The man who once released live rats down the runway has kept a low profile since leaving Ksubi in 2012. But now he's back with an entirely different focus - Cocurata, a joint project with New York curator and gallery owner George Benias.
What do you get when you put the co-founder of Ksubi and an art curator together? An initiative that's equal parts fashion house and art gallery - in other words, wearable art. The two Georges take the works of cutting edge emerging artists and transform them into on-trend fashion pieces, taking art out of the confines of the gallery and fixing it firmly in the street. On the eve of Cocurata's very first collection, Extraction, which launches this month in stores across NYC, Paris, London, Tokyo, Hong Kong, Sydney and Melbourne, we quizzed Gorrow and Benias about their aims for the brand and the implications of making fashion out of art.
How did the idea come about?
George Gorrow: I was introduced to George Benias through a mutual friend. We had a funny sort of first meeting - the kind that got us talking about all sorts of things. About the way we could work together and the idea of colliding our two disciplines - him coming from an art perspective and mine from fashion. I mean, fashion and artist collaborations with brands are nothing new, but the more we talked, the more we wondered if we could take that concept a step further. To dive back into fashion at that point wasn't really something I had planned, and definitely not along the same lines of what I was doing before. This project really had to resonate with me and feel fresh for me to do it.
Related story: Instant update: why you should be wearing denim flares
How do you choose the artists you work with?
George Benias: With a combination of personal taste and my gut feel. The artist and their artworks have to resonate with me before I throw them into the ring with George and the team. And the artworks in each collection all have to relate to each other in some way too, whether it's conceptually, aesthetically or personally. For Extraction, we chose three artists who were friends with each other and that I'm very close friends with as well. For our next collection, I wanted to reach out to artists I liked, but had no relationship with, to test the waters for the future. Now, with one season in stores and another season doing preview, I've started to receive emails asking if I'm taking submissions. This is the way artists usually approach a gallery, so it feels like we're moving in the right direction.
Related story: Art scene secrets: inside Sydney's edgiest gallery
What are artists' reactions to the concept so far?
GB: There have been a few sceptics in terms of artists and other galleries, but once they actually started seeing what we're doing, they've all been sold on it. The artists on our roster, on the other hand, have all been really excited to see their artworks rendered in this way, and they've been really happy with the collections that have come out.
How would you explain the synergy of art and fashion?
GG: Contemporary art and fashion have always been connected. There have been some awesome collaborations between brands and artists; but we really wanted to do something different, something fresh. Art and fashion are two of the most creative pursuits in the world, so if they are going to come together, the results need to reflect that. Cocurata is about art curating fashion and not the other way around, for once.
Related story: State of the art: Shu Uemura signs on three Aussie artists
Is introducing art to a broader audience one of your aims?
GB: The cross-pollination of the two worlds is definitely a big aim with Cocurata. We're exhibiting these artists in a way that is outside of the traditional gallery model; we want to educate the fashion world about these incredible artists that we have the privilege and pleasure of working with. The artists and their artworks are most definitely at the centre of our business model. We want them to come first, starting from the creative process all the way down to how we show and share the collections.
What artists are on your hit list for future collections?
GB: I love the work of Katherine Bernhardt, Joe Bradley, Jonas Wood, Eddie Martinez and Donald Baechler - just to name a few, so maybe one of those.
Check out cocurata.com.