A Visit With WRAY Collection

PHOTOS BY BRIDGET BADORE FOR THE ASSEMBLIST

PHOTOS BY BRIDGET BADORE FOR THE ASSEMBLIST

"I would advise designers to make sure they are accessible," Wray Serna shared in response to one of our questions below, "Be aware of other brands and what they are doing and ask yourself, what are you offering that is different?"  Heavy-hitting questions like this can oftentimes present pivotal moments in a young designer's journey. Though for  Wray and her eponymous label WRAY Collection, this begins and ends with the acknowledgement that all good things take time.

In fact, Wray has spent that time developing her budding contemporary brand alongside her partner and husband Ethan who she attributes a lot of the brand's creative development to. She told us, "We basically found one another and exploded into a tornado of life progression." In the same vein, Wray's friendships with fellow Brand Assembly designers Kelsy Parkhouse of Carleen and Samantha Pleet have also informed her approach to design and brand-building - and if you ask us, cultivating this sense of community is a necessary part of the process for all young designers.

So with that inspiring group of creatives to turn to and of course with Wray's natural talent for design, it's no wonder the designer's star is currently on the rise. When we visited Wray at her studio in Greenpoint we immersed ourselves in the world of WRAY Collection, which pays sartorial tribute to refined simplicity with fun visual touches including punchy prints and bold palettes. Coupling this with the brand's commitment to quality craftsmanship (each collection is manufactured by a fair-trade manufacturer in Delhi, India where Wray will be traveling to in the coming weeks), Wray's story is one that embodies thoughtful design on all fronts. Discover why in our conversation with her below, and check out an exclusive second part of this feature over on The Style Line.

Please introduce yourself!  

Hey there! I am Wray! Outside of the brand I am a pretty private person with a busy mind. After getting together with my partner we have joined forces in a whirlwind of traveling to ten different countries, marrying each other, buying a house, renovating it ourselves, moving five different times, and many more endless projects within the past three years. We basically found one another and exploded into a tornado of life progression. I do enjoy hiking around outside and relaxing at our upstate house with our two dogs when I am not so busy. I value community, the way we all connect and the power of my own love for my husband. I am a HUGE romantic. 

We notice you’re friends with many other designers like Kelsy from Carleen and Samantha Pleet in the Brand Assembly community, which we love! How did you first connect with them and why do you think friendships are necessary for success in fashion?

Running your own business can be very isolating. Most of my designer friends who run their businesses are by themselves or work with their romantic partner. It is incredibly helpful to surround yourself with people who are doing the same thing as you. It keeps you sane. I think it is my saving grace, to be around these inspiring women. The support we give each other is beyond wonderful. Samantha in particular, is who I turn to when I need life and business advice. We met at a trunk show when I was with my old brand and reconnected through a friend. Most of my designer friends I have met via industry related events. It is a surprisingly small world for our particular circle in NYC.

We noticed you’re also going to be debuting swim. What about this category resonated with you the most and how do you think swimwear will fit into the WRAY woman’s lifestyle?

I spent my high school years by the ocean. Bathing suits were like outfits that people wore often. I just HAVE to design them. That and Ethan my husband has been making wacky prints that we feel belong on swimwear, they need to exist!

As summer draws nearer, do you have any design-related resolutions for the year ahead? If you had to take a chance on a new design element what would it be and why? 

YES! I intend on designing for some big boobs so my friends Samantha and Hannah can wear my clothing. That and a silhouette with a waist - probably both.

Continuing with that idea, what role does the spring/summer season typically play for designers? Why do you personally enjoy it and what can we find you doing when it comes to working on WRAY collection and when you’re off-duty? 

The boring answer to this is that we have more WAY more time in between seasons for Spring/Summer, so it is a chance to chill out and be more creative. The fun answer is that Ethan and I have been going to a lot of art shows in the city to be a part of his world, see friends, and be inspired. I myself have been watercoloring prints and working out a mood board. We have been chilling out at our upstate house. I find that it is easy to design when it is quiet and pretty.

We love the contrast between your muted palettes but bold, geometric prints and silhouettes. That seems to be a constant in the collections - would you agree? Where does your creative process begin and how would you like to see it evolve?

I would agree yes! It is the common theme to my collections for sure. We are both minimalists and maximalists via our prints and sometimes design. You can see this with Ethan's art too. We both personally and artistically feel a duality to ourselves and it comes out in the collections. My creative process is ever evolving but I would like to spend more time on development in the future. The seasons go by so quickly!

As an emerging contemporary designer and based on what you’ve experienced so far, what are a few things you would advise every emerging fashion designer be aware of as their brand grows?

I would advise designers to make sure they are accessible. Be aware of other brands and what they are doing, and ask yourself what are you offering that is different? What are you offering to the design world? Also, it is important to understand that this business is a long-term one. Things do not happen overnight and oftentimes it takes several years before you can see real progress, be patient.

The contemporary movement is not only making a splash in fashion, but in other many relevant creative industries too. Based on your experience as a designer in this market, how do you hope to see the community of contemporary makers evolve?

I think the general public is aware that there are real creative small businesses out there and everyone is trying to participate and be involved with makers of all kind. The internet has been a vehicle for a larger amount of exposure for makers and brands. More and more tech businesses are evolving because of it, such as internet building tools. I hope to see more small businesses help each other grow and make things more cost effective for creatives. 

What do you assemble daily?

I know that jumpsuits are at large right now but I still love them! I love a good jumpsuit and think that they are a perfect ensemble for when you do not want to wear a dress. I will always find a way of making them the most comfortable and happy things to wear each season. I am designing one in my head right now as I type this...