In Conversation: Georgina Goodman

Georgina at her West-end Studio by Karbatin

Georgina Goodman’s career is an inspiration for many. Having begun her journey in the advertising department for i-D magazine, she worked her way through the fashion industry to become an amazing shoe designer. She launched her first footwear collection in 2003, she has been described as the future of footwear by Manolo Blahnik, she’s been nominated twice as Accessory Designer of the year by BFC and she has been the masthead behind the iconic Alexander McQueen’ Armadillo shoe.

Today, Georgina continues to run her own label, selling a wide range of hand-painted luxury sneakers and Moroccan-style babouche slippers designed in her West London Studio. We sat down with Mrs. Goodman to talk about her successful career journey and her vision for the future.

Georgina’s studio by Karbatin.

Early Career

Prior to launching her footwear label, Georgina had quite an experience in the fashion world. After moving to London in the ’90s to look for a job in fashion, she soon realized that the easiest way to get one was through connecting with people face-to-face. ‘I got all of my jobs by meeting people out at night’ she recalls. ‘It was a vibrant time in London, you would go to certain clubs, look a certain way and automatically became part of a tribe’. In fact, one night at a bar in east London she met Caryn Franklin, former i-D fashion editor ‘I had a hairstyle that she liked so she told me: ‘I really love your cut, do you want to be in a photo shoot that I am doing?’. As spontaneous as it seems, she then landed a job at i-D in the advertising team.

Little by little, she shifted her attention to the fashion department and started working as a junior stylist. It was during that time that she received an offer to work for Elle magazine. ‘At some point, I didn’t want to just do fashion, I wanted to write as well. I struggled at it at the beginning, but those difficulties motivated me to work harder’.

It was during her time at Elle that she realized it was time to follow her real passion and forget about everything else.

‘My editor at Elle asked me what I really wanted to do in my life. She told me I am not the best writer, but I always wear awesome shoes and seemed to have a genuine love for them. She asked me if I wanted to be a shoe designer’. That same night, Georgina started looking up for footwear design courses. ‘The only women shoe designers I knew were Emma Hope and Christie Morries and they both attended Cordwainers in London, so I applied for the same school’. Georgina, at the age of 29, started her BA course in footwear design. ‘I was by far the oldest person at the college, but If there is something you really want to do, it doesn’t matter your current situation, just do it despite the fear or the discomfort’.

‘I realized from day one it was what I was meant to do. It felt like taking out five heavy coats’. At Cordwainers, her talents started manifesting very soon. ‘I really excelled, I think I held one of the highest degrees ever given for that course. For me, it was incredible to see how well I was doing because I left school with not enough qualifications at 16 and I was severely dyslexic. Back then, when I applied to the CSM [Central Saint Martins College of Art in London, e.d.] I didn’t have a high enough GSE to get accepted and it broke my heart.’

At the end of her final year, she was offered a place for a Masters degree at the Royal College of Art. ‘I took the opportunity straight away and it was just incredible. There I delivered projects for Manolo Blahnik and I was on the course run by Sue Saunders’.

Once graduated and with a great deal of experience, she had the idea of launching her own label.

‘One night after just launching my brand, I attended Manolo Blahnik’s private showing at the Design Museum. As I entered, he immediately turned my way and said: ‘Everyone, don’t look at me, look at her. She is the future of footwear.’ Every journalist interested in shoes was there that night and my career took off quickly’.

Career

With the blessings of Manolo and the exposure he was able to offer her, Georgina quickly opened up a concept shop in Mayfair’s Shepherd Market. The store was modeled over a gallery, allowing people to see the process of shoe-creation once they came in the store. The basement studio was fitted with a glass ceiling so customers, once in the store, could view Georgina below, working on the shoes.  ‘We wanted to sell 100 pairs of limited edition shoes, and once they were gone, never make the same model again. But people could not truly understand the concept and the shoes didn’t sell well’. It was an innovative approach, but maybe ahead of its time. With a new lesson learned, it was time to fall back into a more common commercial perspective and start making standard collections. Two seasons of ready-to-wear shoes and a total of 54 stockists recruited later, the business was performing beyond expectations.

GG’s white sneakers

‘We carried on for a few years on our own, until we signed for a really big investment opening up the company to external control’ says Georgina. ‘But then, the partnership with the new investors went wrong, and almost overnight they closed the business and I lost everything, including my [brand] name and my archive.’ As the corporate side tried to control the business, Georgina went through a tough process common to many fashion designers: ‘that was a really extraordinary thing that you hear it happens but it was happening to me. After that, I started questioning whether I wanted to go back and start designing a collection ever again.’

GG’s hand-painted Moroccan-style babouche slippers by Karbatin.

New Beginnings

Five years ago, after a long and tiring process, Georgina managed to take her brand back and now she operates in her own terms. ‘I started a small mono-brand offering shoes online, I don’t do seasonal sales and I don’t work with wholesale’. This way, Georgina is able to continue to explore her creative nature, while offering a much better price and value for a shoe.

‘I decided that I should work with only very few retailers and don’t hire too many people. I have a structure for which I can go directly to my customer with an even better product’ she says. ‘I can order only what I believe I will actually sell. It’s important to question what we are putting out in the world, not just in material use, but also considering landfill, travel costs, transportation, and packaging.’

The Goodman operations are now growing under strict control from Georgina’s West-London studio. ‘I am being true to myself as a creative and as an artist, less influenced by how the industry works’. Her business model now focuses on the long-term, offering timeless unisex models, each of them hand-painted by at her studio. A product that truly reflects Georgina’s authenticity and artistic vision. 

 

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