For Raymond Gray, fashion has been a part of his life longer than it hasn’t.
When he was a small child, he used to rip up sheets and curtains and sew them together, to his mother’s horror.
“It all looked terrible,” he laughed. “I had no idea what I was doing.”
At 17, the self-taught designer bought an old green sewing machine at a garage sale, and so began his lifelong love of fashion.
A couple years later, Gray enrolled in a 6-week course at Arsenal Tech High School to learn basic sewing skills. His classmates were old ladies and his sewing assignments were aprons and smocks. Instead of completing his assignment, he created a jumpsuit instead. His classmates were impressed, but his teacher was not.
“She was upset with me because I had gone against the grain!” Gray recalled. “I knew then that I never wanted to be basic.”
Applause has fueled Gray’s fashion career. After his first cohesive collection didn’t get the reception he expected, he returned to his more adventurous designs. But after every fashion show, he ended up taking home most of his pieces.
“I would sell one design, maybe every three shows,” he said. “I always went beyond what people could actually wear, because I loved that wow factor.”
Eight years ago, Gray burned out. Recalling that moment brought him nearly to tears.
“The creativity and juices just stopped flowing,” he said.
Two years ago, he started designing again. This time, however, he’s more focused on developing the business aspect of his line.
Gray finally realizes that selling his product is just as important as the creativity behind it. “I almost lost my house because I bought sewing machines instead of paying my mortgage, but I got through it,” he said.
“You can be a creative all your life but you’ll die a pauper.”
But even in his forties, Gray’s enthusiasm about the Project IMA fashion show is as infectious as any wide-eyed ingénue.
“When I get there that night, I can’t wait to feel the energy in that room!” he said. “Because when you think of these 30 creative minds, in one dressing area, it’s going to be thick as a thunderstorm in there!”
His application for the show was based on a Norman Norell trench coat design.
“I thought it was too basic,” Gray said. “But what I think is basic, for many people could probably be in a parade!”
His design for Project IMA will kick off his new line, Resikle, which will come from all of the fabrics and buttons he has collected over the last 20+ years. After the show, Gray will sell his Resikle line on Etsy, starting with a collection of scarves.
“I don’t want to start too big yet,” Gray said. “I’m trying not to overwhelm myself.”
Gray looks forward to connecting with different designers and models in the area.
“For so long we didn’t have anything, but now that there’s Pattern, you don’t have to exist by yourself anymore.”
In the next five years, Gray’s goal with Resikle is to pay off his house, buy a car and start a co-op where designers can exchange ideas and create together.
“I’ll eat ramen every day if I could accomplish this dream. It’s a perfect world when your life is fashion and it makes money for you at that same time.”
To see Raymond Grey and other designers participating in Project IMA, tomorrow, October 11, buy your ticket HERE!