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Under The Loupe with Gem

Searching for the perfect vintage treasure has never been an easy feat. Whether its staying up all night for an eBay bidding war, or digging through a pile of thrift shop goodies, we have all been there. But, with the powers of Gem, an innovative search engine and app - you can find what you are looking for in a heartbeat. We often use the phrase  "click of a button" quite liberally today, but with Gem, you can access a world of beautiful treasures from all over the globe with just the touch of a finger. Connecting to the past has never been so easy!

We chat with Liisa, the founder of Gem all about her app and why vintage shopping is so special. 

Hi Liisa, thank you so much for joining us at Lillicoco for Under The Loupe! Please tell us about the history of Gem and why you decided to create this fabulous app and search engine?

“After moving from Finland to the US six years ago, I suddenly discovered a huge amount of new online vintage stores and marketplaces. There were so many of them it was absolutely impossible to follow them all, although I desperately wanted to! And when I wanted to buy some vintage online, I had no idea where to start. I thought there must be a better way of connecting active vintage seekers like myself and all those wonderful vintage stores and marketplaces. That’s how I came up with an idea for a search engine for all online vintage and second hand clothing, accessories and jewelry. To bring all pre-owned vintage into one search and help people to find items they are looking for. When my husband left his job at Facebook, we started building Gem and launched it two years ago.” 

 Liisa, the founder of Gem, Photographed by Elina Simonen, Image courtesy of Gem

Where did your love of vintage first come from? 

“I have always loved the look and feel of old, worn garments. I loved wearing my mom’s old clothes and hand-me-downs when I was little. I guess they brought me comfort – I was a very shy kid so through my clothes I could feel my mom’s or my big sister’s presence. I have also always loved unique, quirky clothes! I definitely don’t want to dress up like everyone else but want to create my own style and looks.” 

Image Courtesy of Gem

How do you come up with your array of amazing blog posts?

“It is pretty easy as I know so many great vintage vendors and follow hundreds of IG accounts! Sometimes vintage vendors or collectors approach us and suggest topics they would love to talk about. Before building Gem I worked as a freelance writer for 10 years which also helps in finding topics and getting new ideas for the posts.”

Do you think, with the growing interest and popularity in vintage, that it will eventually overtake contemporary pieces?

“I think secondhand will become the first and the most obvious choice for the majority of people when they need or want to buy something. According to ThredUp, 70% of women are already open to secondhand shopping. And this number is growing – for the young generations secondhand is already number one choice.”

Image Courtesy of Gem

What's your favourite vintage piece in your wardrobe/collection?

“Anything I have inherited from my grandmother! She stored all our family’s old clothes in her attic but did not let me touch them until she considered me old enough. I was maybe 14-15 years old when she let me take whatever I wanted from her stash. Some items I still have and wear are a pea-soup green 70s leather jacket and a floral 70s-does-Victorian hand-made two piece set my aunt made for my grandmother for her 60th birthday.”

Liisa, the founder of Gem, wearing the 70's handmade floral two piece mentioned above (how fabulous!), Photographed by Elina Simonen, image courtesy of Gem

What is your best advice for people wanting to buy vintage, antique or second hand? 

“Before purchasing, check the condition and measurements. Check that there are no stains, ripped seams or un-working zips. Compare the garment’s measurements to your own to make sure it fits you. I have my measurements saved in my phone so I can quickly check them wherever I am.”

The second hand and reselling market absolutely boomed during the height of the pandemic, do you think this is a permanent change? 

“I definitely think so. Once you have found the joy of thrifting and finding unique items (and saving both money and nature at the same time) there is no way of going back. The benefits of shopping second hand are so many that there is really not a reason to buy everything new anymore.” 

 Image courtesy of Gem

I love that you also run two street style blogs alongside Gem, were these started before or after? And how do you think they complement one another? 

“I launched my first street style blog Hel Looks already in 2005 and NYC Looks after we moved to New York in 2017. Street style photography and Gem definitely complement one another – photography helps me connect with people. Oftentimes my subjects are active vintage shoppers as mixing old and new is the best way to create unique, interesting looks!”

What advice would you give someone wanting to break into the world of selling vintage fashion?

“I always give this same advice when people ask me for career tips: follow your heart. Do not try to imitate or copy others but do what you like and enjoy best. In the vintage business this means curating collections that you enjoy yourself. If you love 80s vintage, make it your niche, and so on. By following your heart and own taste, your store will naturally find its branding and stand out from the others.” 

Image courtesy of Gem

Why do you think people should shop vintage?

“It is the most sustainable option to buy new-to-you clothes.” 

What’s your favourite vintage era?

“I love so many! Currently I’m obsessed with 60s and 70s psychedelic, colorful prints, 80s silhouettes (think puff sleeves, shoulder pads and peplums) and 90s minimal items like slip dresses and cropped cardigans.” 

Image courtesy of Gem

Do you have any exciting things in the pipeline for Gem?

“We are continuously developing the app to make it an even more functional and useful tool for both sellers and buyers alike. We are adding new stores to our search every week. And of course publishing new blog posts every week!” 

And why should someone use Gem search?

“It literally saves your time! You don’t need to open multiple apps and websites one by one anymore – instead you can find all online vintage on our search.”

 Liisa, the founder of Gem, Photographed by Elina Simonen, Image courtesy of Gem

Lastly, what is your favourite piece from the Lillicoco collection?

“I love how contemporary this Art Deco multi-gemstone bracelet looks – it shows how timeless great vintage items can be. I am a fan of colors and these gemstones have such beautiful shades. They are like jelly beans! I haven’t been wearing bracelets for ages so this felt fresh to me which I also love.”





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