Art

Georgia On My Mind

georgia1

Laurie Osborne meets fashion designer Georgia Hall. Photo: Lukas Vrtilek.

GEORGIA, did you always want a career in fashion?
I wanted to be a ballerina. I was dancing full-time in the performing arts, and then my girlfriend called me up and asked me to come to Bali to design a range. I told her that I couldnโ€™t draw a stick figure, but she just told me not to worry and that she loved my style. The only thing was that I would have to fly the very next day. Someone else had been due to come, but they had been put off by the Bali bomb. I had 12 hours to get my stuff together, and ended up being here for 13 years.

Where does your unique sense of style come from?
From a very young age, I used to love to dress up. Hula skirts, tutus, stockings on your head. Fashion was always a passion. I used to go opโ€™ shopping to be different to everyone else. Vintage has always been my thing. I used to love going into the wardrobe department when I was acting.

Tell us about your acting career.
When I was really young, my mum put me in a modelling agency so I was doing commercials. I got back into acting as a teenager, and did a TV movie with Kirstie Alley and Deborah Harry. They dubbed my voice to have an American accent, but it was exciting. I was actually starting to get somewhere with my acting, and then I came to Bali.

Do you design clothes for yourself?
I used to design for myself, but itโ€™s changed over the years. Sometimes, Iโ€™ll pick a girl that I know I want to do the shoot with, or perhaps a famous person that I envision wearing my clothes. Then Iโ€™ll mould my clothes around that person. The labelโ€™s got younger. Well, I grew up and the label stayed the same age.

So, is there a cut-off age?
When people ask me what the demographic is, I want to say 17 to 70 years old. There are all kinds of 70-year-olds. My mumโ€™s really young and hip and she wears State of Georgia.

Were shoes your first love?
Yes, I really love shoes, but producing them in Bali just became too expensive. If I create a shoe and cost it out to $700 then customers might as well go to a high-end designer and get that boot.

How did you make the transition from shoes to clothing?
I would deck myself out in shoes and sarong dresses because I didnโ€™t know about getting an agent. Iโ€™d walk into stores, flipping through the shelves, praying that someone would notice me. And they did. I would drive around like a door-to-door salesman, saying to people, โ€œIโ€™ve got a whole size range in the car!โ€

What are some of the challenges that you face being based in Bali?
I think sometimes not being in control of the selling. You canโ€™t always see whatโ€™s working and what isnโ€™t because you have to rely on feedback from your agents. Occasionally, Iโ€™ll go and sit in on a sell, and just watch. I find from that in one sitting I can find out so much more than the agents might be prepared to tell me.

Do buyers speak candidly in front of you?
They do. I think when they see the face of the designer, they speak more openly.

Youโ€™re pretty big in Japan these days.
Yes, I think that my market is more suited to Japan. Theyโ€™re a little more playful there, more risk-taking than Australians.

How do you find out about celebrities wearing your clothes?
Often PR people will come by, weโ€™ll give them clothes and the stars will be seen wearing them. Other times, you just find out about in a magazine. Itโ€™s an awesome feeling. Christina Ricci commented on one of my dresses to my best friend at a wedding so I made her an identical one and sent it to her. She was lovely, and wrote me a thank you note. Still, to this day, if I see anyone at all wearing my clothes I get excited. That feeling never dies.

Do you find that having an online store has changed your relationship with your customers?
You do feel closer to people because youโ€™re constantly getting feedback from them. You can instantly see what people are buying, and whatโ€™s selling more.

How do you feel about Instagram?
Itโ€™s all about Instagram and social media these days. Itโ€™s sad to me because Iโ€™m a very tactile person, and I love to open up a magazine. We use the hashtag, #stateofgeorgia.

Does the actual State of Georgia in America have a problem with that?
Iโ€™m not sure, but Iโ€™m occasionally ranking slightly above them on Google. I think if you have a lot of press, it helps. People that know me tell me I couldnโ€™t have picked a better name, as there are many different states to Georgia.

What can we expect from Georgiaโ€™s many states in the future?
Amazing things. I want to head to the US, and crack that market. Iโ€™m also starting a basics collection. Iโ€™m going to launch that next summer, and sell year-round.

You sound very busy. Whatโ€™s a typical day like for you?
Itโ€™s been quite full-on because Iโ€™ve just had my baby. I spend a lot of my time emailing customers, looking at opportunities or working with pattern makers. As I run the business, I have to wear a lot of different hats.

Which part of Bali do you call home?
Umalas. I just renovated a house there. Weโ€™ve got the lease for 14 years, and now I can finally make it mine.

Is your factory close by?
It is, and thereโ€™s no traffic so I can dash to work and then dash back to feed the baby.

Who, or what, is your greatest inspiration to date?
I love Audrey Hepburn. Sheโ€™s beautiful; delicate, but quirky.

Speaking of quirky, what kind of girl wears State of Georgia?
Once I was asked this question and I replied, โ€œa girl with ballsโ€. But, not really. Youโ€™ve got to be pretty confident to wear State of Georgia; colourful, with a strong personality. Itโ€™s not for the faint-hearted.

www.stateofgeorgia.com.au

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