It all began with a fake Nike logo, a bagful of small, metallic swooshes unearthed in a store in Montreal. After returning home, the young woman attached some of these trinkets to the retainer she wore at night, took a photo – pink, full lips and a half-open mouth in the style of Brigitte Bardot – and posted it on Instagram. “Shortly after, Nike reached out to me to acquire the rights to use this image on two T-shirts,” she says. “Everything was turned on its head; the actual brand was interested in my photograph featuring a counterfeit logo out of context!”
This was December 13, 2017. Gabrielle Bois was 20 years old and brightening social media with her self-portraits and comical, insolent photos of spaghetti wigs, nail-studded toothbrushes, switches slipped into the fly of her pants, and shots of vodka in menstrual cups. The reaction from Nike, the first “established brand” with whom she collaborated, confirmed that she had made the right decision. She put her studies at the University of Quebec in Montreal on hold, and turned her full attention to creating – much to the delight of her 647,000 followers.
After a few years working part-time jobs, she now makes a living as a designer and even hired two assistants last May. This technical support enables her to create increasingly ambitious pieces – such as two dresses made from surgical masks for prom season – and to accept new collabs. “I’ve just finished a project with Fenty, Rihanna’s cosmetics brand. I’ve also worked with the English handbag label Mulberry, and I’m about to collaborate with the interior design magazine The Modern House and the Italian streetwear brand GCDS.”
Popcorn Armchairs and Scrabble-Tile Dresses
Gab Bois – her artist’s name – discovered photography “quite naturally, in a really intuitive way, just for the fun of it.” At the time, she was studying art at the CEGEP in Montreal, and was shooting her first images with her parents’ camera, “a digital camera for vacations from the 2010s.” She struggled with classes on theory and technique, which she found tedious, but she excelled in painting and sculpture. She has admired the fruit- and vegetable-filled paintings by Arcimboldo since she was a child and identifies with the self-portraits by American photographer Cindy Sherman.
Gab Bois spent a long time working alone. She scoured the city’s boutiques and grocery stores looking for inspiration, sourcing reclaimed or expired products to make her creations herself. It took her a whole week to complete the popcorn-covered armchair, and two for the Scrabble- tile dress! She then stepped in front of the camera herself, and took each image using a camera trigger app on her smartphone. “Self-portraits were the most effective way to bring my ideas to life. I also like this approach. The way I see myself and my body has changed a lot, too.”
Now 25, she finds herself “at the intersection of several disciplines.” However, photography is still her favorite field, as it enables her to capture her creations. Most of them are produced without any digital special effects and are often short-lived, such as a pair of shorts in lettuce leaves and green peas, which she sewed for Marc Jacobs. She has also recently turned to designing accessories and furniture. Her camera-reel sunglasses are sold by New York brand Studiocult, and she was at Milan Design Week last June exhibiting a transparent armchair inspired by the jello salads enjoyed in America during the 1950s.
The young woman is also working on a furniture project in Montreal, and will be launching a line of accessories, including shoes, handbags, jewelry, and sunglasses, in September. Meanwhile, she opened her first solo exhibition in the United States, which will was held in August at the Gifted BK gallery in Brooklyn. These different “dimensions” are all presented with the same unbridled creativity in an effort to reach people outside of Instagram. “I try to create a language that can be translated into several industries,” she says. “It’s a bit like Lego; the same colorful bricks can be used to make everything from flowers to Star Wars characters!”