Gail Reid - Gail Sorronda

Bird of Paradise

Originally published in Crème de la Crème, January 2010

Isabel Dexter

Former model Gail Reid started her own fashion label: Gail Sorronda. And then she took it to Paris. Distinctively monotone, her clothing sets off the wearer's natural colouring to perfection.

Gail Reid has more than a hint of the bird of paradise about her. She is at once fluttery and slightly nervous, with a strong, striking beauty and the defiant air of living in her own tropical paradise. A former model, she is one of those rare beautiful creatures where how she looks is possibly the least interesting thing about her. Not that she hasn’t got an interesting look; she’s two thirds Betty Boop, (all ridiculously long lashes, big eyes and red lipstick) and one third Gloria, (from F Scott Fitzgerald’s ‘The Beautiful and Damned’).

Brisbane-born Gail launched her label, Gail Sorronda, in 2005. She has recently moved to Paris with the intention of showing Gail Sorronda at Paris Fashion Week. “The usual thing would have been to move to Sydney,” Gail admits, “but I felt that would have been the easy thing and if I was going to stay in Australia I’d rather just be in Brisbane with my family. Moving to Sydney felt like an inconvenience.”

Hailed as one to watch by the style glossies, the Gail Sorronda label is beloved of Winona Ryder, Mischa Barton and Dita von Teese, as well as being regularly featured in magazines like Oyster, Australian Vogue and Grazia. Rather the allure of Paris was too hard to resist. “Paris seemed like it would be serendipitous.” Gail said. “There’s a pull to Paris, an alchemy. Nothing is straightforward here, it’s like code. It seems to fit with my philosophy for the collections at the moment.”

Gail first went to Paris during her modelling days with Next Models. Gail feels it was one of those ‘meant to be’ moments. “Paris made a lasting impression. I’d done one collection and then I was thrust into this world of Paris couture. I met Nicolas Ghesquière. I had the impression I was a spy in this new world.” Gail decided she would return to Paris but with a purpose. “I didn’t want to come back empty-handed. There was a silence and I wanted to fill it with noise.

It’s certainly not the safe decision to be here, but it feels right, like something that naturally had to happen.”

Gail holds a lot of stock by serendipity and instinct. She describes her decision to apply for the fashion course in Brisbane as
‘a whim’. It was during her graduate year that she won the Queensland final of the coveted Mercedes-Benz Start Up Award, which gave her the opportunity to show at Australian Fashion Week and catapulted her into the limelight. Alongside the modesty and whimsy is a talent which has earned her the praise of the fashion industry.

The label is a personification of Gail. “It’s completely absorbed,” she admits, “it’s my projection. In some ways I feel like it’s a novel and each collection is a chapter. Making something physical out of feelings and ideas is what I do.”

Despite the conceptual approach, Gail’s designs are beautifully wearable. Think a sheer, polka dot strapless dress, ironically entitled ‘funeral party dress’ or a short sleeved top with a feather collar and fitted waist as part of her Invasive Exotics collection for Spring/Summer 2010.

Possibly the most striking aspect of the Gail Sorronda look is the stark monochrome palette. “I’m always asked why I won’t use colour in my collections.” Gail tells me, for what is probably the thousandth time in her life. “It’s not that I’m afraid of colour, it’s that I want to focus on the contrast between black and white. It works as a metaphor for the opposite and equal reaction. The shadow against light, night against day.” Creating a balance between the light and the dark is something that Gail terms an obsession and is the ethos behind the brand. “It’s natural to have contrasts. Just as you have to suffer a little to appreciate the good things. It’s about accepting the dark and the light - not trying to mish them together but just letting them co-exist.” When the results are this beautiful, who could argue?

Bird of Paradise as published in PDF form