Many players in the fashion industry are currently engaged in rewiring their processes to match changing customer expectations around speed and access, but Paris Georgia doesn’t have to – it’s only a few years old. The label has now been chosen as the ‘Mercedes-Benz Presents’ designer to open New Zealand Fashion Week with a runway show.
The Paris Georgia label originally emerged as a luxury basics capsule collection designed to complement the vintage range sold through Paris Mitchell-Temple and Georgia Cherrie’s first business, The Mercantile. Also launched in 2015, this online store store sold vintage items brought in from the US and styled in an editorial-driven way usually reserved for new designer product.
This concept is now commonplace but at the time, Cherrie says, “the sell-through was incredible”. The Mercantile was closed in June 2017.
“As special as it is, it’s quite a hard business, vintage,” says Mitchell-Temple.
The story of how Paris Georgia emerged as what was effectively a store brand and then overtook the store in popularity is an increasingly familiar one, echoing the origin of last year’s Mercedes-Benz Presents label, Knuefermann.
Paris Georgia started to take off after its discovery by Maryam Nassir Zadeh, who stocked it in her New York showroom. This exposed Paris Georgia to new buyers and stockists, who then spread the word.
The label now has around 35-40 stockists across New Zealand, Australia, the US, UK, Japan and China.
Cherrie says that while she and Mitchell-Temple dream of one day opening a flagship store, Paris Georgia’s distribution strategy is still strongly focused on wholesale: “It’s an incredible way to get exposure to new markets.”
“We are a new brand, so we’re navigating all of this,” Cherrie says. “Each season something changes and I don’t know if you’d ever get into a flow where everything is perfect.”
There’s a firm plan in place, but being so new to market gives Paris Georgia the ability to be nimble. The Mercantile’s legacy also gives Mitchell-Temple and Cherrie the freedom to make independent decisions about their business – Paris Georgia was funded from The Mercantile’s early profits, and remains fully self-funded.
The pair say they’re open to investors as the label grows, but they’re still finding the right fit.
Having to pay their own way for flights, samples and everything it takes to run a business means she and Cherrie never take a moment for granted, Mitchell-Temple says.
“It makes you work harder.”
Many designers are now working to line up their production with consumers’ growing demand to shop products they’ve seen on the runway or on social media as soon as possible, and Paris Georgia is no exception. Cherrie says the only place shoppers can currently pre-order on collections is US ‘super luxury’ retailer Moda Operandi.
The tension between shoppers’ growing ‘want it now’ mentality and the practicality of production cycles was brought into sharp relief when Victoria’s Secret model Rosie Huntington-Whitely posted a selfie in Paris Georgia’s Charlotte wrap top and Isla slip midi skirt.
“So many people asked for the outfit and it’s not available yet,” Cherrie says. “It’s frustrating sometimes.”
Mitchell-Temple says there’s no clear solution to this issue but for Paris Georgia, it’s about carrying on building the brand: “You just get traction where you can.”
“And hope that the hype doesn’t die out,” Cherrie adds.
Paris Georgia product is all made in New Zealand. Sometimes this makes for frustrating limitations – Cherrie says the team looked into producing knitwear, but the limited capacity of Kiwi manufacturers meant it wasn’t possible at the time. However, keeping manufacturing close by puts Cherrie and Mitchell-Temple in touch with the production side of their business every day.
While the decline of New Zealand’s apparel manufacturing sector has been much discussed since the demise of beloved occasionwear label Miss Crabb earlier in the year, Cherrie thinks it’s due for a renaissance.
The older generation of designers kept manufacturers alive, but Cherrie says rising labels like Paris Georgia, Wynn Hamlyn and Maggie Marilyn have got local factories and artisans “booked out”.
Paris Georgia is still considering how to offer knitwear, but the label launched a bridal range in 2018. It was prompted by the dress Cherrie and Mitchell-Temple created for Mitchell-Temple’s own wedding, which was featured in Vogue Australia and inspired many requests from readers.
“We thought, let’s do this,” Mitchell-Temple says. “[Bridal] is such a happy market to be in.”
The pair were already doing plenty of bespoke items, so it made sense to roll out the bridal range as an extension of the existing occasionwear lines. Gowns will be made to order but Cherrie promises the wait for each item won’t be too long.
The first Paris Georgia bridal lookbook will launch online sometime during mid to late September.
For Paris Georgia’s only previous catwalk show, which was a small-scale ‘presentation’ in Sydney, Mitchell-Temple and Cherrie cast the models from the label’s customer base. They deliberately chose “real women with inspiring jobs” to reflect Paris Georgia’s brand identity.
“It was like a girl gang,” Cherrie says.
‘Strong women’ is a big part of the brand, say the pair. Asked to describe the brand, they provide some words describing their ideal customer: she’s refined, intelligent, discerning, “incredibly strong”.
“Paris Georgia is a mindset, not an age,” Mitchell-Temple says.
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