10 YEARS of Gems

Nathalie Owen chats to the de­signer and founder of suc­cess­ful New Zealand jew­ellery brand Kagi.

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You can barely en­ter a jew­ellery store to­day with­out fall­ing in love with one of Kagi’s beau­ti­ful gems. The brand, now in its 10th year, was founded by Kat Gee in 2006. The Christchurch-born en­tre­pre­neur stud­ied de­sign at Massey Univer­sity, grad­u­at­ing with hon­ours, be­fore dis­cov­er­ing her pas­sion for jew­ellery de­sign. “I re­mem­ber sit­ting on the jetty at our bach in the Marl­bor­ough Sounds think­ing, ‘If I could do any­thing, be any­thing, what would it be?’ It dawned on me that I wanted to be a jew­ellery de­signer.”

Gee en­rolled in night classes at Peter Min­turn Gold­smith School in Auck­land and set about cre­at­ing her own brand. “I be­gan Kagi in my flat when I was just 24 years old,” she says. That brand has now pro­duced over 800 de­signs and is stocked in more than 300 stores through­out Aus­trala­sia. “To reach the mile­stone of 10 years in busi­ness, es­pe­cially in the in­cred­i­bly dif­fi­cult fash­ion in­dus­try, is no mean feat,” she says.

To ac­knowl­edge this mile­stone, Kagi has re­leased a spe­cial col­lec­tion en­ti­tled Cham­pagne Bub­bles, fea­tur­ing a range of pieces that have sparkling zir­co­nias set in 18ct rose gold plat­ing. The brand is also pay­ing trib­ute to the women who have sup­ported it over the years, ask­ing them to model its next col­lec­tion. “Real Kiwi women have helped Kagi get to where it is to­day and I wanted to cel­e­brate this,” Gee says.

One woman who has had a pro­found im­pact on the de­signer is her grand­mother. “I grew up in­spired by the brav­ery of my grandma, who hid a strand of pearls for three years dur­ing World War II, while be­ing held as a pris­oner of war. These pearls are still in my fam­ily to­day.”

It comes as no surprise that pearls are now one of the foun­da­tions of Gee’s brand. “In the be­gin­ning, my col­lec­tions in­volved a lot of ex­per­i­men­ta­tion. I tri­alled a num­ber of dif­fer­ent styles be­fore find­ing my sig­na­ture look,” the mother of one ex­plains. “But what has al­ways been con­stant is the com­mit­ment to us­ing real pearls and gems hand-sourced from around the world.” As for the next 10 years, Gee wants to con­tinue to ex­pand the brand through­out Aus­tralia, and keep de­sign­ing in­no­va­tive, ver­sa­tile pieces that women will love.

Neck­lace, $239, and pen­dant, $129, by Kagi. Ear­rings, $89, by Kagi. Neck­lace, $229, by Kagi.

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