The Opening — GRAY Publications at Unit/Pitt

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THE OPENING is all about delving into the fascinating, quirky and wonderful visual arts in Vancouver. Each week we’ll feature an artist, cover an exhibition, discuss a lecture and everything else in-between to delve deep into who and what makes art happen!

When we think of fashion, we think often of glamour — of high-gloss sex and lavish excess, swan-feather dresses and flutes of Veuve Clicquot. Behind every sartorial spectacle, however, there is a true labour of love, and a myriad of  experiences, historical references, and symbols that the casual viewer can only begin to unpack. In founding the newly-minted GRAY publications, editors Tobin Gibson and Holly Goldsmith-Jones want to introduce us to the quieter side of fashion and the idea of “dress as an agent for creative responsibility”.

Gray Publications Launch Party at Unit/Pitt.
GRAY Publications Launch Party at Unit/Pitt. Photo by author.

I met up with Gibson and Goldsmith-Jones to learn more about GRAY at the Chinatown mainstay of Unit/Pitt, where they were holding their launch party. The room was packed in spite of the sub-zero temperatures, and attendees were immediately welcomed by the engaging Gibson and effervescent Goldsmith-Jones. Above the happy din rose mysterious hums and screeches – an otherworldy soundtrack generated by a spotlighted sculpture by Soledad Muñoz, one of GRAY’s contributors. Gray ice, cradled by woven fabric attached directly to the ceiling, dripped onto an elegantly curved steel plate. A device MacGyvered by Muñoz recorded, oscillated, and amplified these noises back into the room.

Installation by Soledad Munoz.
Installation by Soledad Munoz (detail). Photo by author.

Hung on the opposite wall as both a complement and foil to this future-feeling sculpture were embroideries made by Gibson’s grandmother, Cecilia Gibson. It was these embroideries, which were unearthed during a visit to his family home, that began the conversation between Gibson and Goldsmith-Jones. The hand-woven textiles, which range from abstract geometric patterns to traditional Ukranian motifs to representational peacocks, “came from a very honest place,” explained Gibson, and were striking in their exploration of colour, pattern, and tradition. They came to represent Gibson’s and Goldsmith-Jones’ growing interest in “the politics of excess and simplicity in fashion.”

Embroidery by Cecilia Gibson.
Embroidery by Cecilia Gibson. Photo courtesy of GRAY Publications.

Escaping the conventions of perfect-bound style rags, GRAY is distributed both physically and digitally across an impressive sixteen cities: Vancouver, Toronto, Montréal, Ottawa, New York, Chicago, LA, London, Paris, Zurich, Amsterdam, Berlin, Stockholm, Prague, Budapest and Moscow. Each quarterly issue is thematically centred. Fittingly, GRAY is all about ‘emergence’ this spring – a theme that encompasses the publication’s introduction to the world and its engagement with emerging young talent, says Gibson. Also featured is an article on the opening of Alexander McQueen’s menswear store on London’s Savile Row – “a seminal space,” says Gibson, “where Alexander McQueen first began his career as a tailoring apprentice.”

GRAY Publications at Unit/Pitt. Photo courtesy of GRAY Publications.
GRAY Publications at Unit/Pitt. Photo courtesy of GRAY Publications.

The quarterly launches are not just parties – in showing work that is featured in the magazine, and creating an atmosphere that is congruent with each issue’s theme, they are an essential part of the publication itself.  The next issue, terror, won’t nearly have as much of a cozy feel to it as Unit/Pitt provided last Saturday, though I suspect it will be just as fun. “The next party will be held at 2am in a forest under a full moon,” Gibson assures me.

Embroidery by Cecilia Gibson. Photo courtesy of GRAY Publications.
Embroidery by Cecilia Gibson. Photo courtesy of GRAY Publications.

GRAY is a publication full of promise, bridging divides between disciplines that always seem to reference each other without engaging each other directly. By linking the worlds of fashion, production, and visual art in a genuine manner, GRAY fosters a sense of community that comes from the same honest place that first struck Gibson about his grandmother’s embroideries.

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