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JIS News

Georgina Harley-Smith, a talented British designer of Jamaican heritage, has been named among the top talents in the United Kingdom to watch for 2009, by Courvoisier The Future 500.
Courvoisier The Future 500 is an exclusive network for rising stars across the UK. Being awarded a place within the network shows dedication and commitment to achieving success. A total of 500 promising entrepreneurs were named last November and a top 100 were selected as the most exciting talents in their category. Georgina was among the top 100 selected.
She told JIS News that she is pleased by the recognition, which she said, could have “huge benefits” for promising entrepreneurs.
“It’s (Courvoisier The Future 500) a very reputable name. It means that you are under their roof and you are able to collaborate with other members in your field. You also have their support for events and there is also access to what is called the Future Bank, which can provide money for innovations and ideas from the members,” she said.
Georgina, the youngest of five children of parents, who emigrated from Jamaica, said she has always been interested in fashion and design. Her mother was trained as a dressmaker and Georgina remembers watching her sew, going to fabric shops with her, and doing simple tasks like threading needles.
By her teen years, she was running her own stalls at two of London’s popular and iconic street markets in Camden and Portobello Road where she sold clothes that she had redesigned.
“I would buy clothes and redesign them, changing the style and the look. I would also buy loads of plain T-shirts and customise them,” she told JIS News.
On seeing the high quality of her work, a friend, who also operated a clothing stall, suggested that she pursue a degree in fashion and design. “I thought about it and started a four-year degree course in 1995 at the London College of Fashion, which is part of the University of the Arts,” she said.
After earning that degree, she worked for a number of high-end retailers such as Harvey Nichols and Burberry, but after having a daughter in 2003, she found it difficult to juggle the demands of work with her role as a mother.
“It started to take its toll so I decided to start my own (fashion) label. I had the skills, the experience and the know-how. That was about two years ago,” she informed.
She noted that it was difficult getting people interested in financing a brand new label, but having invested her money and time in the business, she was determined to see it succeed.
This determination paid off and her work was featured during London Fashion Week and in Vogue and Glamour Magazines.
Working with the British Fashion Council and UK Fashion Exports also saw Georgina become a part of the Brits in Paris campaign during Paris Fashion Week. This experience, she told JIS News, allowed her to showcase her label and expand the number of shows that now carry her range in both Paris and Italy.
Georgina has now turned her sights to Caribbean Fashion Week in Jamaica next month. She will be participating there for the first time and will debut her new swimwear line.
“It’s the perfect setting. It’s the first time that I am involved in a swimwear range,” she said, adding that she is keen to be a part of an Anglo-Caribbean business link.
She also wants to become more involved in doing workshops and mentoring young women and girls, especially from a Caribbean background, who want to get involved in the fashion business.
“I run a workshop on a voluntary basis with teenage girls, who want to get into fashion, either at my home or in a studio I share but I would want to do more and bring in more women, who have been unemployed for a long time or who have been in prison. I would want to do this on a bigger scale with proper premises and equipment and make it fully accessible,” she told JIS News.