How artist who ripped off Gucci ended up collaborating with the fashion label and holding an exhibition in Shanghai
- Trevor Andrews aka GucciGhost was warned by friends about using the Gucci logo without permission in his artworks
- Instead of suing Andrews, Gucci creative director Alessandro Michele asked him to collaborate on a fashion show
Such is Trevor Andrew’s renegade spirit that he never saw the Gucci logo as being anything but fair game.
While anyone else might have quaked in their boots at the idea of even vaguely approximating the iconic interlocking Gs, Andrew was playing around with the insignia, making a drippy, messy version of it and using it on graffiti art and emblazoned across bits of clothing sewn together, vintage jackets and even old TV sets.
His friends would say to him, “You’re going to get sued.” But Andrew saw his venture as nothing more than a good-natured and even reverential interpretation of the brand.
“I had taken a perfect logo and stripped it down into a raw, fun, imperfect thing,” said the Canadian-born artist and designer. “It would just take the right person to understand what I was doing.”
The subsequent acclaim has led to Andrew’s newest project, his first large-scale retrospective, at the Modern Art Museum in Shanghai, which ran from November 2020 to March 14 this year.
He’s also in the process of developing an animated series (where a couple of characters “fight against the evil forces of corniness”), has some music projects in the pipeline and has more Gucci collaborations in the works.
Andrew – who also goes by GucciGhost or Trouble Andrew – was part of the line-up at February’s Fashinnovation virtual event, which brought together notable names in the worlds of fashion, e-commerce and retail, and where he talked about the intersection of art and fashion.
The former pro skateboarder, who grew up in a small farming town in Nova Scotia, Canada, said during the live chat that the sport ended up being the starting point for everything else that was to follow.
“Everything started with skateboarding,” he said. “It was my entry into art, fashion, music and seeing the world in a different way.”
The artist had called in from his home in British Columbia, where he had gone with his family from Los Angeles during the pandemic. A wall in his basement was covered with GucciGhost wallpaper, colourful and quirky; he said that even during short trips and quick stays in hotel rooms, he likes to surround himself with pieces he has made.
He moved to Los Angeles three years ago, and transformed his garage into a studio, where he spent most of his time before heading back to Canada to sit out the pandemic; the studio now holds what he describes as his “quarantine cowboy series” – dozens of large-scale paintings of cowboys and cowgirls, done with spray paint and no brushes.
Like the Gucci logo, he says “the cowboy image is one that has been ingrained in our minds for so long”.
GucciGhost as a motif came into being in late 2012. Andrew was about to go out for Halloween, and didn’t have a costume.
He had a bedsheet with the Gucci logo (a bootleg version he found in a market in the Philippines, he is quick to add), cut out two eyeholes, tossed it over his head, and went out as GucciGhost.
Friends and strangers loved it. Among the people that Andrew ran into that night was photographer Ari Marcopoulos, a friend he hadn’t seen for years. And when, in 2016, Marcopoulos was hired by Gucci to shoot a campaign, he happened to mention Andrew.
“I started getting all these texts from Gucci saying ‘Can you come to Rome?’” Andrew said. “I thought to myself, ‘Maybe I’m not so crazy, but I’m crazy enough to follow through and really commit to my vision.’”
Andrew stuffed three suitcases with three years’ worth of canvases, clothing and hard drives of the art and films he’d made using his version of the monogram, and flew to the Gucci headquarters in Rome.
“I came really prepared,” he said. “I watched Alessandro and the rest of his crew open up those bags and it was like golden rays coming out of them. It was amazing to see how much of that stuff I’d created three years previously. There was even a nice fake Gucci jacket I’d painted on.”
After Michele and Andrew discussed their shared vision for what would become the first of a series of collaborations, Michele brought out a large Gucci tote bag, asking Andrew to work his magic on it.
“I was nervous to paint on it because it was real,” he said. “So I wrote ‘real’ on it, and it became one of the first pieces they released.
“It was a big play for them, a play on the bootleg versus real conversation. It was a manifestation of an art project but it was really about coming around again to myself, that whatever you believe and have a vision for, you can make it real.”
While Andrew may have not been exposed to the world of high fashion as a teen, he did love hip-hop music, which he believes provided an opening into the fashion world – and everything else that has followed.
“I used to go shopping with my mother at the Salvation Army,” he said. “I didn’t know or understand what Gucci was.
“My connection to Gucci, and wanting to even want to have a piece of Gucci, didn’t come until later, when I’d see the icons of hip-hop like LL Cool J in their Gucci, and I’d go to the Canal Street market in New York City and buy the fake stuff.
“I thought it was the coolest thing in the world. I wanted to emulate my heroes and wear what they were wearing. GucciGhost has been about extracting that kind of familiar image and power from the brand, reinterpreting it, and using it in my own way and for my own purposes.”