Grey + Ginger is the newest name in Irish fashion, which is making waves with the distinctive colourful sweaters and t-shirts emblazoned with unusual portraits that by now you’ve probably seen all over social media and on the streets of Galway and well beyond. Aoife Burke asks Paul and Peter, the brains behind the brand, about their inclusive philosophy, inspiration behind the designs and the charming origins of the name…
Paul, the Grey + Ginger designer is artist Peter Bradley (who we’ll return to later!), but could you tell me a bit more about yourself?
Paul: I’m originally from Donegal but have been a resident in Galway for the past 13 years. I’ve worked in a lot of different areas – my main focus for the past 11 years was freelance journalism – but have always had a knack for promotion, marketing ideas and the people that create them.
Primarily I am good with people and have some technical knowledge so I figured this could be a decent match when starting a brand.
I’m sorry, but I have to ask! Grey + Ginger is an interesting name for a brand, where did it come from?
Paul: It’s not as ingenious as it may sound unfortunately. Peter and I are a couple, he has grey hair and I am ginger so we thought “Let’s use something that defines how people remember us”.
We did want to include the + as a sign of positivity; we wanted the brand to be a promotion of tolerance and acceptance from the outset.
Peter: Social commentary is an integral element of my studio practice so when we started to work on this project it manifested itself very naturally.
We need to talk about things that are alien to us in order to make sense of them. My way of making sense of things is to make work about them. I often find it easier to get my point across in paint than in words. By making this work, if I can inspire conversation about these topics, which I think are super important then that is a bonus and I find that really exciting.
Your products are uni-sex, “free from the constraints of gender, of creed or social standing” – do you envision fashion, or everyday clothing increasingly going down this route of ambiguity, as society’s perception of gender changes?
Peter: I definitely do and I think that is fantastic. Androgyny has always been involved with fashion in one way or another but it feels like over time people are less and less shocked by it which I find really encouraging. We are seeing the system of gendering items of clothing being slowly broken down. It takes time to undo social conditioning but it is definitely happening and it is great to see.
For Grey + Ginger, having no mention of gendered clothing was a point of utmost importance so offering unisex garments was the obvious choice starting out. Having said that, the fit of unisex clothing does not suit all body types. Exclusion of any kind goes against what we are about so having taken customer feedback on board, we now offer two different style options for t-shirts (relaxed and fitted) as well as sweatshirts and hoodies.
Many customers with an interest in fashion are often left disappointed and frustrated by the lack of items in their sizes. Have you endeavoured to cater for shapes and sizes that may not be as visible on the high street?
Peter: Grey + Ginger is all about inclusion. We launched with a small choice of garment options in order to test the waters but we have already expanded in response to customer feedback and will continue to do so. Once we find good quality options for a more varied selection of styles and sizes in suitable colours then we are good to go.
How about the materials you use, are they sustainably sourced?
Paul: The first thing we did was pin down suppliers that we can use to provide high-quality, sustainable products. We shopped around and were able to come to a great relationship with a company that has a proven record of investing in sustainable means of production.
It was high priority that we use garments that are produced by a company that is dedicated to lessening their impact on the environment – the producer we stock has a full set of reports that we checked out as well.
I think companies that produce garments are slowly realising that people want to know that what they wear didn’t cause undue damage to the planet when being made – it makes sense to be actively looking at ways to weaken our footprint.
Your designer Peter Bradley is an established and respected Galway artist – what brought him on board to design for Grey + Ginger?
Paul: Peter always made amazing designs for T Shirts for himself and his friends growing up – it just never seemed like a feasible project to run at a business level due to the constraints in tech and the more practical aspects of holding down a day job and maintaining his fine art practice.
I have some experience in promotion and eCommerce so we decided to test out the viability of running a store. I knew the designs were there but we were adamant that we wouldn’t go ahead unless the print quality and the garments were up to scratch – we didn’t want people buying something that we wouldn’t wear ourselves.
Peter’s interest lies in portraits, which is reflected in the designs for Grey + Ginger, and subsequently the portraits are unique and almost otherworldly – what’s the inspiration and thought behind them?
Peter: Identity and gender are subjects that are ingrained in my studio practice so they are always going to carry over into any creative project that I work on. I see things that inspire me all the time. I have folders and folders (both physical and digital) with imagery of faces, art, fashion, style, colour, pattern, environments etc that I may not look at for months on end. When this project started to materialise, it was the perfect opportunity to revisit these folders and use the contents to inspire these graphic symbols.
Most of the pieces for Grey + Ginger have a story behind them, generally concerning gender or Identity in some way. “Outlaw” for example is a commentary on censorship. The figure that inspired the image is a transgender model. At the time the photo reference was taken she was identifying as male. In the photograph her bare chest including her nipple is exposed which got me thinking about censorship and more specifically with regard to censorship on social media. Because she was identifying as male at the time, the image would have been permitted on social media but now that she is identifying as female, would a recreation of the same image now be taken down?
Each of the products has a unique name, like ‘La Belle Epoque’, ‘Outlaw’ and ‘Ablaze’ – I’m particularly intrigued by ‘My Favourite Shape’! Is this to indicate perhaps that the customer is buying wearable art?
Peter: That is exactly how we want our customers to see our products. All designs are created by an artist with a particular voice regarding social issues of today. Art should always have something to say and has the power to make people see the world in a different way. At the very least, art is a topic of conversation which is exactly what Grey + Ginger is all about.
“My favourite shape” uses colour and shape to deal with issues of gender but the title comes from an Alt-J song and the fact that triangles are my favourite shape 🙂
Where can we buy your products, and keep up with what’s going on with Grey + Ginger?
Paul: Greyandginger.com is the main point of sale at the moment but you can also grab products from our Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/greyandginger/. It’s early days yet but one of our company’s priorities is getting our designs in store, on the racks.
We also have a mailing list that you can subscribe to on our site so you can keep up to date with what’s happening on the store, new designs incoming and special discounts. We have some exciting additions to the store coming in the next few months so make sure and leave us your contact so we can keep you in the loop.