Stephanie Ray, founder of Canadian womenswear brand Grayes says the idea behind her brand came when she was struggling to find professional pieces that suited her style and made her feel comfortable. “When you’re in law school, it’s hard to find something that you’re excited about; you want something that makes you feel confident going into a meeting or an interview.”
First launched in 2016, Grayes features build able silhouettes, that are neutral and conservative, making them office appropriate. The brand’s goal is to provide professional women with fresh, fashionable and affordable options. Ray puts an original twist on every piece and I was lucky to get a sneak peek of the collection and chat with the young entrepreneur. Here’s a round up of her collection, her advice on how to wear the best selling pieces and her creative direction and inspiration behind Grayes.
The Blazer Dress
A Grayes best-seller, wear it as a dress (with secure interior buttons), or as a blazer, over the matching dress or pants. It’s a great layering piece with a three quarter sleeve, which means you can throw a coat on top in winter. It comes in a black, grey and a new two-tone: grey and black/white stripes. It’s the Grayes “not-a-suit suit”.
The Stretch Suit
“Our customers love this set so much, they wear them as separates,” says Ray. The suit comes as a two piece: The Pencil Pant and Notch Blazer. “Sometimes you don’t want to wear a blazer, and a silk top might not be appropriate for your office environment,” The Structured Top is polished and comes in the new camo print as well. Match it with the suit, and the set is perfect to transition from the office to drinks, and flexibility is what Grayes is all about.
The ¾ Tunic Dress
A clean cut silhouette, perfect for all body types, “this dress means you don’t have to worry about putting an outfit together; wear it with a cool crisp white shirt underneath for balance,” advises Ray. When asked about her idea behind camo, the designer comments, “It’s a neutral color and more bold than what we stuck to in the past, but also super easy to mix and match.” This makes it relevant and different because Grayes costumers are looking for things that are a little bit more fun and exciting to add to their wardrobe. This new addition is used in the 3/4 Tunic Dress as well as the Structured Top.
The grey or black sets pick up great with denim and the blazer dresses in these two colors comes with a matching dress. This creates more options for layering and matching with different pieces from the collection and from your own wardrobe. The sets can also be mixed and matched with each other.
The bomber has proven to look great on top of dresses for the office, or casually with jeans. “The bomber isn’t something you would wear formally but our costumers are finding them very great for layering, especially the black lace because its neutral but with a little texture – it adds a flare,” says Ray.
Will the collection be available in stores?
We are not looking into wholesale. We are direct to consumer (online) and we do a lot of pop-up events, showrooms and partnering with professional women’s networking groups. Outside our target market we have found that people love the blazer dress and pencil pants…it elevates their jean look or their everyday outfit.
How do you feel like your designs have progressed between the first and second collection?
What we started out with was your basic blacks and greys and slowly we are introducing prints and textures – things that are a little bit more fun and more bold to pair back to the basics. The idea as we evolve is to add the ‘camo’ that is more seasonal and more relevant to the trends. It’s an idea we are looking to incorporate more in future collections. With the newest pieces, we are trying out the two-tone idea, that being: in a workplace, you want to be conservative in your color palette and your outfit, but still want something a little more fun and different.
One of this spring’s trends is to mix and match patterns, how have you incorporated that in your new collection?
We’ve been showing the lace bomber over the plaid pants – we’re into that and we feel it works great because they’re different. It’s difficult to find fabrics that work together but that’s made easy through the collection.
Do you think certain pieces work better for certain age groups?
We like to say that our collection is age agnostic, fairly conservative in the fit and design and that it is appropriate for any age group. We have costumers that are in their twenties and we also have some that are sixty plus. It’s a wide spectrum, both professionals and people that are looking for everyday basics to incorporate into their wardrobe.
Was there a specific inspiration behind the mix and match idea?
There wasn’t a specific inspiration. It came from my own experience of feeling like I had these two different wardrobes: my professional and my everyday. With Grayes, we wanted to make sure that anything that we were designing you’d be able to get a lot of wear out of, if let’s say, you have a breakfast meeting and then you’re meeting your friends for drinks after work. Just feeling like one piece can take you all day – maybe add a new necklace or you add a little touch to go to evening. Then also when you’re not working, in your jeans or off-duty attire, you’d be as excited to pair with a Grayes piece.
If you had one piece of advice to give young business women, in terms of fashion and how to dress as a business professional, what would it be?
Find pieces that you love, that make you feel good and like yourself, because when you’re in the professional world you want to make sure that you are confident and feel good about yourself and put your best foot forward. Find what feels true to you.
Shop the Grayes collection online.