We spoke with pioneering musicians MISSGRAY about gleaning inspiration from the zenith of 1980s culture, and how they combine fashion with music.
Hi, guys. Can you tell our audience a little bit about your background so far and how you came to create MISSGRAY?
From a very young age, we always loved to dress up. There are so many stories that come to mind but one day in particular stands out. We were four years old and told Mum we were going to dress up for kindergarten. We both left the house in ’80s style sweaters, synched at the waist with an elastic belt and plastic buckle and huge plastic earrings. We had an eye for fashion from a young age, coordinating colours and shapes. Our mum had no idea it was photo day until the photos were eventually sent home.
Soon followed our obsession with songwriting and singing. From around the age of eight, we were singing melodies into our Dad’s mini voice recorder. It became a big part of our life and found we ourselves writing complete songs without understanding what that even really meant at that age.
We’ve definitely evolved from the ’80s plastic, but we were always MISSGRAY from the very beginning; fashion and music were how we identified and expressed ourselves.
Today, whether it’s vintage or designer clothing, dressing up remains part of our art. Fashion is an extension of our music – our music an extension of our fashion.
Tell us a bit about what MISSGRAY is about?
We merge fashion, music, luxury and design. Our aim is to take people on a journey from whatever may be their reality to a realm of luxury and extravagance.
As those young girls in elastic and plastic, we didn’t have the budget or resources to be truly extravagant, but we used what we had to conjure the feeling of extravagance, and to this day, the way we dress, our designs and our music are ways in which we transport ourselves through the senses. Our hope is that others are moved in the same way.
What inspires you both creatively?
We have a life-long love for all things vintage, collecting rare fashion items, luxury, architecture and photography; from Helmut Newton, Chris Von Wangenheim, Claude Montana, Yves Saint Laurent and Frank Lloyd Wright to Gia Carangi, Jackie Collins and Marilyn Monroe.
It was our fascination with many photos of the world’s first supermodel, Gia Carangi, shot by Chris Von Wangenheim, then reading of her “glamorous life” which in fact was the polar opposite, that inspired us to write a song called Vogue for our album. Photographs with shadows casting over her beauty inspired our lyrics: “My eyes on you, I’m in the mood, know what I want and it’s you. There are shadows and cool light casting, this glamour house of cameras flashing”.
She appeared to have the world in her hands but behind her eyes appeared a sadness. She was a girl wanting a love deeper than what she felt from the camera. She wanted to be loved for more than her beauty. This inspired the lyrics, “Notice me I’m pure, in the night allure. See my soul, not my vogue.”
We are both deep feelers and search for meaning in every relationship whether it be in friendships or partners. We have both felt like Gia many times. We crave deep connection but want to be seen for the inner qualities we have to offer. This inspired the lyrics, “I’m just a girl wishing for the world.”
It was the famous ’80s-’90s French fashion designer Claude Montana’s spring/summer 1986 fashion show that was the inspiration behind Unzip Me. Models parading brown body-con dresses with cutouts, revealing skin, embellished with oversized gold runway jewellery. There’s an overpowering sense of prestige and exclusivity, yet vulnerability. Seeing this led us to write the lyrics, “Clean lines with elements of bareness, for you revealing more…”
You can learn a lot about a woman by the way she dresses. In this runway show, the women are feminine, provocative yet sophisticated. From this, we were inspired to write the lyrics, “The truth lies within my fashion.” But they are also confident and independent, in control of their own destiny “by design, in love and couture.”
We are both very strong women, sure of who we are and what we want. We both hold off for great love but when we find a man we connect with and trust we allow ourselves to be vulnerable to give ourselves wholly and completely. This led to us writing the lyrics, “Craving more than fashion, craving all your passion.”
What is the main essence you want your audience to feel when hearing your music for the first time?
We love to make every day feel glamorous, majestic and luxurious…from lounging in a vintage gown, reading a book surrounded by candles or wandering a museum, we love to feel exquisite. We make music that makes us feel the same way. Often, we play our instrumental album throughout the house, we are transported and feel like goddesses wandering about a grande chateau. This is how we want others to feel.
In the same way as you’d watch an epic film and feel yourself leave the armchair and be teleported to the world playing on the screen before you – characters, scenery, story lines – we want to provide that same kind of experience for our audience; we want to enable them to feel something beyond their reality, to be lifted and taken on a journey elsewhere, far from the norms of daily life.
How has your love of fashion impacted how you approach your music?
When we moved to Sydney in 2010 we eliminated television, magazines, media and radio for more than six years. With no outside noise, we were inspired more than ever before.
We became sensitive to how things made us feel. We felt everything vividly. Even wearing an avant-garde trench coat with massive shoulder pads, turning up the oversized collar with Italian stilettos, and gold costume jewellery, we felt transported. It’s this love affair that inspired us to begin to write about fashion.
Then when we discovered Claude Montana we felt we had found our ultimate inspiration. Like us, he states “dressing fashionably at a very young age… walking around with three shoulder pads on top of each other – ultimate power dressing.”
We would watch his shows for hours and be captured by his world. Every runway show we watched we saw ourselves in the women and part of the show. In his designs, he exhibited power yet femininity, as to give the women he dressed those qualities too. Every woman could escape their reality in his couture.
Claude Montana was multi-sensory in his approach to design and runway shows; it’s this same approach we use to entwine all our art forms into one, creating escapism and “the fantasy”.
If you could work with any artist across music, fashion or design, who would you choose to collaborate with?
We would love to collaborate with our “ultra-muse” Claude Montana to personally design our couture and construct our live shows.
His designs were avant-garde, dramatic and constructed. His runway shows performed with the same essence. Models were performers. He brought prestige and power to fashion design and the stage and commanded your attention, leading to a woman feeling bold, daring, strong and sophisticated, his sheer fabrics and silhouettes allowing her to be provocative yet classy, proud, sensual and oozing femininity. From his butter-soft leather, androgynous trench coats, unforgettable furs, towering shoulder pads and oversized hoods, we are completely in awe.
Our music connects the emotions that come from wearing those beautiful designs, luxurious fabrics and feeling them draped over a woman’s skin to actually living, breathing and sensing the air of luxury and femininity through song. With Claude Montana, we want to create a music-fashion extravaganza never experienced before.
What is the one thing you remind yourselves when the road gets rocky, or you have barriers you need to overcome?
Self-belief. We have so much self-belief that there was, and never is any doubt. Like any true artist we just “are”. There is no other option but to continue to create no matter the obstacle. Our passion is stronger than any fear or rock in the road. That is what keeps us going. Plus, every day is a good day to dress up…and dressing up makes us feel unstoppable. No rock can compete with that.
And finally, what advice would you give to sisters looking to create a brand together?
Love and listen to each other and work to each other’s strengths. Find out what these are and embrace them.
Also, surround yourselves with only a few select friends who believe in your dream and brand, people that inspire you to dream more and be more.
Finally, work hard, very hard. Every day, always take one step towards your dream, even if it’s small; always laugh and have fun. We are always laughing and we always are having fun!