georgia alice: what do you dream of once your wildest dreams come true?
New Zealand’s biggest young fashion export on growing up and getting real.
In fashion, there are certain goalposts that designers aim to hit at particular points in their career: measures of progress that demarcate the newcomers from established designers, and industry veterans from outright legends.
Georgia Currie, ostensibly an early career designer, has reached many of these touchstones: Her line, Georgia Alice, is carried in aspirational stockists — Farfetch, Net-a-Porter — plus Australian department stores. There have been print editorials in every antipodean fashion magazine, and many internationals. In fact, almost every dream she had when establishing the label four years ago has already come true. That puts Georgia in a rather unique position.
She's faced with questions generally reserved for mid-career designers; much tougher and more personal than those she was asking herself when it all began. Here, Georgia discuss all the ways she's trying to answer the biggest of them all. What next?
You're in a very different position to other Kiwi designers I've spoken with. Most of your peers are looking at international expansion a few years down the line. I feel with you, you're having to consciously limit your international growth. You can't say yes to every stockist.
Yeah, that's something I was saying to my team earlier. As a designer you strive for so long to have your clothing in these important stores. It feels okay not having any money, and being stressed all the time, because you know that you're getting closer to that goal. But then you get to a point where you do have those great stores, so the whole game shifts. I have to think more about maintaining my existing relationships. I'm asking myself 'what's the next smart move?' In a sense, it's more about strategy than chasing the dream.
So you're in a position where you can't just consider your creative goals. There are business goals too.
I keep thinking about that. There's so much to consider. The thing about clothing is that it can be a lot of work for very little [financial] return. Unless you're in fast fashion, making thousands of units for offshore and pricing everything very low, you don't get too much of a return in terms of money. Of course, money isn't why I started Georgia Alice, but it scares me to think I'll be working this hard indefinitely, with my margins staying the same forever.
I'm wondering what sort of thing I can set up on the side as my bread and butter. Do I want to do jewellery? Do I want to do sunglasses? The production of those items is much easier to manage — you don't need to worry about patterns and trimmings and threads — and your margin is often higher on that stuff. I'm definitely looking into things like that, but I want to time it properly. At the same time, there's still so much more I want to do with the clothing. I want to get to an amazing wholesale fabric fair, like Première Vision in Paris, and actually mill my own fabrics.
The position you're in does allow you a lot of freedom, because your customer will follow you. Are you setting more ambitious goals?
I think as I'm getting older, I'm starting to think of my life in a holistic sense, as opposed to just saying "I want to be a fashion designer" or "I want my fashion label to do well." If we went back to day one, fashion defined me — I was so into clothing. Now I'm thinking more about what's going to make me happy. This is my job, and I still need to fit the rest of my life around it. As much as I love my job, and I am so lucky it's all worked out, other questions come up: Do I want to have a family? Do I stay in New Zealand forever? It's funny how your life priorities shift — you never think they could, but they do.
Do you still have the same hunger as you did in those early days?
I'm just as determined and stubborn. I'm as hungry as ever; probably even more so. But I'm in less of a hurry now. I'm okay to say no to things, and I'm okay to just slow down. I know there will be seasons that don't go so well, and sales might not be so good; there will be seasons that I just kill it because something is really on-trend, you know? I'm much more measured. I think that's only because I'm getting older.
When was the moment where the team started to get bigger?
This year I hired Megan, Sarah and Barbara. They've changed my business, because my role beforehand was like, everything. For the past four years, I haven't been as creative as I could have been. I was at this point where I'd do a quick sketch, then pattern make it and just do it — I was so busy. Now they're doing the things that were stressing me out, so I can be creative again. It's weird because I now have a whole day to get inspired. It's been really hard for me to let go, and not feel guilty that I'm not 100 percent stressed all the time.
Who are the dream stockists today?
Club 21 was always my dream store, and I picked it up last season. Now for me, it's about getting top tier in every country in the world. I think I want to get more department stores in the States, I'm more interested in them than boutiques at this stage. I find department stores have larger budgets, so it's more sensible for me to try and keep the brand in those stores worldwide now.
Which piece, over the course of all your collections, is the most quintessentially Georgia Alice?
There's one particular blazer from a resort collection. It's just a blazer, but I feel like it is Georgia Alice. I think clothing — and I've only realised this recently — is so much about context. Of course you can get a black blazer from Zara or from H&M, but it's really about everything that surrounds the little guy: that's what makes it Georgia Alice.
Have you started seeing fast fashion imitations of your work?
There was an off-shoulder denim piece which a label in Singapore ripped off. I didn't notice until people started tagging me in photos of it. At the time, I was kind of like, "what the fuck?" because it was the exact same raw denim. But then I calmed down, and realised it's going to happen. People knew it was my design. And the thing is, not everyone can afford my clothes. Not everyone can afford high fashion — that's why I don't have a huge problem with Zara and H&M [lifting designs.] I take more issue with the supply chain. They don't have the best production line. At the same time, clothing makes you feel so wonderful, so it's important for there to be clothes everyone can afford.
Text Isabelle Hellyer
Photography James K. Lowe