Alexander Drachenberg is a German architect who, some years back, decided to experiment with parametric design concepts outside his day-to-day job. He realized that Rhinoceros 3D and Grasshopper gave him endless possibilities to express his design visions, so he started a jewelry brand with his co-founder, Jennifer Greco.
In this interview, we learn what drove Alexander and Jennifer to start Gemme Jewelry, the unique concept they are presenting with this brand, and the different technologies powering this online store, such as Grasshopper, ShapeDiver, and Shopify. We also cover the different aspects of his design workflow and his vision regarding the future of his brand and the Jewelry industry.
1. Hello and welcome! Please tell us about yourself.
Hi, I’m Alexander, and I am the co-founder of Gemme Jewelry. I’m an architect by training and trade, having worked with some of the best architecture and design offices worldwide.
Over the years, I understood that I could extend my passion and skills beyond just architecture. While experimenting with the rapidly evolving 3D technology I used in my day-to-day job, I realized I could explore new ways to express my design vision. Since then, my passion has been blending design and technology, with jewelry being one manifestation of this.
2. Which one is your software of choice and why?
I use a combination of Rhino and Grasshopper in most of my work. Rhino gives you endless possibilities to design and model anything you can imagine. Using Grasshopper as an additional tool enables me to automate processes in several stages of the design, but also gives me a set of tools that allow me to experiment with complex ideas.
3. How did you get interested in Parametric/Product Design?
The first time I encountered parametric design was at university. Since then, I have worked on many large-scale architectural projects worldwide involving parametric designs, such as FOUR in Frankfurt and The Cradle in Düsseldorf. A few years ago, I began testing ideas on smaller-scale objects, such as jewelry, which led me to further explore the world of product design.
4. How has Grasshopper changed the way products are developed/designed?
As a result of using Grasshopper, one can iteratively design products. The user can modify any product through simple inputs, while the products' logic prevents remodeling repeatedly. As a result, it opens up a new set of experimental tools that would not be feasible if done manually or non-parametrically.
5. What does your design workflow look like?
Most of my ideas start bold but abstract, which I first evaluate with simple digital massings. If the idea seems promising, I set up a parametric model with Grasshopper. The model allows me to keep adding layers of complexity while evolving the overall design.
Once I have reached a state where I think the design is close to being final, I take some time away from it. It helps me to focus on other projects and neutralizes my opinion about the design. If I look back at it after a couple of days and I still like it, I continue working on it.
This process might happen several times until it reaches its final stage. Although, often, a design or an idea never successfully makes it to the end of this process.
6. How did parametric design and 3D printing influence your go-to-market strategy?
Customization has revolutionized product design. More and more, customers expect to be able to personalize their accessories. However, brands currently offer few options for this. Real-time online customization is set to change this. We already see this being done in the clothing, automotive, and furniture space, where customers can easily configure their desired item in a matter of minutes and place an order online.
Parametric design, combined with 3D Printing, allows us to expand this to jewelry and brings customized, detailed, and intricate designs to life in a way that would be otherwise impossible using traditional manufacturing techniques.
7. What is Gemme?
Gemme is a brand that focuses on iconic, fully customizable jewelry creations. Using the latest 3D printing technology, we create designs and details that can’t be achieved using traditional manufacturing methods.
While searching for unconventional and experimental jewelry, my co-founder Jennifer and I realized that no brand offered us the opportunity to fully personalize jewelry the way we wanted. That’s how we came up with Gemme. For us, this is a way to democratize self-expression through jewelry.
Precious accessories should be unique and purposeful. Currently, the market can’t deliver this in a digital-first manner. It has many options, but has no accessible way for people to create a truly original piece online.
At Gemme, we let anyone select or design a piece that perfectly matches their taste. Our tools allow customers to change the style, size, shape, detailing, and materials so that anyone can wear a piece that is fully customized and entirely theirs.
8. Tell us about the different models available at Gemme.
Gemme offers our customers the option to choose from models available in the “Collection” or “Design Your Own” sections.
In “Collection” we have a selection of curated pieces designed by us. The main inspiration for this jewelry is creating experimental, iconic statement pieces. Here you can find a range of rings, bracelets, earrings, and necklaces.
With “Design Your Own” we allow our customers to create their own personalized and fully customized jewelry online.
9. Which one is your favorite and why?
Personally, I get excited the most about the Gemme Designer. This is because it represents the perfect mixture of uniqueness, personalization, and design. The Gemme Designer is powered by complex Grasshopper algorithms, which we customized into a user-friendly interface. A few simple sliders and inputs allow you to generate almost endless jewelry designs.
10. Why did you choose to use Shopify for your store?
Shopify covers all important integrations and services we need, like marketing automation, customer service, and security. In addition, we built an app with our partner New Branch Ltd, which allows us to easily integrate our ShapeDiver models into our store. It enables us to experiment with different product models and configuration options, without having to depend on web developers. This reduces our operational costs and risk, and we can focus on our products instead.
11. What's the future of eCommerce for the Jewelry Industry?
I believe e-commerce is the future of jewelry. We know that since the pandemic, customers increasingly want to shop online and have the same level of experience as in real life, wherever they are and whenever. Many consumers nowadays are looking to access bespoke jewelry from the comfort of their sofa without going through the lengthy and often expensive process of looking for a traditional jewelry maker. Accessibility, affordability, and options are what e-commerce has enabled in the jewelry space.
Finally, new and exciting trends are emerging, which we are following closely. Visual commerce is one of them. We believe that to truly deliver a superior shopping experience for our customers, jewelry brands need to leverage more than just static pictures. That’s why interactive videos, animated models, augmented reality and user-generated content are top of mind for us.
12. What is next for Gemme?
Our focus is to continue expanding our current designs and experience for our customers. We are also experimenting with new design ideas to add to our “Collection” and our” Design Your Own” section. Finally, we are also exploring releasing a Metaverse collection and a line of digital collectibles as fashion expands beyond the physical world.
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