Love Sick with The Scarlet Bob - Gemma Sherlock
Posted on May 26 2019
Name: Gemma Sherlock
Star Sign: Leo
IG alias: @thescarletbob
Laurel aka Kee Kee: Gemma!!! I’m so excited for this interview. We met online years ago, following each other on Instagram, and you’ve supported my business for a very long time. I really appreciate that about you, you stan small biz.
Gemma Sherlock: I’m excited too! This is encounter wonderful example of the positive side of the internet, bringing like-minded people together from opposite sides of the planet! I’m a huge fan of small, independent businesses. I have so much respect for people who start their own thing. Being a business owner ain’t easy - particularly when you’re bankrolling yourself and you don’t have tonnes of cash. I find that smaller brands create more unique and interesting items that align with my aesthetic so I’ll always purchase from them when I can.
KK: You’re known as The Scarlet Bob, how long have you had your scarlet bob and how did the nickname come about?
GS: My scarlet bob has been knocking about for over four years now. It came about kind of accidentally - I’d just moved to New York and my friend was visiting from Australia to help me get settled in. She’s an amazing hair stylist in Melbourne and she was doing my color the night before she was due to fly back. We’d had more than a few G&Ts and left the bleach in for way longer than necessary and after the dye went on, the result was Ronald Mc Donald red. I slept on it, decided I loved it and that was that. The name came about a couple of days after, a bolt of inspiration from somewhere in the universe and here we are!
KK: Let’s get into the thick of it, we were chatting about social media and how it’s a double-edged sword. It can connect people like us together and it can also make us feel like absolute shit. What ways do you use social media and how do you cap it, so you don’t lose your mind?
GS: Oh God. The never-ending struggle that is social media. A blessing and a curse. I have so many conflicting thoughts about it, daily. I’ve whittled it down to using Instagram only. I deactivated my Facebook account last September because I wasn’t really using it for any other purpose other than to see what other people were doing, 750+ of my closest ‘friends’ many of whom I don’t even remember because I met them 10 years ago. And I don’t care enough about it to do a cull and/or put people into lists to manage whose content I see and vice versa because that seems like waaaay too much admin. I look at Twitter every now and again - I have an account but rarely post. Instagram is how I spend most of my time (mostly unconsciously) which terrifies me. The mindless scrolling. So I have had to take measures to limit the amount of time I spend on it daily, such as setting a time allocation for 30 mins every day. Then it shuts down and I have to override the setting to give me an extra 15 mins or choose to override the setting for the rest of the day. But what I find most effective is, if I simply must check Instagram daily, as soon as I’ve reached my quota of mins, I delete the app off my phone. In fact, I’ve just done it there now! There’s been too much Instagram and not enough focus today.
KK: Does Instagram, in particular, affect your day-to-day? I've set the same timer because literally 3 hours will pass, and I’ve done nothing but look at ads and paid content.
GS: Ditto. I would find myself having work to do and finding it difficult to focus and all of a sudden, I’d come to and find myself scrolling through Instagram. And not even remember picking up my phone. That is scary. A level of conditioning that makes me uncomfortable. And I wouldn’t mind so much, but it doesn’t even make me feel good about myself! I find myself comparing where I’m at career-wise with other people and what they’re doing and feel like I’m not doing enough or successful enough etc. which is counterproductive to inspiring motivation. And yet, here we all are, obsessed with it.
When I find myself spiraling (post-Instagram spiral, usually) I’ve begun to have the wherewithal to catch and grip and ponder on the questions “What would happen if Instagram disappeared in the morning, forever? How would my life be different?”
Would I still I have my friends? My family? Would I still have my apartment? Would I still have the capacity to earn money and support myself? Would I still strive to be the best version of myself? Etc.
When I can answer “yes” to all of the above, it really helps put Instagram into perspective, keep calm and carry on.
KK: Has social media helped you find your tribe in NY?
GS: Oh absolutely. It’s been a godsend in that regard. I’ve met so many wonderful people who have become true friends in real life. When I first arrived, I was taken aback by New York’s monochromatic and highly pragmatic approach to dressing. Everyone I met who was “in fashion” wore black. As a unicorn, who came to find my ‘blessing’ (that’s a group of unicorns for anyone not in the know), that process was definitely precipitated by the existence of the gram.
KK: How many years have you been in NYC now and what gave you the urge to move?
GS: I’ve been in New York for just over four years. It seems like longer, I think, as so much happens, all the time when you live here. Much more so than anywhere else, I’ve lived.
Moving to New York has honestly been the fulfillment of a lifelong dream. I first got the chance to come here in 1997 when I was just fourteen years old and I was completely enchanted by it and obsessed with getting the opportunity to live here. There was always a reason not to - jobs, boyfriends, etc but it finally got to the point in my life when I knew if I didn’t go now, it would soon become a massive regret and so, after much blood, sweat and tears and $$$$$$, I finally got to move here in Feb 2015.
KK: What got you into advertising? What’s your next event and is there a mailing list that people can sign up to?
GS: Before I left secondary school (Ireland’s high school equivalent) I knew I wanted to work in advertising. I was obsessed with all of the ads on TV. What was good, what was not so good (or bad) and it got to the point where I could name the advertising brand within a couple of seconds, even if I’d never seen the ad before. I wanted to be involved in creating these attention-grabbing, artistic mini-movies; completely fascinated by the creativity and concepts that emblazoned the TV screen, to sell even the banalest household items.
Early on in my advertising career, I learned the value of networking and the opportunities a casual conversation at an evening event or breakfast meeting could yield. Knowing lots of people helped to get things done, mostly better and definitely faster.
If I can facilitate meetups or events or gatherings where people can get access to and forge relationships with other high-value people - and by high value, I don’t mean monetary terms, I mean good people who are doing something positive with their lives - then I absolutely will! And that’s what I have been trying to do for all the wonderful, strong, powerful women I’ve had the fortune to meet in New York.
I’m in talks with a brand at the moment about doing another event series so watch this space! You can keep up with the latest by signing up to my mailing list here (scroll down to the end!)
KK: What’s your aim or mission statement for most of your events?
GS: The main thing is to enjoy yourself! I’m allergic to the pretension of any kind. Bad attitudes can stay at home as well as people who think because they have an ounce of fame, it gives them carte blanche to be rude or nasty to anyone else. We are all human and no better than one another, regardless of your gender, ethnicity race or privilege. I want to create a space where women feel comfortable and supported and can let their guard down without fear of encountering ‘Mean Girls’. A place for them to make valuable connections, hopefully leading to collaboration, working relationships or inspiring new friends.
KK: Your style is loud and out there just like your personality, how did you find your voice in fashion?
GS: I’ve always been attracted to shiny things, I reckon I must have been a magpie in a previous life as well as a French Princess. From a very young age, I had very specific ideas about what I liked to wear. My parents never ever tried to tell me how to dress or provided any commentary on how I chose to dress (apart from the occasional time when they thought I looked ‘nice’, lol). So I had free reign to become whoever I wanted to be which was really just myself. I definitely think that exiting corporate life four years ago (and ad agency is probably the least corporate environment you can be in dress wise), when I’m buying clothes, I don’t have the same constraints about thinking what would also be ‘suitable’ for work. My wardrobe is my wardrobe for everyday and occasion wear (very blurred lines here) as isn’t Tuesday afternoon on occasion?! It’s very colorful and extra and is a wonderful source of comfort and joy on a daily basis.
KK: What draws you into a brand?
GS: Firstly color. That’s going to get me every time. I like unique shapes and prints and texture. Something that looks like fun. That looks different, that everyone else won’t have. I like a brand that has an attitude and something to say and isn’t afraid to poke fun at itself, or the world, for fear of causing controversy. Because there is a lot that’s wrong in the world that needs to be called out and brands, with their support of their communities, are in a position where they can help to change and reshape existing narratives.
KK: What does fashion mean to you and how has it developed over the years?
GS: Fashion is part of my DNA. It plays such an important role in my life each and every day. I use it to express myself creatively and to create the image of the truest version of who I am. It definitely serves as an armor of sorts to help me cope with whatever life throws my way. Having access to so many more emerging brands through local events and through Instagram and immersing myself in creative communities in New York, have all influenced my dress sense. I guess since moving to NY and the raft of challenges that come with it, overcoming these has helped me become even more assured of who I am and what I’m about and that confidence definitely comes through in my personal style. It’s bolder and makes statements about politics and women’s issues, inequality and injustices, all things I wouldn't necessarily have been so visual or vocal about in earlier iterations of my personal style.
KK: What I love about your fashion and shopping addiction is that you really try to support smaller labels, what are your top 5 independent labels?
GS: Because independent labels are giving me what I want. Nonmainstream, nonvanilla, not-everybody’s-cup-of-tea type stuff.
Top 5 independent labels have to be:
Laurel - I’m in awe of how you have repositioned yourself and created such AMAZING and completely different pieces. Ethically sourced, locally manufactured and in such luxurious fabrics. I feel like a million dollars wearing anything, but especially the Baroque Jacket which just has to be mine!!!
DI$COUNT UNIVER$E - The Modern Day Sultans of Sequins. I’m an OG fan.
ISLYNYC - Carrie is so talented and creative and inspiring and hardworking. If you don’t know about this brand, go buy her stuff IMMEDIATELY.
Material Memorie - Victor is bedazzling shades like nobody’s business at very affordable prices. I have a whole selection of his eyewear and they make me so happy.
Bottle Blonde Studio - For all of your tinsel fantasies, they’ve got you covered.
KK: Besides online shopping, what does your self-care look like?
GS: I’m very good to myself because I’ve learned that in order to maintain a level of mental stability and emotional equilibrium, I have to be. This means eating well, minimizing alcohol consumption, not taking drugs recreationally (or otherwise), exercising, spending time with friends and family. Going to see comedy shows, spending time with animals (dogs mostly) and limiting the amount of time I spend on social media. I partied like crazy between the ages of 12 and 27, easing off between 27 and 32, so I had a good 20 years of it. Which is why at 36, I don’t feel like I’m missing out on anything. I have no time for hangovers anymore and the bad feelings that come with them, so there was only one surefire way to resolve that problem and that was to knock that whole party lifestyle on the head that my mind or body is no longer capable of bouncing back from. I want to be in a good headspace and enjoy the time I’m on this planet as best I can, to do the best I can to create change for the better.
KK: You’re a very caring person and as soon as I got to NY you invited me out and wanted to introduce me to other strong women through your events. Where do you think this tribe mentality comes from?
GS: Aw thank you! I’m so glad that’s one of your first memories :) I moved to New York on my own and I really struggled for the first two years to find my feet. It took time to meet real friends who I knew I could depend upon in times of trouble (that’s the acid test). Having that period of instability as I navigated my way through this new life, any time there was an opportunity of a gathering to meet new people I always went to it as you never know who you might meet. I’m a great believer in “we are stronger together”, be it bouncing ideas off someone else, brainstorming, artist collaborations, a problem shared, etc. There is definitely strength in numbers and I also believe that any experience is more enjoyable when it’s a shared one. We need people around us and I felt very isolated when I first moved here having no friends or family to lean on in the city, so I very much feel for people when they move here and try to be the person that I needed so badly when I arrived for others, to help them navigate their transition to NY life.
Being in a position to be able to curate an event, demonstrated how far I’d come in terms of building a network and I knew of so many incredible women through various aspects of my life, I knew that so many of them would get along and it was an honor and a delight to bring them all together and watch friendships be forged!
KK: I also love that you’re getting into stand-up comedy! How do you develop a set? Do you practice jokes on your friends?
GS: Ha ha! Me too! It’s not something I ever expected myself to do but there you go! I did a course at Caroline’s on Broadway last year and I actually really enjoyed it so I’m keeping going with it!
Developing a set is a case of writing stuff down all the time. When funny things happen, when crazy things happen (which is usually the case in New York), remembering things that happened and drawing on your own personal life experience. Write and write and write and pare it back. Edit. Rehearse. Rehearse. Repeat. You need to have the ability to observe life in a slightly detached way, to be able to stand back and see what’s going on instead of simply being caught up in the middle of it. I’m definitely more of a storyteller but I do practice my stories with people I meet to see if they get laughs!
KK: When is your next gig?
GS: June 4th at Duane Park on Bowery. You have to come! It’s a fundraiser to help organizations fighting the anti-abortion laws that seem to be passing every five minutes in the US.
KK: How can people follow you, sign up to your events or catch your next stand-up set?
GS: You can find me on Instagram @thescarletbob. Events will be posted to my Instagram but you can also subscribe to the mailing list via the pop up on my website thescarletbob.com
KK: Gemma, thanks so much for being so welcoming in this city and being so supportive of my label, I appreciate all that you do.
GS: Not at all my dear! It’s been my pleasure. Wonderful to chat with you and wear all of your most glorious clothes - honestly people the craftsmanship in these pieces is just incredible - anyone reading this takes note! You should support this amazing, talented woman and buy at least one of everything :) I’m excited to see how much further brand Kee Kee evolves in NYC!