Meet The Maker: Georgia Davison Of Georgia Jay
Zayyar: Tell us a little bit about yourself Georgia, what do you do and where are you based?
Georgia: I/we (my sister Ruby and I) make bags for women of style, to love and to last. Each piece is entirely handmade from our open studio in Auckland. We utilise dead-stock materials, sourced from local, New Zealand and Australian manufacturers and distributors. Our hides are handpicked and individually cut to create one-off pieces and small, limited runs.
Zayyar: How did you first become interested in fashion and handbags/leather goods in particular?
Georgia: I guess I have always had a strong interest in design and how something is actually made. Whether it was fashion, furniture, interiors, spatial, objects, design and art as a form of communication and self-expression has always fascinated me.
I studied fashion design til my early 20’s but after I graduated I was in quite a dark place internally and I was feeling quite displaced and wasn’t sure where I belonged within that industry. I started to play around with leather, it was a whole new skill I hadn’t yet acquired, but in a way, it quickly became a form of therapy for me. There’s a special connection when creating with your hands, that tactility and working with natural materials, it’s very soothing and settling. I soon dedicated all my spare time and evenings to developing my leather craft skills, particularly learning how to make bags.
Zayyar: Were you always interested in starting your own line growing up? How exactly did Georgia Jay start, what's the origin story?
Georgia: Not at all, I never had planned for this! This all started as a form of healing and recovery for me. It seemed to be the only thing that I found enjoyment in and that felt natural to me, it gave me a purpose and a focal point to put all my energy into. For the first few years, it was just a sideline love interest of mine, I had to learn and practice my craft repeatedly, failing over and over. As I got better at my work, things started to snowball and eventually in 2014 (24 years old) it had become my full-time work, my business.
READ: Crafting Ceramics: A Conversation With Fiona Mackay
The first few years was about finding my voice and developing my style. My personal style has become much more intuitive and cognisant as I get older. For me, creating authentic, purposeful work will always be my focus and where I find fulfilment.
Zayyar: What were some of the biggest challenges you had to face early on upon launching?
Georgia: Having no financial support was the biggest challenge but also the biggest blessing. I could only purchase materials and equipment as I made and sold things. It meant my growth was very organic and it’s taught me how to manage my money. Because of that, I’ve never felt I wanted or needed to grow too quickly. It also brought me the time to develop the many skills required to run a business and also be able to manage, internally and understand every area of my business.
Zayyar: What’s something that excites you about your business? I know being an entrepreneur isn’t easy at all.
Georgia: I get to work with my sister Ruby every day, we think quite similar in design and aesthetic but we both have strong skill sets in different areas within the business and I feel extremely grateful and excited for what we are already and will achieve together.
Also, our international growth has been big this year, which has been a huge shift for us. We are about to show our first collection in NYC and Paris for the SS20 market. This is a really exciting time for us, we are working with an incredible global sales agency who is mentoring and assisting us to navigate our way into this market.
READ: Power Of Images: Rachel Soh
Zayyar: I know that you handpick the materials yourself, how do you go about choosing the right ones and what do you look for?
Georgia: I look for quality, colour, a texture. I have five different suppliers, each offering different leathers so tend to dance between them all. I love working with a variety of materials and leathers, It gives our product range variety and I prefer the challenge. I get bored working with only one kind of leather. I also love working with my good friend Talcia who makes our wooden handles for our Orla and Mabel styles, it’s an extremely special collaboration and the combination of wood and leather is really inspiring to me.
Zayyar: You mentioned everything is creating in your workroom and this also serves as a space for retail. Was that a conscious decision to tie the two together? And also to follow on from that in an industry such as bags and leather goods where I feel physical touch and appearance are needed with the product - how important is retail when it comes to your business?
Georgia: Yes, It was always been paramount to me to have a working space where I can connect directly with my customers, a personal space which embodies our brand, our products and our story. From a customer's perspective, I feel it's very important to have that connection point, a place to physically interact and connect directly with the product and the makers. This kind of retail experience is very important to me and to my business, we get to build relationships directly with customers, a sense of community, which is invaluable.
Zayyar: When you approach a new design for a bag what’s your creative process like? Where do you look for inspiration, what kind of questions do you ask yourself?
Georgia: With any design, for me, it’s always about I connect with a product and how it makes me feel. I’ve always been drawn to a minimal aesthetic. Our design process always begins with sourcing leathers. I mostly source deadstock leather, which are leathers that were previously never utilised or used by a consumer, often an over run and then have ended up at a leather supplier, quite often untraceable. I spent a lot of time sourcing, pulling together edits of different colours and textures. Then we work on form, proportions and techniques we want to explore/transfer. Every piece in our range has a purpose and function. I love to work with soft pebble leathers for our softer, crossbody pieces. This leather is more fluid and malleable so we design with that in mind, using a lot of curves and soft lines. We also work more rigid leathers, which allows us to play with structure, for these leathers, our designs are more ornamental and object-like.
READ: Process Of Creation: Brian Chen Of (multee)project
We place huge importance on practicality so we spend a lot of time developing the functionality of each piece, this is hugely part of why we make everything in-house, it gives us control and ability to consistently make adjustments and refinements to our products. Designed and made entirely by women for women.
Zayyar: In terms of process what do you enjoy more? The design aspect, the business side or the physical labour of crafting a piece?
Georgia: I enjoy each process so much, I have a very holistic approach! The process of designing, sourcing and sampling is always exciting to me, it's such a process and requires a lot of creative and technical, problem-solving energy. At some point, each of these components has to come together, which is very rewarding! I take care of the entire business side as well as the photoshoots/art direction/social/ and all of the production prep - sourcing/cutting/splitting/embossing/skiving and then it's gets handed over to my sister Ruby who is incredible and she sews it all together, between the two of us, we get a lot done. I really enjoy the business side, I've been learning so much this last few months, I'm lucky to be working with an incredible business mentor who is a huge asset and has helped me so much already in such a short amount of time!
Zayyar: What’s been the biggest achievement for you personally through the brand?
Georgia: My work has guided me out of a really tough time in my life, for that I feel extremely grateful. When you hit rock bottom there really is nowhere to go but up and personally living that, really gave me strength, humility and enough audaciousness to pursue the work I valued most and to do things my own way, on my own time.
Zayyar: What have you been reading, listening to and/or watching lately that our readers might enjoy?
Georgia: I'm reading a really great book at the moment called 'Principles by Ray Dalio’. I also must-have nearly every book out on Zaha Hadid, I find her very fascinating and inspiring, it's nice to look completely outside of fashion for inspiration and learning the processes of other creative people across different design mediums. Instagram I really enjoy the words of Yung Pueblo. Music, anything Bossa Nova, Reverberation Radio, recently I have been really enjoying Anderson Paak, Sun Kil Moon.
Zayyar: And finally, what's a piece of advice you’d like someone to take away with today whether its in regards to manufacturing, business, or creativity?
Georgia: Your failures create your successes! Don’t be scared to fail! Learn and practice your craft, consistently and repetitively. Acquire sound business values and ethos and make decisions that align with these. Spend time alone, get to know yourself as much as possible, intuition is your greatest asset.
Interview: Zayyar Win Thein
Photos: Platform Studios