The New Zealand Label Transforming Unwanted Leather Into Playful Handbags

Written for Broadsheet

New Zealand-based designer Georgia Davison first began working with leather in 2012. “I remember getting a leather pillowcase from a fair, and [making] myself a funny little bag,” she says. “I got so many compliments on it for as long as I wore it.”

Davison started working at night, teaching herself how to best use the material and experimenting with making bags. “I never had a deliberate intention to launch a brand as such, or even turn it into a business,” she says. “When you’re an innately creative person who makes your work by hand, it’s very personal to you. That work then somehow becomes your business – and that is a whole new process in itself.”

Davison began making accessories for friends and family, and officially launched her label Georgia Jay in 2015.

Along with her sister Ruby, Davison produces everything in an open-plan studio in Auckland using materials from around New Zealand and Australia. “Eighty per cent of our leather is dead stock,” Davison says, meaning she uses end-of-line leathers, mostly from fashion houses that don’t have a use for it anymore. “Some leather I use has been at the suppliers since the ’90s, and it’s covered in dust. So it’s really nice to be able to use these materials.”

The colours, textures and patterns Davison picks up in the off-cuts set the tone and feel for each Georgia Jay collection. The sisters hand-cut every hide, and because of the nature of the materials only produce very limited runs and one-off pieces.

The vibrant green Little Ombra bag is made with leather from a local tannery in Wanganui, New Zealand. Originally premium upholstery leather with an oil finish, the material softens, moulds and wears beautifully over time. The classic midi-size handbag is finished with asymmetrical stitching and a rounded leather shoulder handle.

“We like to play with seam lines, which give each style a little more personality. Whether that’s an asymmetric dart within the body, or graduated seams, or tuck pleats to create volume,” Davison says. “Little fine refinements and details [like that].”

The current collection also includes coin pouches, shoulder bags, cross-body bags, totes and boat baskets. Prices range from $105NZD (around $100AUD) for an oiled-leather curved card-holder to $490NZD ($470AUD) for a soft, pebbled-leather carryall, and colourways cover butter, pear, mustard, emerald, coco, baby blue, navy and black. The label has also released a number of one-off styles made from limited chalk-coloured crocodile-embossed leather dead stock.

Georgia Jay’s upcoming spring/summer 20 collection will feature more structural pieces and more soft curves. “It’s very fun and playful,” Davison says. “And of course [has] lots of colour and texture.”

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