I met Marty Powell through my PR firm when Georg Jensen came on board
to be the jewellery sponsor for my Oscars Party at Red Love Adelaide.
On first meeting Marty I knew we were going to be fabulous friends.
Today after interviewing him I just simply adore this man.
We went for a coffee and chat at Pranzo Restaurant on Exchange Place
in the city. He told me it was the one place you needed to be seen at
in Adelaide. Marty ordered a stiff short black, code name for a shot
of coffee with something much stronger added, a man close to my own
heart but alas work was on the agenda so a cup a tea for me.
So let me tell you more about Marty, the manager of the Adelaide Georg
British born, Adelaide raised and Barossa living is Marty Powell and
as a young fresh faced 15 year old boy, Marty’s first experience in
the retail world was working in the manchester department of Myer.
“Can you imagine, I didn’t know that fashion was involved with bed
linen”, he told me. “I mean really can you imagine any young man
having to get his head around bedding terms such as Selvedge versus
Seersucker. Not to mention that manchester in Australia has absolutely
nothing to do with the soccer team in England!”
From manchester, Marty moved to writing those “blurbs” on the back of
legal books for a writing firm, and then found Georg Jensen, or did
Georg Jensen find Marty?
Georg Jensen was part of what history calls the Arts and Craft Movement
from 1880 to 1914; A time when craftsmen, artists, designers and
architects wanted to raise their status of their work. Perhaps being
left a young widower with 2 two young sons to support helped Jensen on
his quest to produce some of the world’s most beautiful jewellery.
He realized that in the early 1900’s a new “class” emerged and saw
that silver and semi precious stones could be turned into beautiful
pieces of jewellery such as cuff links neck pieces and rings, but
still keeping engineering and design at its paramount. Today a great
deal of the designs in the Georg Jensen collection date back to the
original design from the 1930’s, 40’s, 60’s and 70’s.
“I was drawn to the flat structure of the business. There is the
general manager and then there is me as store manager, it’s that
simple” Marty said. It’s so refreshing to see such a well established
company keep its flat structure of business through all these years.
It really is a testament to the business and its product. No frills,
no fuss, just beautifully crafted pieces of art ready to be passed
from generation to generation. When people come into a store like
Georg Jensen they are really looking for a piece that will last a life
Marty told me that “people have a relationship with pieces and when a
customer buys a piece it stays with them for life” It makes perfect
sense that service and the culture of the George Jensen business is
their point of difference.
I asked Marty, as store manager of their flagship store in Adelaide,
what was their best selling line or point of difference above all the
other jewellers. Georg Jensen has a line called “Fusion” which is for
both males and females. “Couple’s buy Fusion because it’s about coming
together. It resonates to the men because they like the engineering
and females like the beauty. A common love for the piece but it is
also individual and when you see these pieces in store you can see why
couples adore them and want to make them part of their history”.
So apart from Marty running an amazing business in Adelaide and being
caretaker to some of the most expensive and exquisite pieces that I
have been able to wear (even just for a night), my final question is
about style and fashion of course.
“I know it may sound corny, but I have been described as, well,
dapper.” Marty said.
Sweetie, let me tell you this. This man is what “dapper” is all about,
neatly dressed, very stylish, lively and alert. I couldn’t think of a
better man to front the Georg Jensen label in Adelaide. After all it
is all about being seen in fashionable clothing and jewelry in a café
on the right side of town.
Most women can relate to having an obsession for something. Chocolate seems to be a big one we all love. Others have closets full of designer bags, clothes or shoes, or like me have a room full of them all. It never ceases to amaze me how women can turn an obsession into a business.
If you told your significant other that your credit card was totally maxed out was due to purchasing high end luxury shoes, and that you wanted to be the next Manolo Blahnik, most would take your card and chop it up and call you crazy. Not in this case.
In 2004 Mary-Kyri, a local Adelaide girl, had just finished studying Fashion and Design at Marlston TAFE. With 10 shoes designs in her back pocket, and the support of her family and partner, she booked a one way ticket to Italy to try and carve out a new business in luxury high-end shoes for Australia.
“I was spontaneous, crazy, I don’t know if I would make such a rash decision again. I was 26 years old at the time and a risk taker.” Mary-Kyri explains.
But how do you enter a country where fashion and design is a religion and break into one of the most exclusive and oldest manufacturing businesses?
“I had to develop a trust with the shoe manufacturers. They treat their business more like a religion than a job. Businesses are passed down from great grandfathers to great grandchildren.” Mary says. “You can’t walk in to business, so I spent time developing trust and respect. I started working in a factory on machines; most people don’t know that there are over 100 components in a complete shoe.“
Mary-Kyri has an intimate understanding of the development of a shoe. She has to take into consideration that the shoe needs to allow a woman’s foot to hold her whole bodyweight whilst walking. It’s not surprising that her shoes are now sold in not only Australia but New Zealand, USA, Italy, Paris, China and Japan. Having Kylie Minogue, Kim Kardashian, The Veronicas, Kate Moss and Megan Gale as supporters of her brand shows she know a thing or two about what a gal wants in a shoe.
Now Europe has hit harder times and Mary-Kyri explains that the global financial crisis has made her change the way she does business. Having factories and tanners close down in Europe has lead the business to look further afield to continue to work with supply and demand for her unique product.
Now the business has manufacturers and factories in Brazil and China and a new label is about to be launched called Mary Mary, price pointed at $150.
Mary-Kyri voiced her concerns with the online world for retail, but realises that if you don’t allow your business to grow, adapt and change with the times, you may well end up dead. Now her business has a strong online presence, but retail stores are still her passion.
“There will always be people who want the retail shopping therapy, like me. I like supporting designers in boutiques. Retailers will be more about service in the future.” said Mary-Kyri.
Not one to slow down, Mary’s company has also just started the Mary-Kyri Design Studio. Whilst it is still a bit hush hush, I was told that this side of the business will be designing shoes, swimwear and handbags for existing boutiques. And businesses such as hotels will be using her knowledge to design corporate shoes for their staff too. To top it off, Sex and the City stylist Patricia Field selected the Mary-Kyri shoe label for the Shanghai press event “NO MAKE UP NO FASHION” presented by Maybelline this year.
So the question is, why shoes?
“From the very beginning, stilettos have always been my absolute passion. My designs are not about a woman’s age they are the essence of what characterises a woman.”
It seems that there is more, much more, to this story of a business and its future growth. Mary-Kyri leaves me curious and intrigued about the future. “Call me in three months, and see where things are at,” she says.
Mary-Kyri, three months and it’s a date.
‘Til next time, Cassandra.