Women’s History Month 2024: Fashion Designer Catherine Gee

Modeling her SS24 Collection is fashion designer Catherine Gee and her assistant (photo by Joanne A Calitri)

When I read Editor-In-Chief Edward Kobina Enninful OBE’s final issue of British Vogue, which he dedicated to 40 women, I realized that it is fitting fashion designer Catherine Gee be featured in my Women’s History Month issue. 

From 2016 – with her hand-painted designs for the prints on her signature silk line of women’s clothes at her shop on Haley Street with one part-time assistant, to her flagship store in the heart of the midtown-Santa Barbara arts district with six full-time and three part-time employees – we are seriously inspired. And if you know Catherine, you know she is just getting started. Gee is also an artist and philanthropist.

Gee’s pieces are worn and appreciated by women of all ages and lifestyles – DJ LP Giobbi [Leah Chisholm], Travel & LeisureEditor-in-Chief Jacqui Gifford, actor/producer/director Eva Longoria Bastón, actresses Rebecca Gayheart and Camilla Belle Routh, award-winning author Michelle Ebbin, and many others. 

We met at her flagship store, did a photo session of her spring-summer ’24 (SS24) styles, and an interview. 

Q. From your first collection in 2016 to now, what has stayed and what is being introduced? 

A. The Emma Silk Slip Dress has remained a Catherine Gee staple throughout all of our collections, as well as the best-selling Daria French Cuff Silk Blouse. The brand has become known in the marketplace for our silk blouses and specifically printed silk blouses. 

Adding onto this robust category, I’m thrilled to be working with a silk alternative fabric and will be introducing a different tier of shirting that will open up more avenues in the industry. 

How many new pieces are in seasonally? 

I typically add eight to 10 new silhouettes every season, and we aim to sell the entire ready-to-wear collection which encompasses silk shirting, silk camisoles, plush Pima Cotton tees, velvet coats and jackets, jacquard coats, cashmere sweaters, skirts, slip dresses, maxi dresses, and shirt dresses. 

How far ahead are your collections designed? 

I work a year in advance, and currently am designing SS25. I design a traditional two combined seasons with a Holiday/Resort. The Spring/Summer and Fall/Winter collections are very large collections, and the Holiday and the Resort deliveries are more capsule type collections. 

What is it about silk you are drawn to as the primary material for your collection? 

I’ve always loved the fluidity of silk and seeing and touching my grandmother’s silk kimonos as a little girl left an indelible mark. I love the flow, the touch, and the poetic nature of it. It is a natural fiber, so it also has a cooling effect and feels amazing against your skin. I work in crepe de chine silk and silk charmeuse for our everyday shirting. The sheen of both of these two different types of silk is captivating to the eye. 

Do you use Pantone colors?

I really enjoy PANTONE collections! I utilize many Pantone colors to complement existing and developing print tones within the collections. When I attend sourcing shows in Las Vegas, Paris and Tokyo, the new developments and trends just within the color realm and PANTONE books and catalogues are infinitesimally fun!!! 

What is your design perspective?

It is grounded in creating a multifaceted capsule collection for modern women to feel confident, cool, and sexy in their everyday lives. We strive to offer women the option of day to evening wear. 

The collection foundation piece is…?

The Daria Blouse is the bread and butter of Catherine Gee. It has become a famous silhouette in the industry and especially within silk shirting. Women around the country “collect” Daria Blouses and own countless prints and colors as I produce dozens and dozens each year. 

Who are your fashion contemporaries? 

Catherine Gee is positioned as an advanced contemporary fashion house, so I look to global brands such as Isabel Marant (Paris) and Raquel Allegra (Los Angeles) for what they have achieved both in a sartorial sense but also with commercial success. I am, obviously, extremely invested in women designing for women so when I see women in this industry succeed and really THRIVE, it is beyond empowering and inspiring for all of us. With that said, I look up to other trailblazing women like Diane von Fürstenberg, Donna Karan, and Nili Lotan

Have you thought about being a Couture House Creative Director/Designer?

Although the idea is charming and romantic, my responsibility and commitment is in continuing to evolve and build my brand. There are designers who have held the reins at houses I admire: Celine, Chloé, Alberta Ferretti, Philosophy di Lorenzo Serafini, Haider Ackermann, etc. As far as American fashion, I admire Zac Posen, and I am looking forward to his impact in his newly appointed role as Global Creative Director for the GAP group. 

Do you plan to add accessories to your collection?

There are many directions and sub-categories of fashion/design we are considering, such as home decor (taking my unique prints into wallpaper), accessories (sunglasses and bags), and even menswear. However, there is a time and a place for this to happen. 

What aspects of your business incorporate environmental sensitivity & fair practices for employees? 

The brand is manufactured in three factories in China, Peru, and Los Angeles. I have visited both the Peruvian and Los Angeles factories many times and know all of the employees from management to sewers. From the beginning, it has been of utmost importance that all workers who are overseeing and producing our product are in a safe and healthy work environment and are paid fair wages. Our Chinese silk factory, which is wholly woman-owned, is one of the best in the world and produces 80% of our brand. 

Where can we find your collection in stores? 

Catherine Gee is stocked in almost 300 upmarket boutiques all across the U.S. Noteworthy stores are Elements in Dallas, ANIK in New York City, Barbara Katz in Boca Raton, Gus Mayer Nashville and Birmingham, PE 101 in Aspen, MARCUS stores (Montecito, Aspen, Chicago etc.), Encounter Boutique in Saratoga Springs, Leigh’s in Grand Rapids, Due Luca Bruno in Vail, to name a few. 

What would you love to mention to the fashion world, your followers, and our readers globally? 

Women travel to Santa Barbara to experience and shop in our store as they have seen the evolution of the brand through many of the stores listed above. We have committed fans in Dallas, Aspen, Chicago, Telluride, New York City, Miami, Nashville, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Denver, and many other U.S. cities. Our flagship store in Santa Barbara is an elevated addition to the women’s shopping experience in Southern California. Our online store (catherinegee.com) gives our out-of-town clients easy access to our collections. 

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