Feel Glamorous, Look Beautiful

Before Grayse, the Gray family was the founders of St. John, one of the most influential fashion houses of all time, forever revolutionising womenswear attire in the work environment. Here, RLI speaks with Grayse CEO Kelly Gray about her newest brand, which is poised to become an international phenomenon. Growing up in the St. John legacy, Kelly Gray learnt about the business-side of fashion, and before the age of 30 she became the company’s Creative Director, which was quickly followed by her appointment as CEO. When the family sold St John to a private equity group, the business was extremely healthy and was the number one designer brand for Saks Fifth Avenue, Neiman Marcus, and Nordstrom malls. “We captured the hearts of women worldwide, experienced the excitement of success, and shaped the world of fashion” remembers Kelly Gray, CEO of Grayse. “Today, we emerge modern, intuitive, edgier, sophisticated, revitalising the core aspect of our personality that defined our original success, while creating a renewed connection with women driven by purpose and relevance under our newest brand Grayse,” expresses Gray. Whilst Kelly and her mother Marie may have retired from St John, they soon realised they still had a lot left to say in the world, creatively. It was this drive that prompted them to start Grayse, which has subsequently turned into a larger business. The secret it seems is the Gray family’s commitment to quality. More than forty years later and their designs continue to be lauded, and in demand, by some of the most powerful women and fashion aficionados in the world. “Our first two stores were small footprint stores. We recently successfully expanded and relocated the two stores and opened up our wholesale distribution. Each store we opened has placed a reorder within the first 30 days, so the product is being very well received,” explains Gray. The company has concentrated on marketing and branding its evening collection and because of this its bestselling dress is also its most expensive dress. The brand places a strong emphasis on the special iconic pieces women desire the most.

Today, Grayse operates under a retail and wholesale growth strategy with full price boutiques in the West Coast of the US, and wholesale distribution on the East Coast. With the success of its wholesale business in the past years, Grayse has decided to start showing itself in New York in key markets.

“We are working closely with our advisors, Trilogy Brands Group who are based in Los Angeles, to expand outside the US, specifically the Middle East where the retail environment is quite healthy, and key metropolitan markets in Asia. Also, the clientele in those markets appreciates the stylish look of our collection and all the artisan craftsmanship that goes into each piece,” says Gray. “Grayse is a global fashion company fulfilling women’s lifestyle aspirations, transforming the world of fashion, empowering women, devoting unwavering attention to quality and style, embracing self-expression, and celebrating the modern woman,” declares Barbara D’Amato, CEO of Trilogy Brands Group. “We once helped to build St. John into a powerhouse, and we are honored to be a part of this journey with the Gray family once again, building the future of Grayse.” “Our focus is on appealing to a broader audience, but we stay centered on our sexy glamorous and edgy point of view. I believe consistency is the strength of the Grayse brand. The portion of the collection that is allocated to trend is smaller and of course the design team always loves to be challenged to push the envelope on being more edgy. I would call that the frosting of the collection,” says Gray.

When asked about the new social media experience and how important this is to the company’s current marketing strategy and growth, Gray explains that as a Southern California-based brand in the heart of Los Angeles and Hollywood, there is a constant celebrity appeal and an increased buzz around the brand on social media. The company participates in social media and red-carpet events, but they do not advertise for it, instead preferring organic growth, allowing for engagement to be more intense. The emphasis on glamour and its position in the evening wear market fashion sector has assisted the brand in maintaining loyal customers; it also allows itself to differentiate itself from its peers.
The key drivers behind the brand’s success to date are this decision to emphasise and focus on iconic pieces, and the laser-sharp focus the brand has on being a niche player.
“Although the retail landscape has experienced a decline of foot traffic over the past few years, we augment this challenge with the enhanced value of personal touch with our customers. We place great focus on the experience and bringing the customer out into our stores to have the tactile involvement of trying on beautiful dresses and having a professional ascertain that the fit is perfect,” explains Gray. “Personal style is a woman’s business card for success, and a statement of your own personal brand. As women, we all want to live the dream. We love the idea of contributing to every woman’s personal style by enhancing their entire wardrobe day and night.”

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