, put out an EP, butkept crafting & designing on the side.   A friend of mine had an expensive jacket that I really liked, so I, being the cheapskate that I am, decided to try and recreate something similar.  She joined me in the thrift store search for materials to make myself a jacket, and while talking and perusing the aisles, we had the crazy idea to turn our love of thrifting into a business.

About a year went by, and life got busy for both of us, but the idea never left me. I just couldn't shake it. Finally, after having a pretty significant dream about it, I decided it was time! I had no idea what it would look like to start a small business, but I knew it was something I had to do.

I began with thrifted pieces and some scrap fabric, took them apart, designing as I went, cutting and sewing them into a new design.  It was SO fun to see a brand new piece come to life—straight from my brain!

Below, on the right, is one of my first pieces--made from a couple of different thrifted shirts:


Aside from the fact that I love thrift store shopping and being creative with clothes, I also love the idea of taking something old and making it new; AND the fact that it cuts down on waste in that I get to recycle and re-use pieces of clothing that were no longer wanted.

I also love that because of using thrifted and donated clothing, each piece of GEMMA swag is one-of-a-kind; no two pieces will be exactly the same—just like each person on the planet!

Because everyone is so unique, we each have different ways we can impact the world around us. 

That being said, If there is a good idea rolling around in your brain that you just can’t seem to shake—listen to it. Who you are, in your own unique way, can be a gift to the world around you.

Don’t be afraid to take the risk and crawl out onto that limb.

Early on in my GEMMA dreaming, I was very hesitant to take the leap into making it a reality. I was afraid that if I tried and failed, it would be a gigantic waste of time. Then a wise friend said to me, “Do you love making clothes? If you love it, then no matter what happens, it wont’ be a waste of time.”

So, friends, if you love it—give it a try. Don’t be afraid to fail.  Failure isn’t falling down; real failure is falling down and not getting back up to try again.

So, there you have it! This is just the beginning for GEMMA. 

Keep an eye out for new pieces on our Instagram @getgemmaswag, and check the blog for stories of how those pieces came to life. 

Instagram

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 “Fashion is very important. It is life-enhancing and, like everything that gives pleasure, it is worth doing well.” — Vivienne Westwood