In a bi-weekly series, we're interviewing female executives, founders, CEOs—basically, boss ladies—on their "power suit" a.k.a. the outfit they wear every day for easy dressing to conquer whatever the job throws at them.
Paige Adams-Geller is a success. She launched her namesake denim line in 2004 and now employs about 300 people from Los Angeles (the company's main headquarters are in Culver City) to London. There are 15 brick-and-mortar stores, an online e-commerce site, and partnerships with retail distributers including Shopbop, Saks Fifth Avenue, and Anthropologie. Model Rosie Huntington-Whiteley has been in the brand's campaigns. PAIGE denim has made a permanent name for itself in women's wardrobes. But the road to building it all wasn't always easy.
When Adams-Geller first announced she was launching a premium denim brand for women by a woman, she was met with skepticism and cynics from what was then a traditionally male-dominated field. As a former fit model (someone who is hired to model a garment that's meant to represent the median size of a collection), Adams-Geller had worked with premium denim brands and became enamored by the material as well as the process of finding the perfect pair of jeans. She wanted to help women find their best fit and, after a successful presentation at a NYC trade show, Adams-Geller went full speed ahead on her idea. Some, however, tried to thwart her.
"Word got out that I wanted to get some of my products produced in Los Angeles, and when I showed up to talk to the wash houses and distributors, some of my competitors actually went to these same places and said if those wash houses and distributors worked with me, then the brands would pull all their products from these facilities," Adams-Geller tells me. "I got scared that no one would want to sew or wash my jeans, but after that first [trade show] and I had hard orders, [I went in] Pretty Woman [-style and said] 'I think it's going to be a big mistake if you don't accept this.' They trusted me, my name, and we eventually got through that roadblock."
Adams-Geller says that having her name attached to the brand made all the difference. Early contenders for the company's moniker included gemini (her astrology sign) and blue angel (her husband calls her angel). But she wanted women to feel like they could email her and ask her questions about fit and denim. "It was important for me to have that emotional connection and create that camaraderie with the women buying my jeans," she says.
For the brand's first skews, the label focused on wide leg and bootcut jeans (it was the early 2000s) then moved on to skinnies as the industry demand changed. When sustainability became a buzzword in the fashion world, Adams-Geller examined her own impact on the environment, especially when California went through droughts. She moved her production into factories that used lasers to create designs on her jeans instead of harsh chemicals and ones that used recycled water, or no water at all, when rinsing denim. "We're trying to develop more fabrics in the future that are more sustainable too," she says.
Adams-Geller seemingly never runs out of ideas to propel her company forward, and has set her sights on becoming a full lifestyle brand—not just denim. Since launching 15 years ago, she's added clothing, men's denim, and footwear to her label, and has aspirations to dive into home decor. The founder and creative director shows no signs of slowing down. I caught up with her for a moment to chat more about her approach to business, life, and her personal workplace style—FYI jeans are her office uniform—below.
Her Morning Routine
"What's important for me is to wake up and get a good workout in, then set my intentions for the day. I make time for a little pet therapy, so I'll play with my dogs, visit my rescue horse and donkey. He looks like Eeyore from Winnie the Pooh. After that, every day is different; sometimes I'm in the office designing the textiles or I am at the PAIGE stores checking in with the sales teams or I am flying to our London offices to show the latest collection."
Her Getting Dressed Strategy
"I am a mood dresser for sure. What usually happens is I will be listening to a certain type of music in the morning while I am working out or on a hike...like I'll be listening to an '80s playlist and maybe will want to wear something as a nod to the '80s. My outfit also depends on the activities for that day. If I am in a banking meeting, I'll chose a silk top and black jeans versus my more creative '80s look. If I am in a showroom presenting the latest collection, I like to wear stuff from it or wear stuff from the next season that hasn't come out yet.
I also like to dress for seasons. Weirdly enough, we had a really rainy winter which is odd for L.A., but good for the drought, so I had to rethink wearing suede shoes. That, of course, made me rethink shoe designing in the future for places like NYC and London because you can't wear suede when it's pouring rain."
Her Work Uniform
"I would say, my go-to look in the office is light-washed denim with a camel-colored suede boot, a floral printed top, and a leather jacket just in case it gets chilly at night. Usually I am out early in the morning until late at night, so layering is key to account for the weather changes.
This time of year, I am always in a dress if I'm not in light blue or black jeans. Dresses, blue jeans, and black jeans are what I feel comfortable in. I try to wear PAIGE most of the time because I love my brand, but also mix it up. For shoes I love Gianvito Rossi and Saint Laurent for my rocker alter ego. I also love a Gucci handbag, and when I want to feel pretty and super feminine, I will wear Ulla Johnson or Zimmermann. For jeans, it's always PAIGE.
My favorite pair at the moment is the Claudine, a high-rise ankle flare. I wear the Noella straight leg when I want to feel cool and the Lou Lou Tulip jean with a ruffle top, when I am ready for a rock 'n' roll concert and feel like dressing up as Steven Tyler."
The Three Words That Describe Her Power Outfit
"Feminine, sexy, with a little bit of edge."
"Love and kindness, spread it wherever you go. I think it's so much easier to be kind to people [than being mean], it uses less energy. I think toxic people are not allowed in the business. You can still be a strong leader by being kind. Say what you mean, but don't say it mean."
If you love Adams-Geller's work style, shop similar pieces, here.
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