Simple Santa Barbara Luxury Inspires Catherine Gee
Originally from Nashville, Tenn., Catherine Gee launched her eponymous brand two years ago with California on her mind.
Immediately she won the Crème de la Crème contest during WWD/MAGIC’s Emerging Designers Showcase that year. It was an honor that set high standards for a high-end line based upon simplicity. “I started the collection around the classic ’90s iconic slipdress,” she said.
Still designing around simple but classic lines, Gee recently launched her Resort 2018 collection, inspired by the Southern California sunshine and European vibe of her adopted home in Santa Barbara, Calif. From her 1,000-square-foot studio, Gee’s 10 years in the Golden State have yielded a luxury clothing brand based upon simple concepts of versatile—yet elegant—dressing.
“The broader inspiration for this collection was European and Mediterranean but also keeping in mind what inspires me for the entire line, which is the Southern California—specifically Santa Barbara—climate,” she said. “I am really inspired by the light in Southern California.”
With an affinity for silk, Gee estimates that 90 percent of her line is made of the fabric. Using only the finest silk sourced from China, Gee manufactures most of her apparel in downtown Los Angeles.
“Silk is supple, soft and it’s very elegant. I wanted to do something that was a bit more elevated and silk is my absolute favorite,” she said. “Plus, a lot of my collection—when you see it—is all about the drape and how the style hangs.”
Allowing her creativity to drive an expansion into other fabrics, Gee is now working with silk-blended linens, which have received positive feedback from clients. She is also exploring materials from other global resources as well.
“While I do primarily make my clothing in Los Angeles, I have some pieces coming in from Peru that I make from very high-quality Pima [cotton].”
For her Resort 2018 collection, Gee maintained her commitment to soft, wearable silks and linen pieces but also incorporated on-trend elements that still afford classic looks to be worn well after the season passes.
“With my collection, I pay attention to trends, but I don’t let them drive me. For me, taking the menswear influence into women’s fashion—the classic suiting isn’t going anywhere—I think you can do that in an elegant, feminine way.”
By using soft fabrics to create beautiful lines that complement the movement of a woman’s body, Gee has satisfied a need for elegant clothing that transitions well between different social settings, making the brand perfect for travel.
“Ours is a very resort-driven brand,” she said. “The people who are buying—whether it’s the buyers, boutiques or direct-to-consumer—they’re buying it for vacations. That has been really cool for me to see unfold,” she explained.
Through designing a line that affords versatile, classic pieces, Gee is able to take part in some of the most wonderful times of her customers’ lives. Her retail partners appreciate Gee’s ability to incorporate trends without sacrificing the style for which the brand is known.
“Everything is very fashion forward but also very sleek. I just sold a couple of Catherine’s pieces to a bride who was going to Greece on her honeymoon, and she couldn’t get enough of it,” said Hannah Adcox, owner of Tuscaloosa, Ala.–based boutique Dukes Clothier.
Working with Gee for nearly two years has allowed Adcox to see the growth of the Catherine Gee brand, as the collection gains recognition among consumers. “Our customers have already started to recognize the brand in the store, and when we get new pieces of it in, they recognize her name,” she said.
Wholesale pricing for the Catherine Gee line starts at $67 for tank tops, $105 for blouses and $110 for pants. Wholesale dress prices start at $167 for slip styles while occasion pieces are priced at $226 and eveningwear designs are $250.
The brand has an online presence at www.catherinegee.com and is available at upscale boutiques.