Words and pictures by Jasper L
In a stroke of perfect misfortune, my iPhone - err, my trusty journalist’s recording device - seems to have done something with my interviews for several brands, Gray among them. And so you’ll have to make do with my own impressions of the brand, at least until @unbelragazzo chimes in with his own, more useful information. I swung by last January on the last day of the fair without taking the time for an interview of for photos, which was an error. This season, at least, I have pictures. Which is important, because for Summer 2015, GRAY has gone back forty years to the days when tennis players weren’t wearing high-tech, moisture-wicking garments made of things you can’t pronounce, and instead given us a slew of garments that - finally! - we can wear with headbands, wristbands, and very short shorts.
All joking aside, the sweaters are really nice. There are only a few that really channel the Golden Age of permed hairstyles directly, and they’re pretty excellent. One of the things that comes up a lot when I’m writing about Pitti is how much garbage there is that looks exactly the same; how much stuff is really a dime-a-dozen, or whichever platitude you prefer. Gray’s not like that, but explaining why that is might take some doing.
Clothes at Pitti, even the very nice ones, aren’t as obviously directional as what you’d find in, say, PN/P Firenze, but good brands have a story, even if it’s not immediately evident. I don’t really mean in the Project Runway sense. The classic menswear brands in the main pavilion, the ones that do millions and millions of dollars in business every year, are the most successful at this. Customers buy into a lifestyle. This isn’t news, but what’s interesting is to see how smaller brands achieve something similar in a booth that might be a quarter of the size of one of the heavy hitters (a certain Italian cashmere brand comes to mind), and without the intense marketing that goes with that luxurious territory. They speak a bit more softly, and the story is made up in part of the product itself, in part of the people who make the product.
Gray is a labor of love. That much is evident. These are people who are really, really into what they do. The product shows it. There are a lot of blends; lots of silks, linens, and cottons. It is, I imagine, difficult to produce a knitwear collection for a season that, generally, involves trying to wear as few layers of clothing as possible. But the loose-gauge speckled knits, the v-neck tennis sweaters, and the silk polo knits actually manage to feel summery. Wearably summery, even, in their ineffably Italian way. Maybe you’d pull a tennis sweater over your jeans or trousers for a dinner along a breezy coast, or wad up a polo knit in case the evening you planned to spend on your yacht got chillier than you’d expected. But that’s perhaps an unfair portrayal of the brand. It’s unassuming, and I’d be very happy wearing any of the offerings to a weekend barbecue, especially as the weather starts to turn. It’s the sort of clothing that could work in many settings, in part because of the quality of the materials. A tee and shorts, if you’re feeling lazy, or jeans and boots if you’re not. Or maybe power hair and a vintage Babolat. I’m not saying you’re going to want to wear one a silk knit the next time you’re on the court, but hey, you could if you wanted to.