Style File: Gemma Cornish from Gemma Lee

Style File Gemma Lee

Designer Gemma Cornish. Image by Bex McGill.

Designer Gemma Cornish recently showcased the debut collection from her wetsuit label Gemma Lee at New Zealand Fashion Week 2018. The Wellington-based designer has had a life-long love of the ocean so creating a wetsuit brand was a natural use of her design talents. Gemma caught the judge’s attention earlier in the year at iD Dunedin Fashion Week 2018 where she won ‘Most Commercial’ for her five piece wetsuit range. Her debut collection launches on her Gemma Lee website next Friday 28th September.

We caught up with Gemma to find out more about her brand, what inspires her and what you would never catch her wearing!

Tell us about your latest collection?
My latest wetsuit collection, ‘Coastal POPS’ is inspired by the awe inducing beauty of the coastlines of Manly Beach, Australia. From the way the ocean laps up and down the shoreline leaving its imprint on the golden sands to the swirling textures of intricate detailing in the rock faces, it truly is a special place.

What made you become a designer?
I decided I wanted to become a fashion designer when I was only 6 years old, and as I got older that dream only burned brighter and stronger. As a young child I was an absolute water baby, living my days out in my swimsuits, and this combined with my creative spirit, naturally led me to designing swimwear. As I grew up, everything I did was working towards the goal of one day having my own surf/swim label, and as soon as I left university that’s exactly what I did!

What inspires you?
I am always very inspired by nature, especially in surrounds where natures beauty is engulfing. Like my current collection I find a lot of inspiration from the ocean, water is just so beautiful! The ocean creates so many intricate textures and prints and forms unique organic shapes. Water can also have so much power and might, but then can also be tranquil and serene. Being in the water gives me a feeling like no other; it truly is a special place for me!

Style File Gemma Lee

Wetsuits from Gemma Lee’s Coastal POPS collection.

Describe your personal style and how it influences your designs?
I love wearing colour! I am a summer baby, so especially in the midst of winter I love adding punches of colour to my outfits – it gives me such summer vibes! Which is exactly why my collections are always a celebration of summer, full of popping colours! Regardless of the season, summer becomes a state of mind to me, from my personal style (sometimes I’ll be dressed for summer in the middle of winter), to the way I design my collections.

What is your all-⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠time favourite purchase?
A pair of high-waisted 70’s flare trousers! I love retro pieces, especially from the 60’s and 70’s. This comes through in some of my designs with nods to the Pop art era.

What wardrobe item should everyone invest in?
Good fitting swimwear! Swimwear is one of those pieces that should fit like a second skin. When the fit is right, you’ll always feel beautiful and confident beach side!

Do you have a style rule you always obey?
Always be true to your own style and personality. There is only one of you, and one of you for a reason! You weren’t made to be like everybody else. So wearing outfits that reflect your character is always the number one rule!

Style File Gemma Lee

Wetsuit from Gemma Lee’s Coastal POPS collection.

What has been the highlight of your career so far?
This year has been a year full of career highlights since finishing university the end of last year. Winning an award at iD International Emerging Designer Awards in May was such a special moment. More recently launching my own wetsuit label, Gemma Lee, is a dream come true, and recently showing at NZFW. I’m excited for what’s to come!

What can’t you live without?
As funny as this sounds, I could never live without the ocean. You’ll never find me living or staying in a landlocked country or city for very long!

Finish this sentence – You would never catch me wearing…
You would never catch me wearing all black!

Wetsuit images by Calin Jones.