Certain phrases in fashion are so overused when it comes to describing a brand or collection's aesthetic that they've almost lost their meanings completely: effortless, boy-meets-girl, menswear- or vintage-inspired, etc. However, there are cases in which a label's messaging matches up with one of the aforementioned terms so impeccably that it's a shame using one as a descriptor would sound like a total cliché.
Enter Georgia Alice, the New Zealand-based brand founded by designer Georgia Currie in 2013, which I came upon during a showroom visit in Australia during Sydney Fashion Week. It hits all of the right notes when it comes to mixing masculine and feminine elements — the result of her study of tailoring in school and her appreciation for suiting, which she incorporates into her own outfits every day. Currie graduated from university in 2012 (she was honored with the Westpac Young Designer Award at New Zealand Fashion Week in 2011 while she was in her third year), and in 2014, she took home a NZ$10,000 cash prize in the DHL Express Fashion Export Scholarship competition. Thanks to her tightly edited collections of blazers, long coats, versatile tops, dresses and more, she's already attracted the attention top retailers around the world — Net-A-Porter, Moda Operandi, Lane Crawford and Farfetch — as well as editors from the likes of Vogue Australia, Oyster, RUSSH, Harper's Bazaar and Elle.
"I made everything that I felt a girl needed in her wardrobe," Currie says of her first collection, which contained about 15 pieces. "I did a high-waisted leather pencil skirt, a white jumper, a T-shirt. I've always done suiting, so there was a blazer and slack pants; a cream wool crepe swing dress and some black baggy denim." Her range has since grown, but she plans to keep her offerings on the smaller side, with 50 SKUs or less — a number that's tiny when compared to most of the labels she's sold beside.
A self-described tomboy, Currie admits that suiting is her "first love," but she aims to mix the more menswear-inspired elements with girlie ones — slip dresses, miniskirts, ruffles, pastel colors, sheer fabrics — in each collection. "I started the label when I was really young, when I was 22 or something, and I think as I'm growing, I'm figuring out what I like to wear," she says of how the Georgia Alice aesthetic has developed. "I had this idea of wanting to do a luxury brand, and now I'm more about actually being able to wear it — I want to throw it on everyday; I think there has to be a sense of ease with my clothes now."
Coming from New Zealand, where there isn't a huge population that's able to afford expensive clothing, accessible price points are a top priority for Currie. "The most high-end thing is the suit; I do a long blazer coat which is $1,500, and then everything falls below that," she explains. "I don't want it to be this super-exclusive thing that only some people can buy into." But because she's based across the world from most major fashion capitals, this poses a challenge. "Logistical things like freight and import tax [are difficult and add cost] because shipping from New Zealand is such an expense." She currently has an in-house team of four people, and everything is produced in New Zealand.
Despite this, the designer enjoys her position "outside" of the core industry, as there's a tight community of brands with different ideas (Karen Walker, Lonely Hearts) that understand these unique circumstances, and because there is less competition, it's a bit easier to get into the fashion spotlight. "[It's] not an environment that's particularly easy to grow your brand," Currie adds. "There's not a huge support network, so you don't graduate university and [have] people to be like, 'Hey, we'll show you the ropes.' It's a bit of a battle."
Currie was first exposed to fashion while studying classical ballet as a teenager in Sydney, and after injuries sidelined her, internships on the buying and merchandising side of the business ignited a new passion. "Ballet has this really romantic, super-creative side to it, and I feel like perhaps when I quit dancing I was missing that — perhaps fashion filled that void."
She plans to grow Georgia Alice slowly, keeping suiting and shirting at the core, but introducing statement pieces outside of her comfort zone each season that provide her with a personal challenge (and gives retailers more from which to choose). But even when she creates a frilly skirt or a sparkly, party-ready dress, she insists that it can easily pared down to fit her personal style. "For me to wear a dress is a lot," she admits. "But [I'd wear one] with socks and sneakers and a blazer. Or layer a T-shirt under it. I feel like it's so simple and I would feel comfortable in it — it's not too much."