What Paris Georgia Did Next: The NZ Fashion Label With A Global Point Of View

By Dan Ahwa
Paris Mitchell Temple and Georgia Cherrie in their Auckland studio. Photo / Babiche Martens

The brainchild of childhood friends, fashion label Paris Georgia has grown from a small collection of wardrobe basics to a global fashion brand that counts the likes of Dua Lipa, Kate Hudson and Lady Gaga as fans, with more than 40 stockists worldwide. Jet-setting founders Paris Mitchell Temple and Georgia

For a nation built on a practical wardrobe of workwear, oilskin coats, sturdy knits and home-sewn treasures (generally speaking) we sure know how to dish out glamour.

You only have to look back at the confederacy of designers like Patrick Steel, Vinka Lucas, Annie Bonza, Adrienne Winkelmann and Paula Ryan, whose archives of excessive shapes and luxurious fabrics have helped unlock suppressed peacocks over the years. It was evident in The Dowse Art Museum’s 2021 exhibition of Eden Hore’s private collection of more than 200 gowns from the 70s. The High Country farmer with a penchant for couture provided the perfect reflection point to help us reevaluate our general resistance to fabulosity, in favour of the humble, unobtrusive appeal of practical clothes. But what constitutes glamour today when dressing up is no longer solely centered around long lunches and a parade of cocktail parties?

New Zealand fashion label Paris Georgia, founded by business partners and long-time friends Paris Mitchell Temple and Georgia Cherrie, has for the past seven years offered up a contemporary vision of glamour — and it’s one they embody every hour of the day. When we meet in person at their recently expanded Eden Terrace studio in Auckland, the pair float between pragmatic business chat and introspection, looking at each other when one is unable to finish a sentence, the knowing comfort of always having someone else by your side to navigate the helm.

“I’m more vibes,” says Georgia, “and you’re more thoughts,” she says, laughing at Paris.

“I get quite studious and nerdy about things,” Paris says. “Things come very naturally to Georgia. I’ve always had to work a little harder.”

They both speak in a similar purring cadence that sometimes feels not from here, a byproduct perhaps of their many years spent travelling and now dealing with business partners and customers from all over the world.

They might not want to admit it either, but yes, they are glamorous, charming, modern women, which makes the two of their energies combined in person even more potent. It’s the advantage afforded to people who stand over 1.78m with good taste.

“Someone told us once, ‘If you are not wearing your bra, then you should design your full wardrobe, at least’,” says Georgia. “If you are missing something, design it. That’s what we do.”

Minimalist, sculptural, everything chic. Like their sprawling glossy boardroom table or the artfully arranged vase of flowers nearby, Paris and Georgia’s aesthetically pleasing universe now includes 45 stockists around the globe with key markets in the US, UK and China.

“We love a party dress. Can’t help that,” laughs Paris. “For a place where there are not too many parties, to us, glamour comes so naturally.”

It’s making women look as powerful as they feel,” adds Georgia. “It’s like an energy that transcends into your life rather than just buying a garment.”

Their celebrity connections help too, and they’re not just niche support acts but headliners who have both cult fashion and mass appeal, including Kate Hudson, Lady Gaga, Kendall Jenner and Dua Lipa. Thanks to their LA-based PR agent Shana Honeyman of The Honeyman Agency, it’s the sort of money-can’t-buy publicity most brands can only dream about.

Andie McDowell wearing a Paris Georgia suit in New York. Photo / Getty Images
Andie McDowell wearing a Paris Georgia suit in New York. Photo / Getty Images

“We don’t pay any of these celebrities to wear our clothes. We just couldn’t,” says Georgia. “These people aren’t stepping out of their homes for less than $30,000. So the process has been organic, and having Shana on the ground has taken the visibility of our brand to new levels we never dreamed of when we first began.”

Since launching in 2015 with their Paris Georgia Basics line, it wasn’t long after in 2018 that the duo dropped the word basics to re-launch as the fully-fledged fashion label it is now, honing its signature pieces into a defined aesthetic of dresses and separates that look as if they’ve been plucked straight out of Carolyn Bessette-Kennedy’s archives. Concurrently they ran a complementary vintage business The Mercantile, a curation of the vintage treasures they’d sourced over the years. This, along with Paris’ side hustle as a fashion stylist, only helped establish them as arbiters of style.

Prior to this, they were both exposed to the international fashion market — Paris as a design assistant at American Vogue, Georgia as a fashion marketing and communications student at Barcelona’s The European Institute of Design, and interning for Paris-based German-Persian menswear designer Boris Bidjan Saberi.

Georgia’s move to London a year ago is set up so that she can manage the business and its growing international audience, liaising with Paris who manages the Auckland office. The two love to travel, which makes it easy for them to meet in between.

Today they’re making the most of IRL time while Georgia is back home for a few weeks, catching up on business and personal life. She’s godmother to Paris’ almost 2-year-old daughter, Moss, with husband Henry Mitchell Temple, who owns Annabel’s Wine Bar and co-founded East Street Hall.

“We’ve been best friends since we were 13, so that trust we have is so profound,” says Georgia. “We’re also lucky that we do see each other quite a bit, which is really important to the partnership, even though we’re living in different countries.”

They resisted the temptation early on in their business to launch a full fashion line, preferring to take gradual steps. Now they’re in a position to take things to the next level with the support of investment from a venture capital fund and the expansion of the collections into four seasons, a significant evolution for the brand given it all started from their savings.

Georgia Cherrie and Paris Mitchell Temple at the start of their journey in 2015, photographed for Viva. Photo / Babiche Martens
Georgia Cherrie and Paris Mitchell Temple at the start of their journey in 2015, photographed for Viva. Photo / Babiche Martens

“Everything has gone from zero to 100 in terms of our team,” reflects Georgia, noting they’ve grown from a team of two to 10 staff in their Auckland workroom alone, including a loyal patternmaker who has worked with the pair since their first collection. “It’s been non-stop since we started, and now we’re stronger than ever.”

The expansion of the brand comes with invaluable international expertise too. Michael Grieve, a Milan-based New Zealander and VP of brand and client at Gucci, has been acting as a support mentor, a connection set up by New Zealand Trade and Enterprise. In addition, Mary Mitchell, an ex-wholesale director of the successful contemporary luxury brand Khaite, is now in charge of taking care of its wholesale accounts in the US.

“They’ve both been amazing in offering their expertise and guidance,” says Georgia. “Michael is the sort of person who is really open to talking about business. We connected with Mary through one of our buyers in New York, and she loves the brand. She’s worked with us for two seasons now. She obviously has these incredible connections. But it’s also her knowledge of merchandising and her business lens on the collections we find so necessary. She knows how not to compromise our creativity too.”

As for the garments themselves, they haven’t veered too far from their working formula of signature pieces. Paris Georgia’s top-selling items like the “Heart” singlet, a sculpted bodice famously worn by Kendall Jenner, and the sporty “Cocoon” track pants, are still on heavy rotation for many of its loyal customers.

The Elemental collection, a supporting capsule range that evolved from those early days of Paris Georgia Basics, is another example of the brand diversifying its offering and adapting to the market, offering luxurious essentials like languid drawstring trousers and simple knit dresses to complement their more adventurous mainline collections. Unsurprisingly, Elemental is a top seller in the New Zealand market — and builds on its brand ethos of elevating classic wardrobe items so they feel slightly more special. “Even though the collections have grown, it’s more strategic than ever,” says Paris. “We’ve got the analytics and research to make those collections much more efficient.”

But with only one designated stockist in New Zealand (Simon James), how do the pair deal with customers who want to try their clothes on in person? “It is like this endless question and we do know it’s important,” explains Georgia, “So, we’re always doing activations in that space.”

Working with wholesalers and creating in-person shopping nights, dinners, and pop-ups for customers is how many retailers are thinking about reintroducing their brands into the market after the past three years of interruptions and uncertainty. For Paris Georgia, don’t expect to see a physical store any time soon.

“Bricks and mortar don’t appeal to us at this stage,” Georgia says. “We like to collaborate with our stockists and get to know different markets intimately this way. Doing trunk shows where we get to meet our customers individually and really understand if our product is working for their life and what she needs is valuable to us. We’ve really invested a lot of time in creating an e-commerce platform too, one that has adapted to how people are shopping now.”

The other lesson gleaned for brands over the last three years is investing in better size options too, with the pair making gradual steps to cater to their diverse audience.

“We recently added an XL to our offering and it’s something important for us to keep developing and doing correctly, as it does cost more,” says Georgia. “We’ve also picked up eight accounts in China, and there’s a demand for extra small too as a lot of petite women can’t fit our clothes, so it goes both ways. We want to do more in this space through collaborating with the right people.”

Kendall Jenner wearing one of several Paris Georgia pieces, the 'Heart' singlet, in 2019. Photo / Getty Images
Kendall Jenner wearing one of several Paris Georgia pieces, the 'Heart' singlet, in 2019. Photo / Getty Images

There’s a sense they’ll bring that same slowly-but-surely approach to accessories too, previously dabbling in collaborations with online retailer By Far with bags and shoes. Come next season, they’ll release their own shoe style — a sandal/wedge hybrid with a hint of hardware, a style already road-tested by another famous PG muse, Lorde. “I mean, it’s expensive,” says Georgia, “and a long development process. But we’re so excited about this, it’s us as a shoe that you can wear from day to night.”

“Of course, it had to be some type of heel,” adds Paris. ‘We’re tall and we love being taller!”

And while their all-vibes attitude might seem breezy on the surface, they are entirely serious about surrounding themselves with the right people to make the right decisions — whether it’s a retail activation, introducing a new product category, or the perennial question of whether or not to participate in Fashion Week. Their first and last show in 2019 as the Mercedes-Benz Presents Designer was a lesson they learnt head-on.

“We’ve been doing dinners and smaller, intimate events, which give us a better return,” says Georgia. “With Fashion Week, it’s a big commitment and we’d want to make sure we do it ...” Georgia glances at Paris.

“... we’d want to make sure we do it and not be flaky about it,” laughs Paris.

Flakiness is something the fashion industry can be guilty of when it comes to its sustainability efforts too, and the duo are careful of ensuring they are doing what they can to be more mindful of how they run their business. With production divided between New Zealand and China, their factories must comply with a quality control team in New Zealand.

Paris Georgia present at New Zealand Fashion Week in 2019. Photo / Getty Images
Paris Georgia present at New Zealand Fashion Week in 2019. Photo / Getty Images

As for their fabrics, like many designers across the board, finding good-quality fabrics at an affordable margin can be challenging. In a single collection alone you’ll discover everything from Japanese cotton to double crepe satin, vegan leather and polyester blend fabrics. They’re even open about how they source their fabrics, sharing this information with their customers online.

“Where possible our fabric is sourced through a local supplier, who secures high-end, luxurious fabrics and off-cuts that would otherwise end up in landfill,” reads the statement. “Another portion is custom-made in Korea, Japan and China, where cutting-edge technology produces some of the highest-quality textiles in the world.”

While every fashion business has some contentious issues in its supply chains to deal with, it’s clear that their willingness to be better is somewhat more achievable with their international team of backers. With some local fashion labels scaling back or closing completely, Paris and Georgia have smartly surrounded themselves with experts in their field who can help make better decisions as fashion designers and business owners — a preparedness that feels even more integral in a recessionary year.

“We started this in our mid-20s — no one knows what they’re doing at that age really,” says Georgia. “So now these business steps will help give the brand the support it needs. It’s a really exciting time. We’re really proud of the investors that we were able to attract and to see how much faith they have in us to be better every step of the way. There’s a strategy behind us to take things further.”

“I remember working nights and weekends, sourcing vintage and sleeping on a couch in an Airbnb to start our business,” recalls Paris. “We were actually laughing about it the other day. We went to Palm Springs and saved all this money between us, using all of our savings. We really believed in what we were trying to achieve, putting all our energy into The Mercantile, and Paris Georgia Basics in those early years.”

Is it overwhelming still? “It’s been really overwhelming,” says Georgia “but I think we’re now grateful to have real financial structure and support in place.”

In fact, after our interview, they’ve booked a board meeting with another impressive roster of names: Dave Anderson, the former CFO for Icebreaker; Andrea Price, the former global director of digital marketing at Tommy Hilfiger; and Alex Rallis and Rod Snodgrass from investment capital firm Maker Partners.

“It all feels very ‘big girl pants’ stuff,” says Paris, looking at Georgia, who smiles back and replies, “But we’re ready.”

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