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 couldn’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 op’ 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 it’s changed over the years. Sometimes, I’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 I’ll mould my clothes around that person. The label’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 mum’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 didn’t know about getting an agent. I’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, “I’ve got a whole size range in the car!”

What are some of the challenges that you face being based in Bali?
I think sometimes not being in control of the selling. You can’t always see what’s working and what isn’t because you have to rely on feedback from your agents. Occasionally, I’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.

You’re pretty big in Japan these days.
Yes, I think that my market is more suited to Japan. They’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, we’ll give them clothes and the stars will be seen wearing them. Other times, you just find out about in a magazine. It’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 you’re constantly getting feedback from them. You can instantly see what people are buying, and what’s selling more.

How do you feel about Instagram?
It’s all about Instagram and social media these days. It’s sad to me because I’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?
I’m not sure, but I’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 couldn’t have picked a better name, as there are many different states to Georgia.

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

You sound very busy. What’s a typical day like for you?
It’s been quite full-on because I’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. We’ve got the lease for 14 years, and now I can finally make it mine.

Is your factory close by?
It is, and there’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. She’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, “a girl with balls”. But, not really. You’ve got to be pretty confident to wear State of Georgia; colourful, with a strong personality. It’s not for the faint-hearted.

www.stateofgeorgia.com.au