Coming from a family of creatives, it came as no surprise when Catherine Gee decided to pursue a career in the arts, eventually launching her namesake brand with a focus on beautifully slinky silk pieces. Here’s her story.
How did you get your start? Were you always interested in fashion as a career?
I grew up outside Nashville, Tennessee. A fashion career wasn’t exactly at the forefront of anyone’s minds, especially back then. Having said that, I grew up in a very artistic and creative family. My grandfather was a career photographer while my father was a fine arts painter so I was always painting, drawing, and creating from a very young age. I also played the violin so creativity was definitely a pretty significant part of the family gene pool.
My love affair with fashion started when I was around 10 or 11. It was during the early 2000s when Zac Posen came onto the scene and I was obsessed with him and his creations. He was doing ball gowns and couture, but was also so modern and edgy. I really fell hard for him and in turn, fell in love with fashion. Interestingly, even way back then, I was already in love with silk and it wasn’t surprising when that became a significant part of my brand years later.
Did you get formal training?
I studied fine arts in college and was the executive director of an art gallery post-graduation. I did everything from fundraising to curating. It was a great job yet I always knew in the back of my mind that I wanted to have my own brand. I actually started illustrating and drawing in my own time.
In terms of formal training, I decided to enroll in a small fashion academy in Santa Barbara. I met the owner, Jody, and she took me under her wing. She brought me to the Garment District, taught me how to do proper fashion illustrations… Everything.
My brand was officially created in 2015 and the first collection was launched in 2016.
Tell us about the early days of Catherine Gee.
My first piece was a slip dress. I’m a total 90s baby and slip dresses were really big back then. I started with this silhouette. I actually specialized in resort from the beginning as we got picked up by the Four Seasons which was really incredible. Now, over time, the silk blouse has become our signature piece.
What about production? You started out with mostly US production.
In the beginning, everything was made in the US. As we got bigger, we shifted our silk and print production to China since this is their specialization. My cotton pieces are made in Peru where the best cotton is made. Our jacquard jackets continue to be produced in downtown Los Angeles.
Your prints are so vibrant and distinctive.
I have a fine arts background and a lot of the hues really come from having that background. I’m inspired by pure color saturation and abstract expressionism. With respect to my prints, I find a lot of my inspiration from nature. I once took a photograph of a palm tree on the beach and that photograph eventually became a print that I used. I keep a pretty extensive album on my phone for print inspiration.
Who is the Catherine Gee woman?
I have a very wide range of women who buy my pieces. She’s anywhere from 30 to 75 years old. I have a classical pianist in her 70s who wears my silk dresses for her performances. Having said that, there are some commonalities - she’s educated, she travels a ton, she appreciates the cultural arts, whether it’s film, music, or art… She’s an independent world-traveler!
How do you think the fashion industry will change post-COVID?
In my personal view, I doubt that we’ll see the traditional big collections of yore. It’ll probably be more capsule style drops, maybe 2-3 collections a year of 7-9 pieces with a focus on timeless, elevated pieces. I do think that maximalism is going to sing once things start to open up.
I also am not a big fan of fast fashion and I’d love consumers to be more conscious about how and what they buy without a singular focus on price.