Success has always come at a cost for fashion designer Georgia Currie, but, as Phoebe Watt finds, she’s facing the future with fresh perspective – and it’s never looked better.
There’s something different about Georgia Currie when we sit down to lunch at a busy, central-Auckland restaurant. Outwardly, she’s the same – effortlessly-undone ensemble, signature messy hair – but the usually harried fashion designer is calm in a way I’ve never known her to be.
“I’ll tell you why,” she says over a midday rosé. “I went and saw this energy healer and it’s completely changed my life. She taught me this saying, ‘tide comes in, tide goes out.’ So if I feel myself getting affected by something, I just let it wash over me and trust the universe to take care of it.”
So far, the universe has been pretty good to the 26-year-old. Soon after establishing her luxury womenswear label, Georgia Alice, in 2012, she caught the attention of A-list fashion blogger and Man Repeller author, Leandra Medine. Since then, her directional designs have continued to receive high praise from fashion critics and earn her legions of famous fans – including Solange Knowles, who wore a dusky-pink, silk-blend Georgia Alice dress during New York Fashion Week last September.
Two months later, Georgia was named Emerging Designer of the Year at the Elle Australia Style Awards, and in May, she showed her resort 2016 collection at Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Australia, where her brand was picked up by top-tier, multi-brand stores Net-a-Porter, Lane Crawford and Club 21.
The week before our interview, the designer hosted a dinner for Marie Claire magazine in Sydney. “While I was there, I went and looked at a few studios and I was like wait, am I moving to Sydney? Is this happening?
Apparently, not quite. Despite Georgia’s estimation that “90 percent of [her] business is offshore”, the logistics of moving her company across the ditch are too prohibitive for now. But armed with her new, go-with-the-flow attitude, she’s preparing to start splitting her time between Sydney and Auckland. “I realised it can be this fluid thing. I don’t have to make that firm decision, I don’t have to live exclusively in Australia or New Zealand. I can direct my own life… I mean, that’s why I started Georgia Alice in the first place.”
The brand actually came about fairly flippantly. Fresh out of fashion school in Christchurch and desperate for a change of scenery, Georgia relocated to Auckland with her then-boyfriend of three years. “One day he said, ‘why don’t you start a brand?’ And I was like, ‘okay, fine!’” From that point on, she gave it everything.
“I worked so hard, it actually makes me feel nauseous,” she says, recalling the first four years of the brand’s existence, during which time she was, for the most part, a one-woman operation. “It was hectic and horrible and I was not healthy. Finally, this year, I decided to invest in some staff to help me. That was the best decision I ever made.”
Without a doubt, bringing more people on board saved history repeating for Georgia. A decade earlier, at only 15 years old, she moved from Christchurch to Sydney to study classical ballet. A year later she’d completely burnt out. “I was spending every single day dancing and it got to a point where I was injured and sick and I’d lost the joy for it, which was devastating. It was all I’d cared about for 10 years so it was like I’d lost my dream.”
Not that she has any regrets – she attributes her discipline, drive and determination to her ballet training. But it’s clear the experience has informed her decision to keep her business based in New Zealand. “Oh if I were to move Georgia Alice to Sydney it would be exactly the same,” she says. “It would be all fashion, all the time, and the scene over there… there’s a theatrical aspect to it. You have to be ‘on’ constantly. I love that when I come home, I can just be normal.”
That Georgia can fly under the radar in New Zealand speaks to what she calls her “tricky” relationship with the local fashion industry. A born strategist, she deliberately sought out the lucrative Australian market from day one, a move that, despite paying dividends for the designer, has ruffled a few feathers here. She’s insistent that it was nothing personal, though. “How do I say this…” she begins. “Perhaps people feel I think I’m too good for New Zealand, but that’s not the case at all. Australia, because it’s so much larger and there’s so much more going on, draws me over a lot. But I’ll appreciate and love New Zealand always and forever, it’s my favourite place in the whole world.”
In a spacious workroom in Auckland’s Eden Terrace, Georgia and her team are working on production for the brand’s resort 2016 collection, inspired by the work of Swiss artist, Mai-Thu Perret. “She has this ongoing project called The Crystal Frontier, about a group of women who founded a commune in the New Mexico desert,” says Georgia. “I think of the Georgia Alice girl as being on a similar journey to find independence and strength.”
Fiercely independent and a whole lot stronger than she looks, Georgia is nothing if not a walking billboard for the brand. As our lunch draws to a close, the conversation turns to making things happen. “Anyone can do anything they want, I truly believe that,” she says. “I’m a girl from Christchurch and I have a brand that’s on Net-a-Porter!”
You can’t argue with that. In fact, you can’t argue with Georgia, period. “The way I run my business is that ‘no’ isn’t an answer, it’s a challenge,” she says. “I get pleasure out of people saying ‘no’ to me, because I can prove to them that their ‘no’ means ‘yes’.” By this point, affirmations are coming thick and fast. “Failure is not even a thing for me. I’m never going to fail in life, because I seek success.”
I’m starting to think of Georgia as a spirit guide for any woman in her mid-twenties trying to make something of herself. It’s no wonder her brand is so wildly popular among this demographic – you want what she has, and wearing what she wears is one way of getting there.
Today though, I’m interested in the other. I interrupt – “who is your energy healer?” “I’ll text you her number,” she says.