gray sorrenti
Sorrenti sees raw and hedonistic New Orleans as an alternative to Ibiza, and gravitated to it when shooting Loewe’s second, more youthful tie-up with hippie icon Paula’s Ibiza, which hits stores this month – alongside 1,200 copies of her photo book.

To capture Loewe’s second collaboration with the legendary bohemian concept store Paula’s Ibiza, up-and-coming photographer Gray Sorrenti (yep, her dad’s Mario) grabbed her friends and ran riot in the streets of New Orleans. In an exclusive interview, the free-spirited 18-year-old tells Imran Jalal how she decoded the collection’s updated hippie vibe, and talks about her art, and being young, wild and free.

gray sorrenti

Why New Orleans for a collection inspired by island life?

“New Orleans (aka Nola) is like an island, but instead of being surrounded by the sea, its voodoo comes from the waters of the Mississippi River. I’m very drawn to its history and culture. The people of New Orleans are magical. It’s a special place for me. Don’t get me wrong: I love the beach and Ibiza sounded heavenly, but I wanted to be on the streets of New Orleans. It’s as hedonistic and raw as you can get, which I thought would be a perfect place to shoot the collection. My mother grew up in Nola, so I have a connection with the city. I’ve been going there my entire life, and I love its spirit.”

Tell us more about the locales featured in the images

“Every neighbourhood in the city has a story, a style and history. The landscape is lush, hot, humid and colourful, just like its people. Nola moves a bit slower and so do the locals; everybody takes their time and you feel it. We met kids on the street, ran into parades, drove out to the bayou, jumped a few fences, and snuck into abandoned places. We took pictures in front of (local bakery) Bunny Bread, where my mum used to skip school to smoke cigarettes with her girlfriends. We headed down St. Claude Avenue, where my grandpa Iggy was born and raised in the early 1900s – it’s also an area that was incredibly affected by Hurricane Katrina. We met two sweet brothers who live in the neighbourhood, and they jumped into the pictures. I wanted the experience to be real, and show the charm and truth of the city. New Orleans is alive and well, and better than ever.”

How did you filter your aesthetic through this collection?

“I was imagining the beautiful, slow strut of a New Orleans homeboy, arm-in-arm with his wild voodoo princess.  I feel that the fashion (in this collection) is a true reflection of the spirit of New Orleans. It has a Creole bohemian vibe.”

The themes of family, love, and youth resonate throughout your Instagram feed. How did you weave these into your photos for Loewe’s second Paula’s Ibiza collection?

“I’m a lover; I was raised on love. My family is the source, and my friends inspire me. They drive me, and I love capturing them on photos. So I gathered my friends from New York and flew down. We all stayed at Ms Cleo’s house in the French Quarter, and wandered through the neighbourhoods I love and admire. We took pictures, hung out, worked hard, and had an amazing time being together.”

 

Gray Sorrenti
Gray Sorrenti
Sorrenti turned the Loewe and Paula’s Ibiza project into a friends and family affair, roping in pals like model Carissa Pinkston and Fisher Smith, as well as her brother Arsun.

Both your parents, Mario Sorrenti and Mary Frey, are well-known photographers. Who exerts the bigger influence on your work?

“My mum is an artist; my dad is an artist, image maker, and fashion photographer. They both greatly influence me through their knowledge of art, history and photography. They have shaped my perspective a lot, but have always given me the freedom to explore my own ideas and style. We talk a lot about the image and its effect. Our house is always open for discussion and debate.”

Tell us more about the interesting names featured in the campaign

“Lua Beaulieu is my oldest friend whom I’ve known since I was born; she’s golden. She’s studying painting at (private New York City college) Cooper Union. Her dad (lighting technician) Lars and my father are best friends. Arsun Sorrenti is my brother and a musician. He makes beautiful music and is an incredible songwriter (now in the midst of launching his first album). There’s (Pennsylvania model and personal friend) Carissa Pinkston (far right), who is a beauty inside and out. Her energy is perfect. She really sunk into Nola nicely. Fisher Smith (above, inset) grew up on New York’s Lower East Side. He is a model who loves basketball and hanging out with his homeboys. He has the face of angel and the best voice I’ve ever heard. (Model) Fionn Zion is a family friend from Brooklyn who skates with my brother. He’s smart and funny, and has a good look.”

It’s a supercharged era for youths in America now. How do you intend to use your work as a platform for this?

“I’m in the middle of the action. My work reflects the world around me, my emotions and my concerns. I can only speak the truth. I’ll put my work out there, and make sure that it’s not careless and is meaningful. Knowledge is power, and I’m embracing it every day.”

Gray Sorrenti

Besides its more androgynous designs, the collection features a wide range of accessories such as bucket hats, beach towels, pareus, as well as novelty items like monogrammed wooden ping-pong bats and underwater cartoon charms.

 

gray sorrenti
The print-heavy collection features whimsical patterns from both the archives of Paula’s Ibiza, and original ones by Loewe. Examples of the former include a clown motif, and a mermaid illustration.

gray sorrenti

gray sorrenti

Why New Orleans for a collection inspired by island life?

“New Orleans (aka Nola) is like an island, but instead of being surrounded by the sea, its voodoo comes from the waters of the Mississippi River. I’m very drawn to its history and culture. The people of New Orleans are magical. It’s a special place for me. Don’t get me wrong: I love the beach and Ibiza sounded heavenly, but I wanted to be on the streets of New Orleans. It’s as hedonistic and raw as you can get, which I thought would be a perfect place to shoot the collection. My mother grew up in Nola, so I have a connection with the city. I’ve been going there my entire life, and I love its spirit.”

Tell us more about the locales featured in the images

“Every neighbourhood in the city has a story, a style and history. The landscape is lush, hot, humid and colourful, just like its people. Nola moves a bit slower and so do the locals; everybody takes their time and you feel it. We met kids on the street, ran into parades, drove out to the bayou, jumped a few fences, and snuck into abandoned places. We took pictures in front of (local bakery) Bunny Bread, where my mum used to skip school to smoke cigarettes with her girlfriends. We headed down St. Claude Avenue, where my grandpa Iggy was born and raised in the early 1900s – it’s also an area that was incredibly affected by Hurricane Katrina. We met two sweet brothers who live in the neighbourhood, and they jumped into the pictures. I wanted the experience to be real, and show the charm and truth of the city. New Orleans is alive and well, and better than ever.”

How did you filter your aesthetic through this collection?

“I was imagining the beautiful, slow strut of a New Orleans homeboy, arm-in-arm with his wild voodoo princess.  I feel that the fashion (in this collection) is a true reflection of the spirit of New Orleans. It has a Creole bohemian vibe.”

The themes of family, love, and youth resonate throughout your Instagram feed. How did you weave these into your photos for Loewe’s second Paula’s Ibiza collection?

“I’m a lover; I was raised on love. My family is the source, and my friends inspire me. They drive me, and I love capturing them on photos. So I gathered my friends from New York and flew down. We all stayed at Ms Cleo’s house in the French Quarter, and wandered through the neighbourhoods I love and admire. We took pictures, hung out, worked hard, and had an amazing time being together.”

Both your parents, Mario Sorrenti and Mary Frey, are well-known photographers. Who exerts the bigger influence on your work?

“My mum is an artist; my dad is an artist, image maker, and fashion photographer. They both greatly influence me through their knowledge of art, history and photography. They have shaped my perspective a lot, but have always given me the freedom to explore my own ideas and style. We talk a lot about the image and its effect. Our house is always open for discussion and debate.”

Tell us more about the interesting names featured in the campaign

“Lua Beaulieu is my oldest friend whom I’ve known since I was born; she’s golden. She’s studying painting at (private New York City college) Cooper Union. Her dad (lighting technician) Lars and my father are best friends. Arsun Sorrenti is my brother and a musician. He makes beautiful music and is an incredible songwriter (now in the midst of launching his first album). There’s (Pennsylvania model and personal friend) Carissa Pinkston (far right), who is a beauty inside and out. Her energy is perfect. She really sunk into Nola nicely. Fisher Smith (above, inset) grew up on New York’s Lower East Side. He is a model who loves basketball and hanging out with his homeboys. He has the face of angel and the best voice I’ve ever heard. (Model) Fionn Zion is a family friend from Brooklyn who skates with my brother. He’s smart and funny, and has a good look.”

It’s a supercharged era for youths in America now. How do you intend to use your work as a platform for this?

“I’m in the middle of the action. My work reflects the world around me, my emotions and my concerns. I can only speak the truth. I’ll put my work out there, and make sure that it’s not careless and is meaningful. Knowledge is power, and I’m embracing it every day.”

This story first appeared in Female’s May 2018 issue.

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