Founded in 2002 by Sydney-based sisters Alexandra and Genevieve Smart, Ginger & Smart designs for spirited women whose style is an expression of their individuality. A sense of cool confidence and discovery underpins the Ginger & Smart design aesthetic, deftly combining the polished and playful aspects of a woman. We have come to expect beautifully considered and timeless pieces from the label, but dig a little deeper, and there is a thorough line of social responsibility and respect for the planet in everything they create. From their approach to design, fabric selection and manufacturing partners, Ginger & Smart live by three pillars; sustainability, ethical trading and giving back to the community. As part of introducing the label to the Showroom-X family, we met with Genevieve Smart to discuss inspiration, sustainable practice and hopes for what lies ahead. In conversation with Genevieve, her reverence for the industry to which she has dedicated her life and optimism for its future speak volumes.
“I enjoy the human element of fashion. The clothes we wear are one of the truest forms of self-expression and a reflection of the world in which we live.”
“I’ve always loved the transformative and intuitive element of fashion”
“The fabric content in a garment has the greatest impact on the planet, so sustainable sourcing is non-negotiable.”
It’s beautiful that you two sisters have built something meaningful together… What was your upbringing like?
We spent much of our early childhood in the UK. Our parents were in book publishing, so we were surrounded by creative artists and writers from a young age. There are three Smart sisters; Eloise, Alexandra and I. We were all educated in Sydney.
How would you best describe what you do professionally?
I’m Creative Director and Designer for Ginger & Smart, so I lead the creative and design the collections. Alex is Managing Director, and she would be described as a creative business leader.
What drew you both to fashion design?
As a young teen, I knew I was going to be a fashion designer. I’ve often wondered what drew me to it so strongly. I’ve always loved the transformative and intuitive element of fashion. Alex worked in fashion magazines and was the first editor of Oyster magazine, so she also had a passion for the industry.
Tell me a little about Ginger & Smart. What motivated you to start the label?
At the heart of it, we wanted to create something meaningful - A brand that combined luxury, sustainability and a legacy we could be proud of. We knew our completely different skill sets together could create something special together.
What do you enjoy about it?
I enjoy the human element of fashion. The clothes we wear are one of the truest forms of self-expression and a reflection of the world in which we live. Fashion design takes intuition and comes from a sixth sense of what will resonate months before its release. When a design lands and customers really feel it... that’s the moment.
How would you describe your personal style?
Is there a piece from your wardrobe that you ‘can’t do without’?
I live in our Edition 3 blazer. I wear it a few sizes too big to amplify the oversized feel. Our Collective leather track pants are also on rotation in my wardrobe in tan and black. All these core Ginger & Smart pieces pair effortlessly with our new season prints and colours and are perennial.
What role do colour and print have in your designs?
Prints are how we tell the story of the collection and often where it all begins. Our prints are never conventional. A floral will always have a twist. This season, the Night Grass print began as photographs of wet grass taken on a phone during a moonlit walk in the Summer lockdown. The tiny grass flowers were ginger coloured under the moon. Our colour palette has always been a way to set the temperature for the collection.
Who do you design for?
The Ginger & Smart customer is a spirited woman whose style is an expression of her individuality. We design for women who appreciate quality and longevity and to whom sustainability is essential. She is drawn to print and colour and loves the feel of silk on her skin.
How do you ensure a high standard of ethical practise is upheld?
We only work with global suppliers who have transparent ethical policies regarding their impact on people and the planet and who are regularly audited. Locally we engage in the process of an audit on our ethical practices with ECA. It’s a great process for full transparency across the business.
You also focus on selecting sustainable fabrics. What is your ethos and method for having a sustainable approach to design?
The fabric content in a garment has the greatest impact on the planet, so sustainable sourcing is non-negotiable. It’s at the core of what we do, from the linings to labels, zipper tapes and buttons. They are mostly recycled or from sustainable materials. We approach design with longevity as a high priority through enduring quality but also in style. We hope our pieces stay in our customers’ wardrobes for years and are handed down with love.
What are some changes you’ve noted in the fashion industry in recent times?
Diversity, sustainability and social responsibility are now becoming business as usual for most leading Australian designers. Designers realise that we can influence social change by setting the right standards within our businesses and advocating for change.
What is exciting for you about the current Australian creative landscape?
I’m excited about the new generation of First Nation fashion designers in Australia and the stories of their connection to Country.
Do you think there’s a common thread in Australian design and creativity? Something within the realm of design or dressing that feels innately Australian?
There is a sense of space and connection to the landscape and the light, which I see reflected in Australian design, particularly architecture and interior design. Australian design isn’t so tied to conventional ideas, so we can break the rules and be bold and inventive.
What or who is inspiring your world at this moment? And what inspires you professionally?
Beauty and learning inspire me. At this moment in time, the Arts, kindness and good leadership are particularly inspiring.
What does luxury mean to you?
Time is a luxury to me. Sustainability is luxury. It takes time to create things that don’t take from the precious resources of future generations. Time with my loved ones is also priceless.
Where is your studio located? Is there anything you need around you to feel creatively motivated?
Our studio is in Rosebery in Sydney. In usual times it’s full of the buzzing infectious energy of our team that I’ve really missed in lockdown. But I always design remotely in Avalon with my fabrics, a mannequin, an Apple pen, and Procreate. Music motivates me when I’m designing, so I’m forever trading playlists with friends.
Tell me about your day-to-day. Where do you live?
I live in Avalon on Sydney’s Northern Beaches. In lockdown, it’s hard to recall a typical day. Right now, my day starts with some form of mental or physical exercise in nature, followed by a strong coffee. Most days, I’m working on the collection or creative directing shoots remotely or on an endless procession of Zooms with my team. I try to break for a sunset walk with a friend at Palm Beach to capture the last beauty of the day. The sunset is wildly different every day, which somehow reminds me that every day is different.