Fashion / Style

‘Heartbreak High’s’ Gemma Chua-Tran takes us inside New Balance’s Grey Day celebrations

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In partnership with New Balance


In any other world, a grey day sounds pretty dreary. Leave it to New Balance to change our minds. For the sneaker, performance and lifestyle brand, grey is anything but unremarkable. Sure, it's neutral, which is why the colour has staying power all these years later, but from a design perspective, grey represents balance, which is a happy accident given the brand's name. Born out of practicality, at first grey was a pragmatic decision for runners in lieu of a white trainer, and in the late 70s and 80s became a nonconformist stance against the tide of lurid neon sneakers clogging up the market. New Balance celebrated this history in 2023 with its annual Grey Day, hosted at Chin Chin in Melbourne.

The festivities befit the occasion; there was grey food and all-grey projections, created by Melbourne-based artist Isaiah Morris. Illuminated under grey spotlights were tonal grey pairs from the brand's thoughtfully crafted Made in the USA capsule, comprising of 990v1 and 990v6 silhouettes. Elsewhere, guests could peruse the newly launched New Balance Moon Daze collection, which transforms four classic styles – the 550, 580, 9060, and Fresh Foam x More Trail v3 – into a textured multi-hue grey offering.

RUSSH sent Heartbreak High alumnus Gemma Chua-Tran to celebrate Grey Day with New Balance. Below, Chua-Tran debriefs on the day, walking us through everything from their outfit to just what grey actually tastes like.

new balance grey day

new balance grey day

Walk me through your outfit from head to toe.

Tonight I wore a thrifted skirt and blazer which were much too big for me, so I overcompensated with a massive oversized Gummo jersey. My necklace is 999 Ethereal Gems and my socks are from the first television show I did. I messed around with girlish and sporty wear (completely missing the grey theme). But I was so graciously gifted a pair of 550s and a hoodie that paired perfectly with the ensemble.


What’s your first memory of New Balance?

The first time I started thinking about clothes and shoes and fashion was when I was 15 – my best friend had a pair of multi-coloured New Balances that I was so jealous of.

Tell me about the Grey Day event. Who was there? What did you do?

The Grey Day event was absolutely insane. I took my partner along (thank goodness) because I truly did not know a single person there. But the hosts of the evening; Audrey Bugeja, Isaiah Morris, Ben Cooper and Ryan Jones held a panel discussion which covered the rich history of the New Balance shoe as well as the food pairings for the night. There were live performances and stunning projections which glinted off plinths displaying the progression of its designs over time. 


I heard there was grey-coloured food courtesy of Chin Chin. What does grey taste like?

I really could not tell you what grey tastes but it’s certainly unnerving. Benjamin’s creativity truly shone throughout the night; with the food being dyed or coated by squid ink and activated charcoal. Despite the lack of colour, the flavours were vibrant as ever. The highlight of the night was the kingfish ceviche served on squid ink tapioca crisps. I’ll be thinking about that one for a while.

For New Balance, grey is about durability, versatility, even rebellion – selling grey shoes at a time when the rage was all about neon colours. What is significant about grey for you?

Because of the neutrality, grey is timeless. It goes with anything. It’s sort of like your mum telling you to always follow your heart and forget about the trends. New Balance adopted this idea, and because of its consistency throughout the years; it has now created a legacy through a colour palette.


Grey sounds like…

A winter's day.

Describe your experience of Isaiah Morris’s projections?

Isaiah Morris’s projections were an immersive experience, stringing the various elements of the event together. There were even projections on the street outside of Chin Chin! The images and animations constantly shifting and moving across walls evoked an almost otherworldly dimension. New Balance truly knew how to hit their mark and leave it there.


Do you have a favourite classic New Balance silhouette?

I don’t think I particularly have a favourite silhouette, but after going through and observing the history of the 990s, I’m definitely incentivised to purchase a pair. Seeing the various design processes and work put into the silhouette and functionality, I’m honestly a little bit shocked.

new balance grey day

new balance grey day

How do you like to style your New Balance sneakers?

I love to wear my sneakers with absolutely anything. I cannot stress how much I value comfort in dressing. But I love to pair them with something girlish and frocky just because I think the juxtaposition is so fun to play around with.

Explore the latest collections from New Balance launched in celebration of Grey Day at the brand's website.

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