The founder of denim label Paige talks about being one of the top women in the industry
You used to be a fashion model. What are your memories?
I loved it - I feel like I went to design school on the job. At the time I had no idea I would ever start a denim brand, but I had a passion for fashion and became obsessed with making garments that look amazing on the body.
You were Miss California in 1991 - did you have a signature talent for the pageant?
I’m a singer. I love music, it’s a huge part of my life. I actually used to have my own band and I am still a rock star at heart.
Do you still have the crown?
Yes, I do. It’s a reminder that hard work pays off and of how far I have come.
Why did you set up your own brand?
Between my love of fashion and my realisation that there were no female designers in the premium denim market, I felt I could bring a fresh approach to the industry. I wanted to make people see denim as more than weekend wear. I also wanted to build a company that could empower others, especially women.
I love denim. It’s the first thing I put on in the morning and then I build my outfit from there. Jeans are also one of the most challenging garments to fit, so I love the challenge in helping people feel good in them. I also love that it is for everyone and adore seeing how everyone styles theirs differently.
How easy was the process of launching the brand?
It was a labour of love, but it felt like a natural progression. The biggest obstacle was having the means to fill the orders. We ended up writing orders at the very first Coterie show [in New York] in 2004 that exceeded our expectations by a long shot, more than we had projected for the year.
What is your personal favourite pair of jeans?
My favourite is our Edgemont Ultra Skinny in black silk coating. I seriously live in them.
Have you ever worn denim dungarees?
Yes I have; I am currently obsessed with our vintage black ones.
Is double denim ever a good thing?
Denim on denim can look amazing - we even put it in our spring 14 look book.
So what is the biggest denim fashion crime?
The biggest crime by far is the Brazil-cut jeans that have an attached denim thong that is supposed to peek out at the top. That is just wrong.
How does the UK customer differ from the US shopper?
The UK customer is more willing to take fashion risks, and is not as conservative as the American customer. We tend to sell more directional pieces in the UK than we do in the US.
How do you find being one of the only female founders of a major denim brand?
I’ve only ever experienced the denim industry as a woman, so I have no other experience to go by. I do think I have to fight harder to be taken seriously. The model-turned-designer was definitely an obstacle to overcome. However, I think women are able to relate to me and so I bond easily with buyers and customers. I love that part of my job.
Why do you think the denim industry doesn’t attract more women?
I think the denim industry in particular is very difficult. Denim is a beast, and a very specialised field where most of the major players have been in the industry for years. At the time we launched Paige, there were 65 denim brands launching at the same time at the Coterie trade show - I don’t believe many are still around. You have to be strong, keep your eye on the big picture and be willing to take huge risks.
Which celebrity would you most like to see in Paige jeans?
I would personally love to see Johnny Depp. I also love seeing people like Kate Moss, Rita Ora and Joan Smalls wear our pieces because they all have such great personal style.
Where is your favourite place in the world?
My favourite place in the world is Sardinia, Italy. But I absolutely adore London. And I
feel most centred and grounded in Sundance, Utah.
How do you switch off at the end of the day?
I play with my three dogs: Ashley, London and Chelsea. See, I told you I adore London.
I also love to get outside and hike or go see live music.
You’re dubbed the ‘Queen of Jeans’. Who is the king?
The king would have to be my husband and partner Michael Geller.