fashion designer genevieve smart

Sisters Alexandra (left) and Genevieve Smart.

It's interesting how a name conjures more than the words it describes. Especially when it relates to a business. Take Ginger & Smart. I never think of its actual meaning. To me, when I hear those words I think of my friend Jen who often wears the label, and everytime she does, I have to ask what she's wearing. I think of the number of times I've liked clothes in a magazine and checked the captions to discover they're Ginger & Smart. And I think of the two dresses I bought last summer which were incredibly beautiful if not a little impractical for me (white and silk do not mix with Vegemite hands on a two-year-old son). But I had to have those dresses. And so sisters Alexandra and Genevieve Smart are indeed smart women - not only in name but form.

Which five words best describe you? Intuitive, visual, busy, often late.

How did you get your career start and what path have you taken since? The first paid work I had was doing undercut haircuts on girls after school. It was in the 80s and I received $5 for a cut. The Zimmermann sisters gave me my first job in design when I graduated from Fashion Design at East Sydney Technical College. After 3 years I went travelling, living and working in New York and London in fashion and dappled in costume for film. On returning home to Australia I worked as a designer for Lisa Ho.

The industry requires drive, passion and long hours. I realised that if I wanted to balance a family and a career in fashion then I would need some flexibility. My sister Alex and I came together about this time and began Ginger & Smart with a tiny range of products and a big vision. We love the creative freedom mixed with business savvy required to keep moving forward. It still feels like early days on the path for us even though the business is 8 years old.

What’s the best lesson you’ve learnt along the way? I've learnt that to switch on creatively you have to learn to switch off sometimes.

What’s your proudest career achievement? I think often our big moments happen when we are in the eye of the storm and somehow numbed from feeling proud at the time... years later we realise it was a good moment. Opening our stores and our first orders from international department stores felt like this. Mostly for me it's the little moments when a bit of magic happens and I feel quietly chuffed. I hope our proudest moments are still to come.

What’s been your best decision? To combine talents with my sister Alexandra and start our business. It works us harder than any employer ever would yet somehow gives us the freedom to be mothers too.

Who inspires you? I'm drawn to interesting people with paradoxes and contradictions. Strong and gentle, feminine and boyish, naughty and sensible, glamorous and earthy...

What are you passionate about? The top 3 would be my husband, my daughter and our business, Ginger & Smart.

Which person, living or dead, would you most like to meet? I would have loved to see Nina Simone play in a dark New York club in the 60s, and I would have bought her a drink. Her music is so beautiful, moving and challenging. Wild is the Wind gets me every time.

What dream do you still want to fulfil? I have so many. I would love to live in Paris with my little family for a while and for us to show the collections from there. My husband and I love architecture and dream of designing and building a home one day.

What are you reading? Freakonomics by Steven Levitt and Stephen J Dubner, as well as some old poetry books.

images courtesy of ginger & smart

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