Paige Adams-Geller had an idyllic childhood growing up in a tiny Alaskan town. Her entrepreneurial spirit was sparked early by her father, a mathematician, who began a respected business designing spec homes. Both Paige and her older brother claim that math was their strongest subject in school.
Her brother became a talented architect and interior designer, while Paige applies her mathematical perspective to fashion. “Design is about lines and angles and proportions,” she says. “And I think we always see things creatively in that kind of visual alignment of proportion.”
She always had an eye for design, but she didn’t see fashion as a career until later in life. Though her father pushed for continuing her education, Paige’s mom steered her toward a career as an actress or model. She felt the pull of both worlds strongly, but when she graduated high school early at age 16, she decided to pursue modeling.
Paige moved to New York to join the Elite Model Management agency. She quickly realized this was not the environment for her. Incidents of sexual harassment in the world of 1980s New York modeling added to her discomfort. She soon decided to continue her education at the University of Southern California, majoring in broadcast journalism at the Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism.
After graduating from USC at age 20, Paige dipped her toe back into the entertainment world. She was acting and modeling, as well as singing in the popular South Bay act Joe’s Band. Paige’s talents did not go unnoticed, and she was asked to sing the national anthem at Lakers and Dodgers games.
From the outside, it appeared the world was Paige’s oyster. She was young, smart and talented, had recently won the title of Miss California and was working as a top fit model. But a traumatic incident at her workplace changed everything.
Though sexual harassment was prevalent and mostly unchecked during this point in her career, she experienced the worst of it. And although she was not alone, the culture of suppression and silence forced on so many women by their perpetrators and others in society made her feel like she was.
Now Paige wants her story to be heard and her experiences to be known. She hopes her voice can help other women find theirs.
While enduring this workplace harassment, Paige was hiding a deep, dark secret that fueled her shame. Before she relocated to Los Angeles, she was raped by a family friend when she was only 16. The rapist was an all-star athlete who graduated with honors. She felt powerless, doubting anyone would believe her story. Though she was the victim, she blamed herself for being attacked—a common misperception for many rape victims.
“I feel like authenticity is one of the most important things when it comes to brand-building. And anytime I have a connection to something, it’s all coming from my heart and soul. That’s what Manhattan Beach is for me.”
Shame fueled her silence, but the negative voices in her head never stopped. She spent over a decade in an abusive relationship with herself, developing anorexia and struggling with mental health.
“I spent 13 years fighting anorexia because physically and mentally I wanted to disappear,” shares Paige. “I felt empty inside, never good enough. I suffered horrible, recurring nightmares that I was buried alive and couldn’t get out of the grave. I had no voice. No one could hear me, and I couldn’t move my arms or legs—just like the night I was raped.”
At work the harassment intensified. Paige explains how she was being groomed for years by the owner of the company where she had a modeling contract.
“He touched me inappropriately in front of others. He cornered and groped me in private and then threatened me by saying that if I told anyone, he would blacklist me in the industry and I would never work again. Eventually I was invited to his office to discuss my future. The doors were locked behind me, and he put his hand up my dress.”
At the time of this incident, Paige was in a loving relationship with her boyfriend, who had a 16-year-old daughter. In the aftermath of the attack, while coiled up on the bathroom floor feeling helpless all over again, she had a new realization. “If this were my daughter, would I blame her? Would I shame her? Or would I get her help?”
Paige turned to the Rape Treatment Center in Santa Monica, where she received much-needed therapy for the first time. She felt truly embraced and supported by this community and entered a 30-day treatment facility to process and heal.
“From the moment I walked in the door, I wasn’t judged. I was nurtured. This was the next event that changed my life forever,” she reflects. “The silence lifted. Once my secrets were revealed in a safe place, I let go of all the shame. I didn’t ask to be a victim of rape and sexual assault. No one does.”
Paige was asked if she wanted to take on her attacker. She thought about all the other women he could damage in the future, and she found inner strength she never knew she had. In 2001, with the help of her therapists, she filed a civil suit against her attacker. As retribution, she was followed and bullied by his people, but it did not deter her. She was not only doing it for herself but for all women.
“I knew I had to continue the fight and not let him get away with it,” she shares. “And then other women who had experienced similar abuse came forward to help me. I cannot stress the importance of strength in numbers. I am amazed at how long this abuse in the entertainment and fashion industries has been ignored—powerful men who have been able to get away with their behavior as a result of others’ fear.”
Through overcoming her trauma and facing the evil that held power over her, Paige understood her strength for the first time. “I had so much more to tell, and I didn’t want to be a commodity anymore.”
She stepped into that power and began seeing a life coach, who suggested she start her own clothing company. She knew Paige loved fashion and had been around the industry as a fit model for successful companies. So why not create her own brand and tell her own story?
When Paige mentioned the idea to her husband Michael, he couldn’t have been more supportive. Right then, the PAIGE fashion brand was born.
Paige analyzed the industry with her mathematical mind to find an opportunity. Although the premium denim market was exploding at the time, she noticed there were no women leaders—especially those approaching denim as high-end fashion. Paige wanted to be a unique female voice, empowering women to feel comfortable and confident in the often difficult and personal process of finding that great outfit. She named the brand PAIGE so people would know that there is a female voice rooting for them.
In 2004 Paige compiled her first collection, employed a PR firm to represent her and found a New York showroom to represent the brand. The collection was shown at a trade show a few months later and became an overnight success.
Paige recalls, “I ended up writing more orders in that trade show than I had projected we would do the whole year.” And she hasn’t looked back.
Paige now has 18 stores, the most recent opening in Downtown Manhattan Beach. She was especially excited about the location of this store, as the South Bay was a huge part of her 20s.
“Manhattan Beach has always been an area I’ve had my eye on,” she says. “I feel like authenticity is one of the most important things when it comes to brand-building. And anytime I have a connection to something, it’s all coming from my heart and soul. That’s what Manhattan Beach is for me.”
Today Paige has grown her company from focusing on denim to a Los Angeles lifestyle brand. “Our women’s collection is made up of denim that takes you from morning to moonlight, feminine blouses, effortlessly chic dresses, edgy leather toppers and everything in between.”
Paige has a fast-growing men’s line too. She explains, “One of the things that put PAIGE Men’s on the map was the fact that the jeans (even the skinny fit) can be worn by athletes and still be comfortable. We have so many Dodgers, Lakers and football players who love to wear PAIGE.”
The great success of PAIGE has afforded her the opportunity to amplify her voice and philanthropy even more. Her life coming full circle, she now sits on the USC Annenberg Board of Councilors. She loves to mentor girls interested in fashion or being an entrepreneur. She’s not afraid to share her story to empower young girls about to enter the workforce.
Paige sits on the board of The Rape Foundation and works with young women who have been in similar situations. She is a member of the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network’s National Leadership Council, a trained volunteer at Stuart House, and a proud supporter of many other charitable organizations, including the National Eating Disorders Association and The Advot Project.
“I think part of my motivation was that I wanted to do something important in my life,” she says. “I really wanted to be successful so I could pay it forward, give back and have a voice to make a difference.”
Death becomes him.
Her own kind of music.