Member Spotlight | Mette Sommer
Thinking outside the box and stepping out of your comfort zone is a common action that applies to every entrepreneur around the world. However, starting the entrepreneurial journey takes courage. Mette Sommer, a Danish entrepreneur now residing in Germany, was able to step out of the norm in the fashion world to create sustainability-based clothing. She hopes that her business can inspire larger brands to develop sustainable and eco-friendly business models. By being an innovative FashTech shapewear company, she was able to be the change she wanted to see in the industry.
Tell us about GAEMINI, please.
“We are reinventing shapewear by using technology to optimize the compression and design... So basically we have been working on optimizing the current standard, as we want to introduce every day inspired shapewear styles made of recycled materials”.
GAEMINI is dedicated to making women’s shapewear sustainable with quality compression. Through their circular business model, meaning that they use recycled materials, Mette hopes to make high quality and sustainable shapewear products.
What makes your fabrics eco-friendly?
“One of the challenges when it comes to compression underwear is that it is based on virgin oil based fibers, which basically is plastic.… We are sourcing better, recycled materials, making sure that the product has a longer lifespan while also making use of the huge amount of plastic waste we have in the world. We might not end the environmental crisis by creating shapewear, but I believe it’s a small important step in the right direction”.
In the fashion industry, even organic materials still create waste. Mette Sommer aims to eliminate waste by using recycled materials and by doing so, she expands the lifespan of both product and material.
“Generally speaking, all compression wear is problematic because over time the compression becomes less resilient... it is so important we develop a circular model for this kind of wear, which also includes other categories such as sportswear. It’s important to highlight that the materials do exist, and for instance the type of yarn material that we are using, is more resilient, enabling the customer to be satisfied with the compression for a longer time.”
Products made from recycled materials tend to be more expensive. What are your suggestions for people that are uninterested in recycled products for this reason?
“It is difficult to create cheaper alternatives when it comes to sustainable products… First of all, the material is more expensive, including when it comes to virgin polyester compared to recycled polyester. But I believe it is also the buying behavior that has to change… the quality of the clothes that are available isn’t high enough. Meaning that we have to buy all the time in order to maintain a nice wardrobe.…”
Because fast fashion items only last for a short period of time, Mette suggests to invest in clothing of eco-friendly fabrics because they not only are better for the environment but also usually last longer. Wearing apparel from recycled material creates less waste and results in a decreased need to buy more clothes, ultimately saving money.
What prompted your entrepreneurial journey?
“I think I always knew that I, at some point, wanted to try and start my own company but it is scary to take the first step. I think it took some time to figure out what it was that I was passionate about… the idea of GAEMINI came to me after I had a year of time where I gained a lot of weight and I was having a hard time getting used to my new body … That was when I decided to buy shapewear.
In starting her search for shapewear, she found that the products available in the market were not what she was looking for. Because the designs of the products were not inclusive to many body shapes, she was discouraged by her findings.
“I really felt that the shapewear made me feel even more self-conscious about my body … also I realized there wasn’t really a sustainable alternative… And on top of that I didn’t know who to ask for recommendations. I mean, I always ask my friends for recommendations for bags or shoes but for some reason I didn't know who has experience with shapewear.”.
The existing shapewear brands clearly posed multiple problems for Mette as the existing garment shapes only accommodated certain figures and there was a rarity in sustainable brands. Also she discovered the taboo regarding wearing shapewear. In searching for compression wear for herself, she found the underserved need: sustainably-made shapewear for all body types.
After graduating with her masters in business at a college in Copenhagen, she decided to put full focus into her business.
Since you started your business at a young age, do you have any advice for young entrepreneurs?
“I had people telling me that ‘you don’t have that much experience yet’… but honestly no one really knows what they’re doing when they’re starting out a business. What's most important is to find the people that will support you on the journey, that knows the kind of things that you don’t. Honestly, you can do anything in the world if you’re just passionate and stubborn… passion and consistency beats knowledge and talent in many ways”
Sommer stressed the importance of surrounding oneself with the right people. Supportive family and friends as well as knowledgeable connections can make a big difference. She also explained that it is important to ask for help.
“In the beginning, I may have accelerated quicker if I had asked for help. You don’t know everything and time is money”.
What challenges did you experience along the way in starting your business?
“One of my biggest personal challenges is a bit related to my culture. In Denmark, we have the Law of Jante… I think we kind of made our society a society where we don’t have this American go-getter mentality… if people do something that is different or a bit outside of the book, we tend to be quick to judge. This made me worry a lot in the beginning - I was worried about what people would say. Would they think I’m joking now that I'm saying that I want to start my own company?”
Mette Sommer had a few fears going into her business. She knew that starting a business would draw eyes and attention to her. She also knew that as a female entrepreneur, it might be more difficult for her to get funding. Hearing a number of startup failure stories did not ease her worry. However, once she got into it, she started to develop the confidence and faith that she desired. Her move from Denmark to Berlin, Germany also kept her motivated.
“There is a reason why Berlin is the number one startup capital in Europe. Berlin is a great place to be as an entrepreneur because the city is so vibrant and everyone is doing something creative and it is very international as well. Everyone came to the city with some goals and dreams and I’ve met so many inspiring people. At the same time it’s also much cheaper to live in Berlin compared to other European capitals. I believe there is a lot of exciting innovation going on in Denmark as well, but to me the vibe of Berlin made it the right place for me to start”.
What was it like adjusting to moving to a different country to follow your career dreams?
“One of the things I love about Denmark is how safe you feel because the society’s always got you. In Germany as well… you’ll never fall completely through in society....But starting a business in Germany was a bigger risk to me. I had to figure out the language, figure out the insurances - and realized how privileged I am, coming from a country where healthcare is free to everyone. But it also made me understand that now I’m making a commitment and so far I haven’t regretted my decision.
By taking this leap of faith to a new country whilst starting a new business, she noted that “entrepreneurship is about believing in yourself and going for it”.
What would you like to see changed in the fashion industry?
“People will always consume fashion and I think that is a customer behavior that won’t change. Instead, we have to find a way where we can ensure the amount of waste that we produce in this industry is circular and is not as exploitative as it is today”.
Even though she is only in the early stages of her business, Sommer is already proving that sustainable fashion is a method that not only works, but is pivotal for both people and the environment. By finding the courage within herself to move to a new country to start an innovative business, she proved that anyone can and should follow their dreams even if it is not the norm.