Kagi designs a show hit
A designer jewellery business that grew from "one of those cheesy life moments" sitting at the end of a jetty in the Marlborough Sounds stole the show on the second day of New Zealand Fashion Week.
Kagi designer Kat Gee, whose dad Bill Gee grew up in Seddon, presented the first jewellery show at Fashion Week on Wednesday night to 500 VIP guests and retailers.
The theatrical burlesque show, using the catwalk as a stage, presented Ms Gee's latest Birds of Paradise collection on professional dancers and was opened by a topless Caitlin Smith, one of New Zealand's top jazz singers, delicately covered in blue feathers.
The show was choreographed by renowned artistic director and filmmaker Morag Brownlie.
"We wanted to do something more theatrical," Ms Gee said. "You have to take risks if you want the best results and it blew people away."
The 31-year-old designer had shown her jewellery at Fashion Week before but only alongside other fashion labels. This was the first exclusive show for Kagi and for jewellery.
"We wondered how we could bring the jewellery to life, but fashion shows are a great medium for that."
Ms Gee's career has come a long way from making oven-baked clay jewellery as an 8-year-old in Christchurch.
She sold those early designs to friends in primary school to fund trips to the tuck-shop.
But an epiphany, while on holiday at the family bach at Te Ranui in Queen Charlotte Sound, convinced Ms Gee to give up her career as a graphic designer and follow her dreams.
She started to attend jewellery-making classes at night and in 2006, with help from her father, bought into a business which she renamed Kagi.
She now lives in Auckland.
Business and fiancée Geoff Neal, whose family farm is in Rapuara, came on board and helps manage the company's finances and marketing.
Today, Kagi employs 15 people and its jewellery is sold in over 180 stores across Australasia making it one of the fastest growing companies in New Zealand.
It ranked 40th in Deloittes Fast 50 list for 2011. Ms Gee was named as a finalist in the Ernst and Young Entrepreneur of the Year 2012.
"Recognition along the way is great but for me its not really about that," she said. "I want women to enjoy wearing my jewellery."
With Fashion Week over, Ms Gee is already designing her next collection before flying to China next week to visit the company's factories.
"The world of fashion is pretty fast-paced," she said. "Whoever said it was glamorous didn't know the amount of elbow grease that goes on behind the scenes."
- The Marlborough Express